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Riffing With The Readers, Vol 2

November 19, 2008 10:40 IST

I really do try, you know.

The emailed response to this column has been staggering, and it mostly involves a genuine interest in cinema and honest to goodness debate, and it's such an improvement over the messageboards that it isn't funny. Really. There obviously are brickbats, but from folks willing to argue their point instead of just accusing me of random favouritism -- a charge that can be rubbished by Googling a bit further back than the most recent review one remembers, but our great messageboardy masses obviously can't be bothered.

Anyway, I really do try to answer as many mails as I can. And I still end up with a hideous backlog. I tried to reply to some of the most frequently repeated questions several columns ago in one called Riffing With The Readers.

This week you have its sequel, so to speak. Read on, and please do keep writing in even if I don't always manage to reply.

Vikas Swarup asks: What's been your single-most disappointing film moment so far this year?

Without a doubt, the banning of Deshdrohi. You have no idea how much a bunch of us have been looking forward to the film. A friend even suggested we get t-shirts saying 'KRK is the new SRK.' Sigh.

Seriously, bans on films and books solve absolutely nothing, and it's a shame some random cartoonist turns into a self-styled dictator-wannabe and can hold up free speech. Not just has this bizarre little film -- with the funniest trailers in ages -- revolutionised the YouTube world, but the gargantuan publicity blitz across Mumbai ensured Kamaal R Khan extreme visibility. Here was a man willing himself into the limelight, forcing us to notice him, buying unprecedentedly large hoardings with his face in the middle of it all. With extreme pluck, he dared us all to ignore him -- and we all failed.

It might not have been the film of the year, but that spirit at least deserves a viewing. And we deserve a choice.

A poster of DeshdrohiAshwini Paranjpe asks: What came first, writing about movies or writing about motorsport?

Motorsport, totally.

I've always had an opinion on movies, having watched a lot of them, but I came to Rediff trying to wangle a job at their SportsDesk. I'd been mailing them a Formula One column for a while, and this seemed like a natural progression. However, they needed a film guy, and apparently the few movie-related articles I had sent in weren't totally execrable. But yeah, F1 still revs up my engines far more than (most) movies.

While on this question, I'd like to address several people who ask what qualifications one needs to be a film critic.

Personally, I believe it's the exact same qualification one needs to be a filmmaker: an absolute and all-consuming love for cinema. Schooling in the technicalities of the medium and film appreciation have its own place, sure, but like Tarantino said, there's nothing you can't learn from watching enough movies. Nothing.

Girish Rao asks: You've been convincing with your argument that Midnight's Children shouldn't be turned into a movie by Deepa Mehta. But from one fanboy to another, which Salman Rushdie book do you feel should be turned into a film? And by whom?

One fanboy to another, Girish, thanks. And I bet you've carved up your own wishlist, which I wish you'd mail in. Very personally, my answer here is simple and assured:

Pixar should snap up Haroun And The Sea Of Stories.

It's a magnificent children's tale, a book I first read when I was 12, and continues to be my favourite of the great man's works. I read it once a year, and marvel not just at the superlative story flow, but at the constant, overwhelming ingenuity of it all. Some of the most imaginative creative output is born via allegory, and this book -- about a storyteller who loses his voice, because he's lost his subscription to the sea of stories -- by a writer persecuted by fanaticism and fatwas, is sheer magic.

I'd love for Andrew Stanton (Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall-E) to be at the helm, because he understands simplicity and can wonderfully universalise his subjects, but then the good folk at Pixar know what they're doing, and seem totally incapable of making a below-fantastic film. So it's their call.

That's it for this week, people. Feel I'm wrong about Deshdrohi, and that films should be banned on aesthetics alone? Have more book-to-movie suggestions for Salman Rushdie, or anyone else? Or just want to write in to say these responses bored you? Write to me at, and I really will try to reply. Promise.

Raja Sen