Over a three-month stretch in Bombay, I spent many hours chatting with film journalists in a range of print, television, and dot-com companies. These were by far the most interesting conversations I had and the gossip aside, I learned a lot about how the Internet has made film journalism one of the key sites of participatory culture surrounding Bollywood. While landing a full-time film journalist gig remains difficult, it is impossible to ignore the growing influence of blogs and sites like Passion for Cinema or Naachgaana.
However, even as the line between a full time film journalist and blogger-writers are beginning to blur, there is no denying that institutional affiliations continue to matter. Stars, directors, producers and others in the film industry recognize that film journalists play a key role – at the very least, their reporting provides the basis for much of what film bloggers do. And over the past 5-6 years, dot-com journalists have become key players, particularly when it comes to the crucial friday film review. As Raja Sen of Rediff explained –
In Mumbai, the world of film journalism is small. There are a handful of reviewers who are read every week, and now some websites are being read regularly. Like this one time, I met Shilpa Shetty a couple of days after Dus had released. And when I said I was from Rediff, she asked me, “are you Raja Sen?” I said yes, and she went on to say that Abhishek Bachchan had called her the previous day and asked her to read the Rediff review! Thankfully I had said good things about the film so she was happy! But you know, there is no doubt that websites like Rediff are now on the same plane as a Mumbai Times or Mid Day.
What’s most interesting to see is film journalists like Raja Sen beginning to experiment with the very structure of the film review. In the video below, Sen plays with a Dostoevsky short story (White Nights) and wonders what it would take to make it a Bollywood spectacle. Taking a dig at Bhansali’s Saawariya, he says towards the end –
Story theek hai (story is alright)
Now add 35 crores, 11 songs, and paint everything blue!
While I think this works as an interesting new layer to the film review, I doubt if other journalists and even the most committed film-bloggers will take to this anytime soon. Besides, I also suspect that this is part of a larger publicity drive for iShare, Rediff’s new video networking site, and nothing more.