Thamizh Talkies: When films live and die at the hand of Twitter
The writer is a former journalist who has worked in the film industry for several years and is passionate about movies, music and everything related to entertainment
I liked Thugs of Hindostan. Well, go on, judge me, but I stand by my opinion that if you’re a Bachchan fan, then this film is a must watch. If you are a child from the 80s and have grown up wondering about Rajinikanth basing his career on the Bachchan template — the age-old MGR ‘good samaritan’ story — it is with wonder that you watch this 75-plus man do what he does in this film. But sadly, even that aspect doesn’t seem to have done magic for the film’s box office numbers. These days, a large part of why a big film tanks depends on how well it fares on… Twitter.
Twitter reviews is a pet hate for me, and I’ve been trolled incessantly for voicing my concerns on the same. The amount of negative publicity that an ‘expectation-heavy’ film gets on Twitter upon its release, is there for all to see, absorb and form opinions over even without watching the film. But my question is this: Why is there no space for even one screening to finish fully before it is run down? To ‘mutilate’ a film into song, dance and action parts even before the interval is over just because you’ve a few hundred words at your disposal is perhaps the worst spinoff we see in this social media era. When mere opinions pass off as perfectly worded reviews, it can work both ways, as I’ve tried to explain further.
As a producer, all I need is a hundred such Twitter ‘reviewers’ who will pass on a good word about my film on the day of release. If I fail to reach out to these ‘reviewers’, my film remains at the mercy of such click-baity tweets which will somehow come to shape the general opinion about a film even before it has had a fair run. You can observe this trend with any big film which releases — try noticing the twitter posts with 2.0 releasing on November 29th and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Twitter is a perception barometer at best and there is a world out there which is not on Twitter or Facebook, which watches films, and gives a verdict that reflects when the box office results are known. While small films benefit from Twitter’s word-of-mouth publicity — as city audiences ensure they watch a movie only after the reviews are out (both those written by discerning critics and the ones which trend on Twitter) —star-studded films have a tough time battling out perception among Twitteratti vs the rest of the world that is not on any online platform.
Example of a film that is a super-hit on Twitter is 96, which got a tremendous opening thanks to the sharing of its pre-release song trailers. The post-release Twitter reviews were uniformly great and has helped the film run beyond 50 days now, the film’s premiere on Sun TV for Diwali notwithstanding. That in itself is a record of sorts. But if you take the film’s performance report in theatres down South, the box office results, though good, will not compare with, say, a Sarkar. Sarkar, incidentally, saw scathing reviews, similar to Seemaraja. Twitteratti tore the two films apart for their beaten-to-death plots and repeated cinematic tropes. But the box office has a different story to tell. Here, we also should take into account that the Tamil film industry is yet to have complete transparency in a film’s theatrical performance and what one person updates on a film’s business numbers is not the absolute truth.
The day that number becomes accessible for us, we will know how a film has fared based on actual figures and not mere conjecture. Till then, the battle lines remain drawn between updates which nitpick on the first half and second half of a film, and within those few hundred characters that pass off for a film review.