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Friday, Aug 16, 2019

My review, my choice:Anupama Chopra calls out Twitter trolls

Twitter trolls, on both sides of the political axis, need to stop looking for a conspiracy in every movie review, says Anupama Chopra.

bollywood Updated: Aug 10, 2019 18:10 IST
Anupama Chopra
Anupama Chopra
Hindustan Times
Over the years, the trolling got so vicious that I trained myself not to look at mentions when big-budget, big star films hit the screens.
Over the years, the trolling got so vicious that I trained myself not to look at mentions when big-budget, big star films hit the screens.
         

I joined Twitter in February 2010. It was my first social media platform. I started at the insistence of my friend and colleague Rajeev Masand, who said I would enjoy it. He was right. The first few years were thrilling. It was hard to demarcate between private and public. Back then, we had only 140 characters and it was even harder to express yourself within that limit. But I loved the information about film that was now at my fingertips. And I especially loved the virtual connections I made. I met the iconic American film critic Roger Ebert on Twitter, which led to a meeting at the Cannes Film Festival. I remember being starstruck.

The trolls arrived soon. In 2011, I expressed disdain for two Salman Khan films — Ready and Bodyguard. Both were smash hits but I found them sloppy, incoherent and singularly unfunny. I described Ready as “a one-man show by an actor who doesn’t act”. My Twitter timeline was instantly filled with abuse that ranged from sadistic to people calling me a witch to ‘U r fool. He is King Khan’. Over the years, the trolling got so vicious that I trained myself not to look at mentions when big-budget, big star films hit the screens. If my review wasn’t fawning, the fan armies turned into a virtual lynch mob. I was routinely accused of being on the payroll of rival actors or production houses. There were days when I wondered what my market price would be — sadly no one offered a bribe.

But in the last few years, a new type of bullying has arrived on film Twitter — what Mahesh Bhatt once called ‘the tyranny of taste’. Which is that people judge you by the films you like or dislike. So if I wasn’t gushing about Uri, it must mean that I am anti-national. This allegation is further confirmed by my no-show for The Tashkent Files — the film’s director Vivek Agnihotri concluded that I didn’t review the film because it didn’t match my politics, and many others tweeted their agreement.

The possibility that I might have been travelling or simply busy was not considered. If I connected with the love story in Kabir Singh and Arjun Reddy, I’m regressive and an advocate of violence against women. If I didn’t enjoy Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, it must be because I’m a ‘feminazi’. It doesn’t even matter that so many of the tags contradict each other.

Basically my taste in cinema is seen as a revelation of some larger agenda. Each review exposes some aspect of my worldview, which must be judged. Both sides — conservative and liberal — are ear-splittingly shrill. And some of the most intelligent voices suffer from what the election instructor described to Newton in Amit Masurkar’s film as ‘imaandari ka ghamand’. Their outrage comes blended with a smug satisfaction that they are morally superior.

Yes, the films you like are an indication of who you are. But human beings aren’t simple creatures. I have equal passion for Govinda and Werner Herzog. I think it’s wrong to objectify women but I also love item songs like Chaiyya Chaiyaa, Kajra re and Beedi. So what does that make me? Film Twitter often works in binaries — if you’re not with us, you’re against us. It’s reductive and exhausting. Thankfully, cinema and people continue to be a many-splendored thing!

First Published: Aug 10, 2019 18:10 IST

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