Tamil Features

Ms. En Scene: The Occupational Hazards Of A ‘Film Writer’

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Ms. En Scene – where Ranjani Krishnakumar concedes that cinema is life. Opinions expressed are those of the contributor, and not those of the company or its employees. 

So, your job is to watch movies and write whatever you want about it?

Well, to put it simply, yes.

If you have to put it elaborately?

I’m glad you asked!

I am, what is dubiously called, a film writer. I don’t write films — I’d call them screenwriters — I write about films.

Week after week, I watch films and write about them. I am that person for whom the rattham-thakkali chutney joke was written. What is leisure for you is labour for me.

If that doesn’t tell you what the fuss is about, walk with me.

Stand in the concession stand queue at an SPI theatre. Order popcorn. Smile and nod in the affirmative when they ask you if you’d like butter. Add those orange, white and yellow powders, cover with a tissue and shake like your life depends on it. Once satisfied that every popcorn is adequately coated, get to your seat and settle down. Relish every last bite of the popcorn.

Now, do it three times a day, every single day. Vomit is coming, no? That only is my life.

What is butter popcorn for you is bread and butter for me.

On average, every year, around 200 Tamil films release. Last year, there was a strike and shut down and all, so, 180 films only released it seems. That itself is on average over three films a week. The truly good* ones can be counted with the fingers of your hands. Have you ever seen a yearly top 50 films list? No? Because there are hardly 10 films a year worth talking about. In that list itself, by the time the 6th or the 7th film comes, you’ll be like “Dei!”.

General audience would have watched a dozen or so movies a year. Just last year, from Sketch to Tik Tik Tik to Saamy Square to Thuppakki Munai, I watched over 60 films. But that doesn’t tell you the whole story.
As is the kalaachaaram of the Tamil audience, you will leave your brain at home and come off to the movies. I can’t do that, no? I have to write about it — within the next 3-4 hours, I have to file a full review. That also needs to be thoughtful, accurate and defendable.

So, while you are nonchalantly wasting away your Friday afternoon, I am frantically making notes in my head.
Even after all this, I can never be entirely sure if I truly enjoyed any film. I’ll tell you why. You know those Youtube/Instagram people who live their entire life online? For these “lifestyle bloggers”, their life is content. They mine their lives for ideas for content.

In a way, my life is also like that only. I don’t watch a film for the sake of watching, I watch a film for the sake of writing. Every single film I watch, I keep thinking, “what can I write about this?”

Do you understand what kind of pressure this is?

I have been procrastinating on Kumbalangi Nights because I’ve not had the emotional energy to write last week.

And I keep asking myself, “If I don’t write about the film, have I watched it at all”.

And this leads to FOMO like you’ll never know. Oscar-nominated movies, arthouse movies, classic movies, kaali theatre-la odina movies, Mysskin movies, miss panna koodaadha movies — the list is never ending. Add to that the awful screen count given to interesting films, I perpetually feel like a puny rabbit hidden under a rubble of films.
But I try, ok? I try very very hard. I will go out of my way to watch every movie I can lay my hands on. Then, one day, one fellow will learn you are a film writer and will ask,

Have you watched Fight Club?

Pch.

All this, as I’m wont to do, is drama. In spite of this, there is something addictive about the movies. Since my time as a film studies student all those years ago, films are one thing that has stuck with me all along. It’s taken various forms — I used to write a blog, I’ve been published in a peer-reviewed academic journal, I’ve done workshops for college students, I have a weekly film review gig, I have this column and I have a personal goal to publish a hundred pieces this year**.

I’ve always wondered why! As a chronic abandoner of things, why have the movies stayed my side all along?
I think I know the answer.

It’s just the delusion that someone out there cares about my opinion. And this delusion is pretty powerful.

*PS: A good film, in my humble opinion, is one that tells a new story, takes a new approach, triggers new thinking, punches up and does so entertainingly.

In the eternal words of Boss Engira Baskaran, basically, “rendu perum pesanum, iruvathinaalu mani neramum pesanum, varsham poora pesanum, aana free-a pesanum”.

**PPS: I am so behind schedule, there is an entire Silk Board junction between me and the goal.

Illustration: Dani Charles

*****

Unmistakable. Meticulous. Predominantly an essayist. Evolved from a marketer. Ranjani Krishnakumar eats Tamil films all day and fruits for breakfast. Roosts with pair in Chennai apartment. Usually found chasing Vitamin-D. Believes “Dei” or “Pch” is the answer to all questions. 

Twitter: @_tharkuri

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