Critique, but before that know yourself well

Mayank Shekhar being awarded the Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism, in 2007

Critiquing is a conscious act. And who better to explain the science of this art than the decorated film critic Mayank Shekhar. Recipient of the Ramnath Goenka Award for excellence in journalism, the editorial head of entertainment at the English daily newspaper Mid Day, Mayank has also authored three books — Bombay Talkies, Name Place Animal Thing, Cinema Ka Safar. He serves as a member of Central Board of Film Certification which scrutinizes if a film could be publicly broadcasted in theatres/television. In a quick interview, he speaks of the ingredients that go into conscious critiquing

Mayank, what entails the art of conscious critiquing?

Critiquing requires one to be aware of one’s internal thoughts and reflections, and the ability to express in a limited number of words. Everyone has internal biases that one should be aware of. When one is critiquing a film, one has to be conscious of several factors such as to be fair in the representation of what one writes, to one’s personal thoughts, and the way one expresses them so that there is little difference in what one thinks and what one writes. One has to make conscious decisions in selecting the words, framing the thoughts, and then framing the paras. One can’t puke out what’s in one’s head. That is when one can be fair to the readers. That said, a lot of writing comes from the subconscious space, and there is always an element of sub-consciousness in all writings.

Considering the fact that sensibilities are relative - do we have to have dedicated film critics to review movies?

It is totally up to the reader to read or not read the review. Nobody is under any obligation or force to follow a particular person’s reviews. The idea is to give the reader an experiential account of what the critic felt. If the reader, over a period of time, realizes that her sensibilities do not match a particular critic’s discernments, the reader is free to stop reading the critic. The idea is never to get somebody to agree or disagree.

Mayank Shekhar interviewing Kangana Ranaut for the award-winning podcast ‘Sit with Hitlist’

“Critiquing requires one to be aware of one’s internal thoughts and reflections, and the ability to express in a limited number of words. Everyone has internal biases that one should be aware of.”

Does it help to be friends with people whose work the critic reviews?

It is important to know the person to help gain a wider perspective, which is why I engage with the actors and others from the industry at a professional level. I constantly interact with the members of the industry to gain more information than what is available to the average reader.

Does it not happen that critiquing could offend the person whose work you review? Or posing a certain question could upset them?

At times, it does. There could be misunderstandings. But as a critic, the sole intent should be to see the complete picture of a piece of work or to understand a person’s mind and his/her life and his/her story. The intention should never be to shut somebody up or make her/him look like a fool. I don’t speak or write with such an intention.

You have been reviewing and critiquing movies for over decades now. Has, over the years, your mental makeup evolved to see the world through a critic’s point of view? Say for an instance, you catch up with a friend at a coffee house and come back home saying - Oh, it was summer and she was wearing black!

I don’t think there is anything such as a critic’s point of view. Judging somebody is not what I, as a film critic, believe in. However, one must have a critical bent of mind when it comes to assessing social issues or events of the world. As humans, we should be critical minds, and that applies to all areas, could be politics or other artistic endeavors and not merely cinema.

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