This article was published in my Sunday column 'Un Intended' in the New Indian Express.
It's Time To Review Our Reviewers
Once upon a time I used to watch movies and read books that were strictly recommended by friends and family. Whenever the recommendations were unreliable, I dropped the respective friends and relatives (leaving me with 4 friends as on date). As I grew older, I realized, to my consternation that the number of books and movies in the world were growing faster than my advisors. Between these mind boggling numbers and PR agencies that started doing better jobs at packaging and hyping movies and books, I got thoroughly confused. I looked for help. And then, like a boon from God, came the lot of reviewers to guide me with their trained eyes, articulate voices and independent views.
All was well initially. I trusted reviews completely. But after a while, I developed doubts. The complex and deeply analytical reviews confused me, even more than the books and movies themselves. Many reviews caused me to wonder if I missed an important part of my education. The reviews themselves, I realized, needed lots of foussed study, probably by hundreds of qualified researchers. Many times, what the reviews said was good was not and vice versa. This caused me to doubt my own judgment (which is a dangerous thing to happen in life). Were the reviewers seeing some great merit in this dull, plodding, senseless plot when all I wanted to do was to run far away from it? Why was I, despite my best efforts, not able to see those wonderful qualities that the reviewers were able to? After years of doubting my intelligence, I decided to study reviewers closely.
After a short while it became clear to me that reviewers also come in human sizes and shapes, temperaments and profiles. It appeared to me that they were not made of some god like material which gives them power to perfectly assess books and movies. I heaved a sigh of relief. That was good news for me. If reviewers were human, they could possibly err!
Upon closer observation I started understanding them. Some are reluctant reviewers who are sick and tired of reviewing stuff day in and day out. Considering the stuff they get to review, one does feel for them. (Even I try to get my books reviewed which thankfully, the sensible reviewers avoid.) There are health conscious reviewers who use reviews as a good therapy to get bile out of their system. There are express reviewers who review as fast as they can and in their haste, confuse one with another, and end up reviewing a completely different creation they have created. Then there are slow reviewers who never review anything. There are knowledgeable reviewers who end up writing about some great epic or movie they were reminded of and not what they were allegedly reviewing. There are elaborate reviewers who say nothing, and some who write small reviews that can kill. Some write all nice things and give bad ratings. Some write all bad things and give good ratings. Some say must watch and must read and shut off their phones before people start calling them.
All in all, I think I now understand and sympathise with the lot of the reviewers. Earlier only good books and good movies were made. Now everyone is writing and making movies, including me. Constant exposure to such toxic stuff would certainly affect anyone’s judgment. Our reviewers need rest from the stuff they are reviewing - only certified stuff should be given to them. It’s time we reviewed this whole reviewing business. But until then I suggest we have a review system to review the reviewers.