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Don’t Just Write Criticisms Of Everything, But Present A Critique That Is Constructive

Posted: March 6, 2020

Being a ‘critic’ is a part of the Indian DNA. I think every single house in India has a resident critic- who freely shares his views on any and every topic.

Growing up in India, our generation of the 1980’s was stuck between being a doctor or an engineer. Of course, we did have the aspiring lawyers, architects, business and finance graduates too. However, the ‘brightest and the best’ of the lot were expected to become doctors or engineers.

Had we been given a choice, I am sure many of us would have chosen different academic streams than the ‘traditional’ ones. And I am one of those. I have always been intrigued by the career choice of being a critic. Intrigued, not in wanting to be a critic but in terms of how and when does someone decide to become one.

Does anyone EVER want to be a critic?

I’ve never come across a child, who when asked what they want to be when they grow up, who has said, ‘I will be a critic.’ Neither have I come across parents who say, ‘The elder one has a mind for math, he will be an engineer. But the younger one has an eye for the details, he manages to find fault in everything. He will be a critic.’

I wonder when Shahrukh Khan was a young student aspiring to be an actor if there was someone in his class aspiring to review his films. Judging and criticising him to hell and beyond!

Or even when MS Dhoni was taking efforts to be the cricketer he is, was there someone promising himself that he would have a say in Dhoni’s game. I wonder if there was someone who sat on the sidelines as Dhoni practised under the sun, licking an ice pop, thinking he would have say about Dhoni’s popular helicopter shot and maybe his retirement too!

But it is also a part of the Indian DNA!

Being a ‘critic’ is a part of the Indian DNA. I think every single house in India has a resident critic- who freely shares his views (solicited or not) on any and every topic. They will have a say in everything right from politics, cricket, movies, the younger generation, the neighbours’ daughter and every other thing which might catch their fancy.

Politics, films and cricket are the three lifelines that keep the resident critics alive and thriving. And one such bunch of ‘critics’ can be found at every corner tea stall, munching pakoras, sipping tea. They are convinced that if Virat Kohli could gather the pearls of wisdom they drop, his captaincy would as great as his batting.

Now with the advent of social media, we have a new breed of critics. These take their views to the digital doorstep of the subject. They are more than happy with their faceless and nameless existence in the virtual world.

And then there are the professionals. The ones whose actual job is to give opinions about someone else’s body of work- especially books, musics and films. These people earn their livelihood by being ‘critics.’ But to be fair to them, their job isn’t too only criticise but rather assess the subject at hand.

How does one become a critic?

Mercifully, in sports, at least on TV, most of the commentators are sportsmen who have done their bit for the sport. They are in a position to comment with some authority. But the same cannot be said for most of the film critics- who, I believe, should go by the title of a ‘film critic,’ but that of a ‘film reviewer.’

In a bid to satiate my curiosity, I quizzed my trusted research partner, Google. ‘How to become a film/music critic?’ and sure enough, it gave me a number of answers. Broadly, it is a four-step process according to Study.com.

Step 1: Obtain a Degree.

Step 2: Find work.

Step 3: Consider a master’s degree.

Step 4: Build a Portfolio & Network.

The degree could be related to films, mass communications, journalism or any other bachelor’s degree. Once a job is secured in print, or TV, one is good to go and can start reviewing (criticising).

Isn’t it still subjective?

The operative word being “review.” Review is a subjective opinion on a piece of work. It may be done with complete sincerity but it’s still subjective in nature and represents an individual’s opinion on someone else’s body of work. This opinion, as opinions go, is derived from personal experiences and biases.

The product under review, may be at par and the review may be good or bad. But it seems a tad unfair that a book or film, a product of someone’s labour over months or even years is appraised and graded by someone who doesn’t even practice the craft. A craft that the maker may have spent years trying to learn and develop.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying, “He who can, does. He who cannot, criticises.” (loosely quote Bernard Shaw.) But with the abundance of reviews everything, we do not need to revisit their significance and importance on the products being reviewed.

They also impact the product’s acceptance!

Reviews make an interesting read and their impact on the acceptability of the product can be debated. However, reviews inherently, are subjective and cannot reflect the quality of the product in absolute terms.

Many of the film ‘critics’ don’t just present their biased opinions while reviewing but often give away the plot of the movie too!

This is not to say that films and books shouldn’t be reviewed or assessed. They most certainly should be- but they need not be critiqued or merely reviewed. Critiquing requires expertise, a technical know-how. A critique is written by an expert from the field to which the subject belongs. It’s a skill, not just a mere hobby.

I think, I may have found my calling. Until I develop the skills to critique the critics, I will ‘review’ the work of the ‘critics.’

Picture credits: Pexels

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