Does Bollywood lack grace in accepting criticism?

Director Anubhav Sinha posts abusive tweets over box report filed by a publication. The episode yet again questions the attitude of the film industry towards the media.

By Mayur Lookhar

Thappad [2020]

In the age of sycophancy, biased reporting, the concept of fearless journalism appears hollow. That’s not to suggest we don’t have fearless reporting. However, in the world of entertainment journalism, in particularly Bollywood, journalists increasingly find themselves walking on a tight rope.

Talented filmmaker Anubhav Sinha stoked controversy after he lashed out at a publication over a box office report of his latest film Thappad [2020] that stars acclaimed actress Taapsee Pannu. Sinha took offence to a headline titled ‘ Audience gives TIGHT SLAP to #Thappad”.

The particular portal [boxofficeindia.com] had claimed that Thappad had made Rs20.89 crore nett in the first week. Till Tuesday, 10 March, Thappad had bagged a decent Rs28.29 crore nett, as reported by BoxOfficeIndia. While the collections are respectable, but with a reported budget of Rs35 crore, the film is anything but a commercial success. Sinha though felt that the portal deliberately understated the true collection.

Anubhav Sinha

Sinha was so incensed with the headline that he posted abusive tweets slamming the portal. They are no longer to be found. As per a Hindustan Times report, Sinha allegedly posted the following,

“And I love you too… in har****don ne filmon ka kotha bana diya hai (these btards have turned filmmaking into a brothel). Last I checked it was an art form. My money. My movie. My profit. My loss. Who the fck are you? Have I issued any public shares? Have you bought any??? Go watch the film. Like it. Hate it. Your call,” Sinha tweeted while responding to fellow filmmaker Sudhir Mishra’s tweet appreciating the film’s performance.

In the second tweet, Sinha was more harsh when he posted, ““These motherf***rs seem to get my collections before me. Just for general awareness I get my collections in 2-3 days. Before that whatever they put out is sheer speculation and their sweet desire.”

Sinha would later apologize to his followers, but there wasn’t one for the publication. “My apologies for my language ladies. Sincerely. It is the love of those 150 people who made Thappad for the film that was being disrespected that shot me off. Apologies to all women and elders and younger ones on my timeline. SORRY!!!” posted Sinha, as reported by Hindustan Times.

Source: Dia Mirza facebook

Earlier, Thappad actress Dia Mirza, too, had expressed her disappointment over the headline in the report filed by BoxOfficeIndia.com. But unlike Sinha, Mirza was very civil in her criticism.

“I usually ignore such tweets. But today, i don’t feel like ignoring this. To whoever wrote this copy:

1) These numbers are evidence of how many people loved our story.

2) If you still don’t get it. It’s okay.
We’ll keep telling more stories. #GenerationEquality #Thappad”

No filmmaker, artistes or any professional likes defeat. Truth be told, Thappad is no dud. It has performed respectfully. Perhaps, the collection doesn’t merit the harsh headline, but it’s just a pun on the film’s title, which means slap.

What surprises is that while Sinha lashed out at the particular portal, but there is no evidence of any biased reporting against his film. As a matter of fact, Thappad is perhaps the most critically acclaimed film of 2020. Barring an odd chauvinistic self-proclaimed critic, YouTuber, we didn’t find any negative reviews for Thappad.

With Mulk [2018], Article 15 [2019] and now Thappad [2020], Sinha has emerged as one fine, acclaimed filmmaker. Thus Sinha’s outburst comes as a shock to all his admirers, that includes many journalists, reviewers such as yours truly.

This unfortunate episode though once again raises the all important question. Does Bollywood lack grace in accepting the truth? Does it lack grace in accepting criticism?

Respected trade analyst Atul Mohan though says “I don’t think because of one person you can accuse the entire industry. ” Mohan, however, questioned the conduct of Sinha.

“Here is a man who makes socially relevant films, but he doesn’t know how to conduct himself on social media. White the frustration is fine, but the tone and the language used is very inappropriate. You are not going to appease everyone. Show some grace and simply ignore the odd report,” added Mohan.

The best reaction to Sinha’s outburst was explained in a comment by one facebook user Mamta Sehgal.

“Oh god how can such respected people behave like this? With their movies they want to set an example for the society and what example are they setting by using such language. Hadh hain,” said Sehgal.

While it would be wrong to target the whole industry, but this is not the first instance where artistes have come hard on the media.

Back in 2019, Akshay Kumar-starrer Housefull 4 had faced criticism over alleged fudged figures. Apparently, it wasn’t the media but rival producer Ronnie Screwvala who had targeted certain trade analysts for not disclosing the right figures and urged the industry to be more transparent about their box office collection.

Akshay Kumar, Pooja Hegde in Housefull 4 [2019]

Housefull 4 fake figures trends, Ronnie Screwvala calls for honesty in disclosing box office numbers

What was bizarre then was that it was lead actor Akshay Kumar who had later spoken to the media defending the box office collections of Housefull 4 [2019]. Kumar had urged the media to accept the figures posted by the production house [Fox Star Studios]. Often you ought to take the producer’s figure with a pinch of salt, but at least, Kumar was very dignified in his comments. This kind of dignity is not seen enough.

Kangana Ranaut and her sister Rangoli Chandel often don’t take too kindly too criticism of the former’s films. Where has this brazen attitude of the industry come from?. Perhaps, the ever increasing clout of the PR machinery, and the sycophancy of some media outlets themselves have contributed to it. Often we get to hear humble journalists complain of PRs arm twisting them to alter review ratings. Yours truly has never been coerced or compelled to alter review ratings, but there was a bizarre incident two years ago.

While working for a portal, I was once shocked when a PR executive called my colleague, asking for a ‘SOURCE’ of the story that was filed by me. The article pertained to an upcoming web series that was adapted from a best seller by a noir writer and it was to be produced by a reigning super star. As told by the former colleague, the PR had claimed that it was the superstar who sought to know the source. If we fail to comply, then the superstar wouldn’t send the publication invites for press meet. The editor apparently refused to oblige to the PR’s demand.

The star-journalist relationship has seen a paradigm shift from the early days. Back then, there were just a handful of journalists. The advent of digital media has widened the net for entertainment journalism. The quality of journalism though needs to be seriously looked at. We are no one to preach, but the media doesn’t help its cause when a few ask outrageous, silly questions at press conferences. Akshay Kumar had recently reprimanded [in a dignified way] a journalist for asking a daft question to Ranveer Singh at the press conference of Sooryavanshi [2020] in Mumbai.

The media certainly needs an introspection, but the industry, too, needs to looks within at the way they conduct themselves publicly. Recently, veteran filmmaker, producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra had termed critics as dumb who didn’t rate his film Shikara [2020] highly.

While both parties need to self-introspect but the paramount requirement for a cordial successful relationship between the film industry and media forever remains the same – give respect, get respect.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s