Warning: This may end up being a ‘reverse-troll’ post. But since it has bothered me all day long, may as well write it.
I happened to read film critic Raja Sen’s column in Mumbai Mirror this morning (This). He wrote a ‘passionate’ piece on Hugo not getting a theatrical release in India, and hence, film fans being denied the chance to see a great 3D product in the theatres. I was with his line of argument for much of the article, till I read the following:
To those of us who burnt up Twitter in anger, making the #WeWantHugo war-cry trend across the nation yesterday, those forced to watch big-screen films at home, I recommend at least some mild revenge if we don’t get a taste of Hugo in 3D: Viacom 18’s next release, Blood Money, hits theatres on Friday, the 30th of March, and I feel we should do with it exactly what they suggest we do with Marty’s film: do please pirate it, won’t you?
Did I read “do please pirate it”? Yes, I did. It doesn’t matter if it was meant to be literal or not. Someone actually seeded that thought in mainstream media – a leading English newspaper, no less. Definitionally itself, the language is irresponsible.
Here are my three key concerns with the piece, in particular the portion quoted above:
1. The film industry loses 30-50% of its potential revenue to piracy. To encourage it even in jest is ridiculous. One of the reasons piracy continues to thrive (amongst several others) is that the media has not really “co-opted” the issue at any level at all.
2. Viacom 18 Motion Pictures is a business entity. In a free market, a business entity has the right to take business decisions based on its evaluation of the market situation. Just because you have access to prime space in a leading newspaper does not mean that you can spit venom at a private business and run down a forthcoming release of their’s, irrespective of how big or small it may be.
3. The issue in question (Hugo not releasing theatrically in India) is one of taste, not of moral standing. To make it sound like a ‘social’ issue (any suggested protest would imply that) is going way too far. People may be ‘deprived’, but they are not being ‘wronged’ if the film is not released. It is important to note this distinction.
In the war of words on twitter since this morning, one of the arguments being given is that since the Bhatts, co-producers of the forthcoming film in question (Blood Money), have been plagiarizing foreign films for ages, they have no moral authority in this matter. My simple reaction to that: Two wrongs don’t make a right. Period.
There is good journalism and bad journalism. But even more important is the distinction between mature and immature journalism. Raja Sen’s piece could have easily been an example of mature, good journalism. He could have made his point in a dignified yet effective manner, and driven the idea home to his readers. Instead, it ends up coming across as immature and childish. Because evidently, a journalist wore the hat of a ‘fan’ while writing the piece, and lost perspective of the responsibility that comes with the power the medium gives him. A pity!
It’s easy to write flamboyant pieces and make fun of filmmakers and directors. Do that by all means when you don’t like their work. But why get personal? Why cross the line? Why drag a filmmaker, who has invested his blood and sweat in his debut film (with a mere Kunal Khemu at his disposal), into it? Think again, will you?
PS: I know what some of you must be wondering: Is Viacom 18 on my client list? Why am I writing this piece? Yes, they are clients. Like the rest of the film industry. And if you are cynical enough, you will indeed correlate this article and my client roster. But you know what, I stopped worrying about such cynicism many months ago.
PPS: (I’m sure) There are trolls who hate Raja Sen, and hence, will “love” my post. Dear Those: Thanks but no thanks!