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Smriti Kiran: The eighties is referred to as the worst decade of Bollywood. A year before that decade was up, a college topper in English literature and self-confessed South Mumbai person, with very little or no interest in films, Anupama Chopra, unsure of what to do next, joined a magazine called Movie to write about films.

Films were not even a beat, then. There were a handful of film magazines in circulation, and the conversation around cinema was more gossip and less craft. There were some 15 odd journalists covering Bollywood, and for Anupama, this engagement was strictly stopgap. But from that first day in 1989, it has been over three decades that Anupama has stayed. She was instantly enamoured by the crazy town the industry was back then. It was love at the first taxi ride.

To do this job with dignity and knowledge, Anupama decided to pursue a formal course. She did her M.A. in Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. It was a one-year course. While there she won the Harrington Award for “academic excellence and promise for success in the field of magazine journalism”.

After graduating in 1991, she worked at Harper’s Bazaar magazine in the States for a year, and then came back to India to cover Bollywood. Her first long-format piece for Sunday magazine—on the influence of mafia and Bollywood—was noticed by the editors of India Today, who hired her. She worked with India Today for around 12 years.

Sometime during these 12 years, Anupama also started reviewing films and started writing books on cinema. She segued to television in 2007 with a film review show called Picture This on NDTV. In 2012, she moved to Star World and launched The Front Row with Anupama Chopra. Her popularity as a critic with credibility and a master interviewer soared in the two years that the show was on air. In 2014, Anupama founded her own digital platform, Film Companion, and became the festival director of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.

She has traversed formats, cinema cultures, adapted to changes with passion and depth intact, created communities and opportunities, propelled conversations, discovered and championed talent, authored books, hosted television shows, written extensively for various publications, but most importantly, held onto and embodied a work ethic that is rare. She’s nimble and recognises potential where people see none.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve had the good fortune of working with Anupama for the past 13 years. I have the first-hand experience of her brilliance both as a person and as a professional. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do this. She makes the multitude of things she does look effortless, but to quote her “she works her butt off every day to do what she does.”

Anupama, when you were studying English Literature at St. Xavier’s, did you have a plan? When you enrolled and studied for that program, did you think that you’d do this next?

Anupama Chopra: There was no plan. I loved English, I loved books. It just seemed to be the most obvious thing. At that time—I’m talking about the late eighties—your options were arts and sciences, and this was still there: the women did arts and the boys went into sciences. The third option was economics, after which you went on to do an MBA or one of those business kinds of things. I had no interest in either. For me, English was a great love. I studied literature in school at a much higher level. I love the language. When I was in college, I had no plan at all; not even a fraction of a plan.

Smriti Kiran: When you started writing for Movie magazine, Bollywood had no cool. There was no cool factor attached to watching or covering it. It was not even a beat, then. Craft and process were not words associated with film. What were the first few months writing on film like? What was it that seduced you so deeply about the industry?

 

“Bollywood was just this kind of chaotic Wild West where occasionally great movies got made. For me, it was completely magical; it was like quicksand, I couldn’t leave.”

Anupama Chopra: I took up the job at Movie magazine genuinely as a stopgap. It was supposed to be something temporary until I figured out what I wanted to do. So, I graduated and, vo jaise Hindi filmon mein heroes hote hain na, I was first-class-first. I had this gold medal from Bombay University. I’d done really well, but I had no clue what I wanted to do. The options were: the cooler people went into advertising, and the not-so-cool people became teachers.

I didn’t want to do either. One of my teachers said, ‘Well, work for Movie magazine for a bit, and then see what you feel like doing.’ At that time, it was weird because my mother had already written Prem Rog for Raj Kapoor and Chandni for Yash Chopra, so we had some level of interaction with the Hindi film industry, even though we lived all the way in Colaba, as geographically removed from it as possible.

I didn’t have any great passion for Hindi cinema, but when I started to do this and we started to do the studio rounds, as they were called then—remember, this is pre-cell phones days—we would just go to Film City, from one set to another, call the stars’ secretaries (you didn’t have managers or agents) and ask them ‘Jackie dada kidhar hain?’ or ‘Bachchan sahab kidhar hain?’ and then we would go to that studio.

I was enamoured with the magical chaos of the place. I can’t even explain it to you because it’s so different from what you see today, which is all these thirty levels of minders and agents and lawyers and contracts and legalese and bound scripts. I mean, there was nothing. It was just this kind of chaotic Wild West where occasionally great movies got made. I’m talking about the late eighties and early nineties, so it’s the cusp between that old Bollywood dying out and the new Bollywood coming in. I entered in that interim period, and for me, it was completely magical; it was like quicksand, I couldn’t leave.

Smriti Kiran: What was the process of writing a long-format piece? What was the process of research, fact-checking, finding numbers, contacts and verifying like when there were no cell phones or extensive use of Google?

Anupama Chopra: It was basic: you pounded the pavement; you actually went and met people, which was how you got the stories. It wasn’t WhatsApp text message interviews. When I did that story on the mafia in the movies, I interviewed Hanif Kadawala and Samir Hingora. It was amazing. They sat behind this massive desk—they used to run the Magnum video company, which was a massively successful company—and they said to me, ‘Madam aap kya keh rahi hai? Humara aur underworld ka kya rishta ho sakta hai?’ and three months later, the bomb blasts happened, and they were arrested. It was incredible.

Into Production, Sunday, January 1993 by Anupama Chopra

Basically, you were a foot soldier: you went out, you met people, you got the stories, and for research, there was an archive behind Regal Cinema in Mumbai (the Centre for Education and Documentation) that had magazines from many, many years, so you would go there to do research. But, basically, your work was to talk to people and get stories from sources directly.

Smriti Kiran: I read in an interview that when you got enamoured by the industry and you wanted to work here, one of the things that you wanted to do was change the conversation around the movies. You were more interested in trends, analysis, themes, human stories, the craft and creation. How did you go about doing that when you started working at India Today, and how did people around you respond – from your editors to the talent to the readers?

Anupama Chopra: I went to get the Master’s in Journalism because I very instinctively understood that this is what I wanted to do and I wanted to do it with rigour. I wanted to understand how to be a journalist. I wanted to understand how to write with the five W’s: who, when, where, what and why, and do it properly. So, I went to the US, and I got a Master’s. I worked in the US for a year at Harper’s Bazaar magazine. When I came back, I worked at Sunday magazine for almost a year and then started with India Today.

Within two months of joining, I did a cover story on Madhuri Dixit. In 25 years, this was the few cover stories on Bollywood that they had done.”

Back then the Bollywood beat was not taken very seriously. Aroon Purie and Shekhar Gupta interviewed me for the job. As you know well, Smriti, that I laugh a lot. So, I was also giggling—I have no idea why—in an interview with Shekhar Gupta and Aroon Purie, who are both very imposing men. Shekhar told me later that Mr Purie said to him, ‘Shekhar, she’s just giggling.’ So, Shekhar said, ‘It’s okay, Aroon. She just wants to write about the movies; she’s not covering the parliament. It’s fine.’ It was okay that I was this giggly, ridiculous woman because all I wanted to do was write about movies. But I will always be grateful to them for giving me that platform in India Today.

Madhu Jain, who was my immediate boss, used to write about culture – painting, arts and movies. At that time, India Today was not a weekly but fortnightly magazine. So, we sort of started to look at Bollywood as a place where you could have larger stories that reflected changes in the movies. I still wasn’t reviewing films, but the first article I wrote for India Today was actually about David Dhawan’s Aankhen.

Aankhen: Surprise Winner, India Today, July 1993 by Anupama Chopra

It was the biggest hit of the year. I was really intrigued by the fact that it was such a massive hit. It had Chunkey (Pandey), Govinda and a monkey – these were the key players in the film. So, we wrote about the film: that here was a film that nobody expected to become this massive hit, and why did it become a huge hit? What was it all about? Within two months of joining, I did a cover story on Madhuri Dixit, which at that point was amazing. This was only the third or fourth Bollywood cover that India Today had ever done. In 25 years, this was the few cover stories on Bollywood that they had done. They allowed me the freedom to delve into Bollywood, and I will always be grateful for that opportunity.

The Madhuri Magic, India Today cover story, September 1993 by Anupama Chopra

Also, when it began, Smriti, my coverage and my approach was different. Then the time and the industry also changed, because Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! (by Sooraj Barjatya) and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (by Aditya Chopra) came out, and there was a generational change in the film industry.

Smriti Kiran: There were no news channels where Bollywood was getting covered extensively, so you never got to see people who worked in the industry outside of the screen. Then, in 1987, with Lehren, you started to see shoots and stars on the red carpet. It was the first brush that people had of getting a glimpse of the stars outside of the screen. It was the ultimate peek-a-boo. After you started covering films, about four to five years after Lehren, did you see the talent warming up? Did the scope change a little bit?

Anupama Chopra: Absolutely. In the mid-nineties, the people you were covering changed. I did this big story—some six to eight pages—on the next generation or something of that sort. The title was basically about the changing of the guard in Bollywood. It had Karan Johar and a bunch of other snazzy kids who had just come in and were taking over. So, these were people who were now the new kings of the heap, who were now making the rules; they were young people like us, in their twenties, who now had the keys to the kingdom. Sooraj Barjatya would not give an interview – I chased him and chased him. I accosted him even at parties and begged, but he said no. Aditya Chopra said no; even till today, he won’t give interviews. Karan was much more open. Some of the other younger people like Manish Malhotra had just started, Farah Khan had just begun, so all of these people came together. Shah Rukh! I remember my first interview with Shah Rukh was on the sets of Ram Jaane (by Rajiv Mehra), and he was wearing a purple suit. These were different people from what had gone before. So that whole generational change enabled a different conversation to happen.

The New Bollywood Brigade, India Today, March 1996 by Anupama Chopra with Nandita Chowdhury

Smriti Kiran: Anu, you started reviewing films after a few years. Did anything change for you when you became a reviewer? How did people respond to reviews back then?

Anupama Chopra: I don’t even remember how it began. I don’t remember what the first review was. I think it was just a sort of accepted evolution that, well, now that she’s covering films, she can also review them. It was strange because India Today, on their back page, had about 200 or 250 words for the review. It wasn’t anything more than that. That’s where I wrote.

I don’t remember conversations where filmmakers got pissed off. I don’t have memories of major angst like it happens now where people get really mad at you. I don’t remember any of those things until well into the mid-2000s. I think that is when people sat up and maybe started to consider reviews as more important. Maybe that’s why they started to feel offended and got angry. But in the early days, I don’t remember even having a conversation with somebody who was not happy.

Smriti Kiran: What constitutes a good review? What are the basics? What kind of preparation goes into writing a review that separates it from an opinion?

Anupama Chopra: A review is also an opinion, so I don’t think there’s any real differentiator there. What makes a good review is a point of view, which is thought out, which is informed, and which you are sure of. That’s difficult to do today, and it’s very hard. There’s a lot of pressure to either be politically correct or like what everybody else is liking – that comes from social media. A good review, if well-written, would stand on its own as a piece of writing.

The reviewers, film critics, that I really look up to and I read week on week, are people whose language will give you pleasure. So, whether you ever see those films or not, it doesn’t matter, you learn something just by the beauty of the expression. With that, you bring an informed take on the film; it doesn’t have to be a take that I agree with, but it’s a take that should offer me a perspective on a movie; maybe I loved it, and maybe you hated it, but if you allow me to see a different point of view from your review, I think I’ve learned something – that’s what a good review for me is.

Smriti Kiran: There was a fair amount of backlash from 2011 to about 2016, where people in the industry started to question the qualifications of a person reviewing films. So, what are the qualifications of a film critic? When can a person actually voice an opinion, give a verdict or analysis on another person’s hard work?

Anupama Chopra: It’s a tough one. I’ve done this for 25 years, and I feel every single day how unqualified I am and how much more I have to learn and how many gaps there are in my education.

There’s no degree. I wish I had done film studies. I wish I had learned the technicalities of filmmaking because that would have made me a better critic.

What happened, at least over here, is that everybody had an opinion on film. Film is the most democratic art. If I go into an art gallery, I would be a little intimidated in expressing an opinion on a piece of art because I would feel like, ‘Damn, I don’t know anything about art. Who am I to say whether this is a good painting or a bad painting?’ Classical music too, for example. I don’t know enough. But everybody knows films and everybody has an opinion on them – and that’s great. It’s a great sort of mass medium.

What also happened because of that is that editors felt like accha you do it. Koi bhi jaa sakta hai, anybody can sit in a theatre and say ki ye thik hai, acchi hai, buri hai, and whether you should spend 200 rupees on it or not. That is a massive problem. While there is no degree for a film critic, there has to be a rigour, a level of study, and above all, great passion. If you come from a place of boredom or cynicism, then you’re not going to like anything and nothing will be good enough for you. That’s when you’d judge people’s work unfairly.

 

“I’ve done this for 25 years, and I feel every single day how unqualified I am and how much more I have to learn.”

I cannot tell you that somebody who’s done it for five years is definitely a film critic as opposed to someone who’s done it for a year. The one thing that Film Companion has taught me is how many brilliant voices there are out there; we have some wonderful people who work with us, and they write so beautifully. There isn’t a cut-off date, but editors have to be more judicious in making these assignments. Just because you can watch a movie doesn’t mean you can review it.

Smriti Kiran: You shifted to television in 2007, almost 17 years after you began. What were the primary challenges and concerns, and what made you say yes?

Anupama Chopra: You were there! In the first few years of television, do you know what the challenges were? I didn’t know how to read from a damn autocue. I used to move my whole head from side to side. The whole point of reading off of an autocue is that they don’t know you’re reading off of an autocue. So, you should just be able to pretend that you knew that stuff, and you could just read it. But you have to look natural. Smriti, you taught me how to do that.

Anupama Chopra on Picture This

For me, even before I said yes, the biggest challenge was to overcome the training I had in magazine journalism. I was trained in the word. I was not trained in video, which was broadcast journalism—this was another stream at Northwestern University. I just felt like, ‘Can I do this?’ Dr Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy just called me to Delhi and asked me if I could try it. I just looked at them and said, ‘Are you guys serious? Why do you think I can do this?’ They were amazing because they had more faith in me than I did. They said, ‘No, you can do this. Just train and you will get it.’

You remember, you and I did that training session at Olive Restaurant in Mumbai, and you were like, ‘No, let’s try it again.’

Smriti Kiran: I remember you told me that the last time you had put on any makeup, which was unusual and something that you weren’t used to because you hardly put on any makeup otherwise, was at your wedding.

Anupama Chopra: That’s true! Listen, why does a print journalist need to put on makeup, right? Then suddenly you’re on NDTV prime time. Our show was at 8:30 pm on Fridays, wasn’t it?

Smriti Kiran: Yes. It was the prime-est spot on television.

Anupama Chopra: We would have the studio makeup guys do makeup and they would just lather it on. My kids, who were really young at that time, would be afraid of who had walked in when I reached home. They would be like, ‘Ye kaun hai?’

What I loved about television is the immediacy of it: the instant gratification of asking a question, getting an answer, and the magic, the chemistry on screen and the human conversation. I just loved that. I still love that.

Smriti Kiran: You entered television when the obsession with Bollywood was at its peak. Even though entertainment reportage was at its peak and it had evolved into a bonafide beat, it did not command the respect it deserved. The hires at media houses were in accordance with that, resulting in very shallow reportage and toxic reviews. The trend was to get pretty faces, not necessarily with qualifications, who were mouthing pre-written lines. How did you view your job in the middle of all this noise?

Anupama Chopra: Honestly, it hasn’t changed. For me, it’s always been a job that I approach with great seriousness and hard work. I don’t say that with any kind of pride ki dekho main kitni mehnat karti hu, but it gives me great joy. My pleasure is in the rigour of it.

“My view of what I do has not varied over the decades. I do what I do with the same amount of passion, with the same amount of love, whatever the landscape looks like.”

You and I have had those conversations about bringing on board the prettier people. That’s across the board. There’ll always be pressure to talk to the star because it is a business. The advertisers have to come in. All of it costs money. Video is very expensive.

I remember reading this in an interview – John Lasseter of Pixar said, ‘Quality is the best business plan.’ If you do it well, it will stand out from the clutter. It’s not practical, but you do have to understand that you’re also trying to help an audience evolve.

I remember very clearly there was a conversation about whether we should interview Werner Herzog, who had come to the International Film Festival of Kerala, or not. This was a big conversation because who knew who Werner Herzog was back then. I said, ‘You know what, I’ll do it, on my own time. I will fly down. Just give me a camera,’ because he’s God. How can Werner Herzog be in India and we not interview him? I remember this so clearly: I was at the International Film Festival of Kerala with only one camera, because they couldn’t spare a larger unit. I did the questions for Werner, and then I was going to wait and do my questions to the camera, so we could cheat it all later. He said, ‘No, I’ll stand here and give you cues.’ I was like, ‘No, that’s not necessary. It’s too intimidating.’ But that’s what he did. He said, ‘I’ll stand here, and you ask the questions.’ The point being, my view of what I do has not varied over the decades. I do what I do with the same amount of passion, with the same amount of love, whatever the landscape looks like. And it changes. Look at what we’re in now. It would be so much easier to do more clickbait-y journalism, to ask more provocative questions, but that’s not what I do, and I won’t.

Smriti Kiran: Anu, you’ve interviewed talent from across cultures, languages and continents. What makes for a good interview according to you, and how do you keep it new and exciting when you’re on your 15th Aamir Khan interview?

Anupama Chopra: He’s always interesting.

You have to be curious and it has to be genuine curiosity. Interviewers should remember that it’s not about them. You’re not there to make points about how smart you are, or how you have somehow finagled some great sansani khej khulasa. I don’t find that very interesting. The best interviews come from a place of love, research and rigour – when you have gone out there and read everything there is to read on the person, and you just have conversations which bring out their humanity.

The Front Row with Anupama Chopra

It’s not that I’m not interested in their stories or, perhaps, in their past, but only within the view of how all of that has shaped their art. Not randomly like, ‘You had an affair with so and so, what was that?’ I don’t care. It’s interesting if that relationship led them to a place where they made a film that reflected the heartbreak. It’s what Meryl Streep said at the Golden Globes, ‘Take your broken heart and make it into art.’ How your life and your background and your being has shaped your art is what I’m interested in. That’s what we engage with. Finding that, for me, is interesting. I would never say that I’ll only keep it to craft and I’ll never ask them about anything else. I will, but not in a way that’s offensive, salacious or intrusive. Those things are bad form. Genuine curiosity, research and rigour is the key to a good interview.

Smriti Kiran: How does a good journalist prepare for an interview? What should your lens be? What kind of work can you do, even if it’s a quick-fix interview? How do you feel you can prepare now that you have access to Google and the internet?

Anupama Chopra: That’s what. Ab toh itna aasaan hai. Just bloody Google karo, and don’t rely on Wikipedia – go a little bit beyond that – use it only if you are really short on time. If you have time, I would suggest that you watch the films. Everything comes from there. The stories and the questions are in what they’ve created.

One of the great struggles of my life is that I’ve always had to do promotional interviews without watching the films because—at least in the Hindi film industry—they won’t show you the movies. The great thing is, that has changed with streaming platforms coming in because more often than not we are now getting screeners to look at the work before we do the interview. So at least it’s a more informed conversation. Look at the work, read up, because, genuinely, the only way you will ask one different question is if you read enough.

 

“How your life and your background and your being has shaped your art is what I’m interested in.”

We did a very interesting series for Audible called Kissa Khwabon Ka, where we spoke to people about their struggle. Some conversations, with the likes of Pankaj Tripathi, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Manoj Bajpayee, are just magical because you just have to ask them and they’ll start talking about their background, the village they’ve come from, the struggle. There are such great stories. My life is all about getting those stories. I want these stories. I’m greedy for the damn stories. So, the only way to get that is to do research no matter what, and as much as possible don’t accept an interview the next day. Now I push back. ‘Can you interview so and so tomorrow?’ And I’m like, ‘No, I can’t. Give me a day to at least figure out what I want to ask because otherwise, it’s a waste of their time and yours.’

Smriti Kiran: There are lots of journalists who are working on daily beats. They’re dependent on getting stories for daily bulletins, for something that they need to file immediately. For people who do this, what are the quick fixes that they can apply to do a good interview?

Anupama Chopra: Whenever I’m reading something, I keep churning things in my head, which often points me towards something I can explore. If I’m reading something that has nothing to do with the movies, it can strike a thought. I’ll think, ‘That’s a great observation, maybe that would be a good question.’ I have a bank of questions. All of us have phones now, all of us have the ability to take notes. Just have a bank of questions, so that you’re never completely lost about what to say or what to ask.

One of my go-to questions is always, ‘What’s the most important quality for an x to have?’ So, either a director to have or an actor to have. It’s amazing, the kind of different responses that come out. Some directors say it’s empathy, other directors say its imagination. I understand that you don’t want your interview to be a bunch of standard, rote questions, but just have ideas in your head that you can fall back on if you have to do things very quickly.

Smriti Kiran: The industry has opened up at many levels over the years. The four game-changing factors have been: social media, rise of digital content, increase of women creators at all levels within the industry, and the quality of the people working in the industry has changed: they are qualified, educated and ambitious. The stars have started to share a lot more, the PR machinery has become stronger. The embargoes are stricter. You have very successfully pivoted to digital with Film Companion. How do you feel this has altered film criticism? How has it affected your writing in particular?

Anupama Chopra: It has altered film criticism in good ways and bad. What’s lovely is the fact that there is space. You’re not bound now by a half-hour TV show. When I do a review, it can be six minutes long, because I want to say that much about a film; or it could be two minutes. We’re not bound by those things anymore.

I remember when we worked at Star, there was an SNP (Standards and Practices), censorship in the sense that you couldn’t say certain lines, you couldn’t use language which was offensive. For one year, we did a Hindi show, and if I remember correctly, we couldn’t say ‘sex’ on that show.

I remember I reviewed Grand Masti (by Indra Kumar), which was a massive hit, and only I disliked it. But I couldn’t use the word ‘sex’ in my review. On digital, none of that matters. You have the freedom of space. You have the freedom of speech. You have the liberty to play as much as you want to – which is all wonderful, right?

 

“A good review, if well-written, would stand on its own as a piece of writing.”

What is not so great is the pressure to be first. When you had a television show, your review was going out at 8:30 in the evening. So, it was fine. You could think, think, think, and record at four o’clock in the afternoon. But now it’s a question of kiska review pehla aaya, that first review is going to get the most hits. Will that first review be the one to shape the conversation? For me, it’s a game that critics shouldn’t play because it’s more important to say what you say in a coherent, informative way, rather than being the first person out of the gate.

In that way, social media and digital have changed the game, which is why when we were all back in theatres there were live reviews of films. People were tweeting as they watched. How do you even do that? What does that mean? Are you watching and typing at the same time? How do you do that?

Smriti Kiran: I remember tweeting about how in no world is live reviewing a film okay. I did get hate from a couple of people. You can’t put out a review of the first half and then the second half. It’s completely disrespectful. It doesn’t have a perspective. But there is a school of critics who actually believed in it and they said, ‘Why not?’

Anupama Chopra: That’s terrible. It’s humanly impossible. You cannot be looking at your phone and looking at a screen at the same time. I mean, unless critics have developed some superhuman powers. If you’re looking down, you’re not watching the film, so what are you commenting on? It’s disrespectful. It’s bad. It’s just bad form because it cheapens what you’re doing. You’re reducing your response to two sentences here only because you want to be the first one to say it. I just think that it sets a terrible precedent. If theatres open today, when we are all back in there, I just hope that that doesn’t come back. It’s awful.

Smriti Kiran: There might’ve been too many things that have changed, but the one thing that has not changed is previews. In the West, it is mandatory to watch films before speaking to talent, but that is still not the norm here. Even streaming platforms, the publicity teams there, are constantly pushing for day and date publicity instead of a more nuanced and better conversation. The platform has changed, but the publicity guidelines stay the same. Why is this so hard here?

Anupama Chopra: Well, honestly, Smriti, in the last six months, it has changed with streaming platforms. There’s been a bunch of films and shows that they have shared earlier. It’s interesting because it’s almost like when they know it’s a good film, they give it to you a week earlier. Gulabo Sitabo, Serious Men, Gunjan Saxena, all came a week earlier. Embargoes were lifted. We were encouraged to post our reviews at least three days before it dropped on the platform. But when they know it’s unnis-bees, then it doesn’t come.

“No other producer would take that risk even with the Guild giving an assurance that we won’t tweet.”

The thing is, with films – and I’m talking about a scenario when we are all back in the theatres – there’s just too much fear. There’s too much fear that critics will live-tweet. I don’t hear it used a lot now – har film ki ek hawa hoti hai. If you show a film earlier to critics, ek hawa ban jayegi which will be negative, and that will somehow impact the box office returns. A film costs so much money, who can blame them? I’ve had this conversation with the heads of studios, with Aditya Chopra, where I have begged and begged and said, ‘Don’t you want us to have more time to think of your work? Don’t you want us to ponder through every word, to think through everything?’ He said, ‘It’s too risky. I can’t differentiate. If I show it to one person, I will have to show it to all.’

The film entertainment press has just exploded. There are 300 to 400 digital platforms covering entertainment. So, who are you going to call and who are you not going to call? It’s a very fraught landscape right now, which is why I think producers are too afraid.

Smriti Kiran: You founded the Film Critics Guild, and really credible people have come together. You do reportage and give out awards. Is this on the agenda?

Anupama Chopra: : It is. We have written, maybe a year ago, I think, or even earlier than that, but no producer wanted to do it. We had two screenings for the Guild, where they showed it just to Guild members because we signed embargoes and said that we’d honour it as a group, as a body of journalists and film critics. But that was it. No other producer would take that risk even with the Guild giving an assurance that we won’t tweet. They were afraid that let’s say we went out of that screening and spoke to two people within the industry, and said film theek nahi hai, kuch mazaa nahi aaya. So, they don’t even want to take that risk.

Smriti Kiran: Anu, you have a very obvious conflict of interest because you’re married to Vidhu Vinod Chopra. I want to speak about the less obvious conflicts of interests that we have. Unless and until the film critic or the person who’s writing on film does not feel the need ethically, to do a full disclosure, the conflict would never come out in public light. In an ecosystem where there is no state and church separation, how does one manage the conflict?

Anupama Chopra: It’s very hard. In an ideal world, honestly, I would either review films or interview people. You would not get face time with talent whose films you are reviewing. But we’ve never had that ecosystem. Our film critics have also doubled up as interviewers. So, it is very hard, because the minute you have a connection, you’re like, ‘Damn, this person is so much fun. I had such a great time chatting with them,’ and they’re movie stars – they’re bloody charming. That’s what they do.

“There’s no such thing as an objective review – everything is subjective, but your biases should be upfront.”

 

Finally, it comes down to your conscience. You have to decide, in that particular situation, if you are able to come to a film without bias or not. There are obvious conflicts of interest: I can’t review films that Vinod produces or directs, or my sister (Tanuja Chandra) directs, or my brother’s (Vikram Chandra) series Sacred Games. Those are very obvious conflicts of interest. Though you will be surprised at how many people troll me by saying, ‘Oh, apne husband ke film ki toh burayi nahi karti hai.’ I’m like, ‘Dude, what do you not get about this?’ It’s a conflict of interest. It’s a matter of ethics.

After that, friendships. How do you deal with friendships? That comes down to you and your individual take. Do you believe that your friendship is going to hamper your ability to critique this work and to give a take on it which is honest, which is unbiased? It’s going to be your opinion. There’s no such thing as an objective review – everything is subjective; but if you come from a place of ‘Oh my God, I have to love this because my friend has directed it,’ then your review has no value. It’s very tough – I wish it was easier and somebody else could decide this for me, but it isn’t. Finally, it comes down to you.

Then comes in political biases – things that you feel very strongly about. If you feel very strongly that an artist who, let’s say, has been implicated in the #MeToo movement, you cannot talk about a film of that artist or approach it without being so angry. How do you separate the art from the artist? That’s the question. If you can’t, then you should say in the review that this was a problem for me, but here’s what I thought of the film because your biases should be upfront. That’s the only fair way to do it.

Smriti Kiran: Coming to the art and the artist debate: what reviewers have is agency and longevity. Apart from the fact that you write about the film at hand, if an artist is implicated in a #MeToo case, isn’t it a critic’s responsibility to mention it so that there is some kind of a trail and it’s not completely washed away from people’s memories?

Anupama Chopra: Again, this is an individual choice. It varies. I remember we had this conversation at the Young Critics Lab, where we spoke to Poulomi (Das), and she had said that she feels very strongly about this. If she was to review a film with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, then she would say that there was this whole thing about his book and he has been accused of things by his wife. I don’t feel comfortable doing that. I can’t be a judge on who is right and who is wrong. I would not feel comfortable in implicating and pronouncing that this person is guilty or is accused of something. For me, what I’m speaking to is what’s in the frame. My duty is to approach that.

But, as I said, if you feel very strongly, you should put it there. This is completely individual. There are many people who feel that they can’t even watch a Woody Allen movie anymore without having a lot of issues. Some other people won’t feel like that. So, it has to be your personal take.

The truth is, it’s impossible to live your life by other people’s politics. You’ll have to decide that this is what lets you sleep at night and this is what is okay for you, and do that.

Smriti Kiran: The other issue that is a by-product of there being no separation between church and state is the proximity to talent. How do you keep your objectivity when you get to know people involved, you either like or dislike them, or when your daily bread depends on interviewing them? How do you handle that?

Anupama Chopra: There is pressure. The problem is, now you have so many platforms chasing so few people that access is everything. If you have access to talent, you’re automatically in a more powerful position than somebody who doesn’t have access to that. You don’t want to jeopardise that access, right? But at the same time, you have to balance that.

For me, the crux is that if you are dishonest, and if you don’t give your review with honesty, eventually you’re not going to be differentiated from everybody else. Eventually, you’re going to be just another voice. It’s a very, very tough balancing act. They’re very charming people. Make no mistake: it’s very heady to be around that sort of glamour, that sort of power. These are very charismatic people, and it is seductive. But you have to ask yourself, ‘What am I here for?’ You’re there to do a job. It’s a professional thing that you do. You’re not a groupie. You’re there to do your professional job and you have to deliver. You have to bring to that review all the honesty that you can summon up and the chips will fall where they will.

You will lose access. I have, over the years. There have been years when people haven’t spoken to me. Years. Not days, not months, but years! If you’re going to go into this job thinking that you’re going to be popular, you’re not. More likely than not, you’re going to be hated. That’s okay. You have to make your peace with that.

Smriti Kiran: How does one operate in an ecosystem where you can buy media?

Anupama Chopra: It’s very hard. This ability to buy media, and to have advertorials, where you can’t differentiate between editorial and advertorial, has been one of the greatest soft-belly points in Bollywood. When you can buy your media, and you believe in the media that you’ve bought, that’s going to make your head go to crazy places where it should not go. When the films and the artists being covered in the press are there not for their talent but because the marketing people had the money to buy that space, then there’s no way to differentiate between who’s actually talented and whose dad is rich. That’s a real problem. All that does is, it basically opens the flood gates to mediocrity. So, as a journalist, you have to be very clear that advertorial is advertorial, and if you’re going to do it, it has to say out loud, on top: ‘Branded Content’, ‘Advertorial’. Your readers have to know that you got paid for this. If you don’t do that, then your voice is for sale. Then your readers and your listeners never know when somebody paid you for something and when it’s something you actually felt. That, in the long run, is not sustainable.

Smriti Kiran: Sometimes what happens is, you’re young and passionate about movies but your lens is set on getting to that stage of reviewing films directly and being taken seriously. A lot of people want to get to interview someone famous in the first go, instead of a relatively younger actor. Because you founded and run Film Companion, how did you approach those questions or that kind of trepidation and restlessness of ambition in younger people that come to you?

Anupama Chopra: Ambition is wonderful. The problem is, there’s a confusion between ambition and fame. What you want is that 15 seconds of fame on social media, when your review is being talked about, or you’ve gone viral. Going viral is the great ambition, right? The truth is, there is no substitute for hard work. You have to put in the damn work. I don’t know why people think it’s easy. They’re like, ‘Oh, you watch movies for a living. That must be such fun.’ It is fun. Of course, it’s great fun. I love it. But it involves a lot of just your nose to the grind, and there’s no getting away from it. Sure, you might get the 15 seconds of fame, but social media is very fickle. You’ll be famous today, and they’ll be chatting about something else three hours from now. There’s a trending topic every few hours. That cannot be your ambition. That cannot be what drives you. If that’s what motivates you, do something else. This is too hard. Be a TikTok star, and I don’t say that with any level of derision or condescension. I’m just saying, that might give you fame more instantly. So, you have to come into this with the view that you will have to put in the time.

If you want to write about movies, write about movies. Blog every day. Watch a movie and blog every day. Write for Film Companion. There’s a whole initiative called Readers Write, where readers can come in and submit their pieces. Put in the time. I found that a couple of years ago when we were really struggling to keep MAMI together, to keep it afloat, I stopped writing regularly. It’s taken me a real exercise of will to come to a place where now I’m forcing myself to write like 400-500 words at least four or five days a week because you lose it very quickly. You’re saying the most banal things, you’re repeating yourself, you’re saying rubbish because you’ve lost that skill. It’s like lifting weights. You have to be in the damn gym at least three times a week. There’s no getting away from that. That’s true of anything. There are no shortcuts. Social media has given people the idea that there might be short cuts. But there aren’t.

Smriti Kiran: Film criticism has been considered a derivative art. A lot of people say that your entire work depends on someone else’s work. How does one create legacy and longevity when you’re doing that?

Anupama Chopra: The great film critics—I certainly don’t include myself in that—are artists themselves like Anthony Scott, Manohla Dargis, or Justin Chang. Criticism is also an art. I think of myself more as a reviewer. We are the guys on the front lines, producing stuff, turning it around quickly, trying to add value to people’s lives by saving you time by curating this massive landscape of entertainment for you.

I don’t know if I’ve created any legacy, and I don’t say this with any false humility. I genuinely don’t think that I’ve done any amazing work. But the great critics, when you read them, the language just makes you happy, because it’s so beautifully written. There is legacy in that; that stays.

The only other way for us, us reviewer types, to create legacy is by championing the new; by helping people discover films and artists that maybe otherwise they wouldn’t have; by giving people who don’t have enough of a voice the voice, and saying, ‘Check this out.’ That’s very satisfying sometimes: when you can take a film out there – that’s what MAMI does – when you can just help somebody’s great vision to find an audience. Somewhere that feels like, ‘Today, I did well.’ For us reviewers, that’s pretty much it.

Smriti Kiran: In my opinion, Film Companion, the Mumbai Film Festival and the Film Critics Guild are all legacy creating ventures that you’ve propelled. Thank you for creating these and for being so passionate.

Q&A with Dial M For Films Participants and Viewers Watching on YouTube

Abhinav Mishra: What is your process to ascertain and grasp the essence of a film within its runtime to responsibly and honestly write a review?

Anjupama Chopra: I actually take notes while I watch a film. I ask myself, ‘How did I feel?’ and ‘Why did I feel this way?’ What about this film made me feel this way? If I’m really gripped by it, what aspects of it really gripped me? What about it didn’t? What was the basic instinctive response, the gut response? Why I felt that way. Then, I take a slightly wider view and try to think about what else this film is trying to say. What more is it trying to talk about? How is it doing that?

Sometimes, when we have the luxury of time, I ideally love to sleep over a review. I’ll write the first draft, and then the next day I’ll look at it and I’ll hone it. I never change how I feel about a film because that is your instinctive reaction, right? It’s not like you’re going to love it one day later. You’ll think of more things; you’ll process more things in your head and you’ll hone your argument.

I feel very nervous sometimes about everybody else loving a film and I hating it, or I loving the film and everybody else hating it, because sometimes you’re the one person who’s saying, ‘Kya picture hai!’ and everybody else is saying, ‘Are you nuts?’

I loved Gunday (by Ali Abbas Zafar)! Arjun Kapoor still laughs about the fact that I gave the film three stars. And I was the only critic on the planet who liked Befikre (by Aditya Copra). I had a great time. The truth is, you have to be able to defend your argument. Don’t worry about whether you agree or people will agree. That’s like a filmmaker trying to make a film saying, ‘Audience ko pasand aayegi.’ Tumko ghanta pata hai audience ko kya pasand aayega. Kuch nahi pata hai. You do not know whether people are going to like it or not like it.

There is something, which Mahesh Bhatt calls ‘the tyranny of taste’, especially on Twitter. If you guys are on that platform, you’ll know that people are just extremely judgmental. If you like a film it becomes a character flaw. ‘Oh my God, you liked this! You must be X, Y and Z.’ But you have to be able to say your truth and defend it – that I liked it because of X, Y and Z, that’s how I feel. It’s a subjective art. No two people have the same idea on a film.

Don’t be afraid of being the lone voice, to answer your question in a very roundabout way. That’s basically what I do when I start to do a review.

With streaming, taking notes is much easier because you can pause, go back and watch it again if you miss something. But put the phone away. You can’t be checking messages and reviewing a film. I do this even now when I’m at home, where nobody is watching me: I put the phone away; someone’s worked two years on that piece of cinema, don’t be disrespectful. Bring to it the respect and passion that the person who made the film brought to it. After that, you like it or you don’t like it, but don’t be casual about it. There’s nothing casual about reviewing films.

Swarangi Songire: How do you tackle other people’s criticism of your work?

Anjupama Chopra: The truth is, if you’re a film critic or a critic of any sort, you have to be able to take it. You can’t just say, ‘I’ll dish it out, but you can’t criticise me.’ That doesn’t work.

What bothered me earlier—I don’t really care anymore—is the trolling, because that gets vicious. It’s unproductive. It doesn’t teach you anything. I’m very happy to learn; I’m very happy to know that I’ve missed something or haven’t thought about something. I’m really willing to have those conversations.

Trolls also have such low IQ. Matlab kuch classy insults toh bolo na; some high class of trolling should be there, right? But they are like, ‘Oh, you budhia.’ I’m like, ‘Dude, that’s not even an insult. What is that? Thoda sa effort daalon na insult mein.’ Then, of course, if you’re female, it goes into sexual abuse, it’s just ugly.

At one point, when I was new on Twitter, it would get to me. It would affect me. Now, I don’t look when I know I’m going to express an opinion which is going to be contentious. I just stop looking at notifications for two days. After that, they are outraging about something else, so it’s okay.

You will have to make your peace with it. It’s not fun, however. It’s very vicious. It’s very misogynistic. When you’re a woman, it automatically becomes about ‘we’ll have this done to you and we’ll have that done to you’. You wonder that you’re only talking about a film, what elicited this response? I don’t know. I have no idea. There are real, grave problems in the psyche of our country.

For me, Twitter is an essential tool. It’s been a great platform for meeting people and for exchanging ideas. I’ll never get off it. But you will have to learn to disconnect from the hate. Criticism, you should always be open to, but you will have to disconnect from the hate that will come your way.

Piyush Bhatia: I miss those days in our industry when some director or producer or actor not liking how we spoke about them would not talk to us for 10 days, and it would be an acceptable form of giving it back to us. Then it became so toxic. Now, we are not just being trolled by people on social media, but by our own colleagues, people who work with us, people who’ve probably been friends with us; they are not just giving us a piece of their mind but also dragging us, our families, our names, our competitors, our colleagues, our friends, everyone through the mud on every piece of opinion we may or may not have.
In an environment which has become so polarised, how do you still remain impartial? What suggestion would you give to people who are now joining this industry? This is what they’re learning, right? From day one they are either extreme left or extreme right. They have not seen a time when it was acceptable to love other people’s opinions as well. What suggestion do you have for people on how to best deal with this?

Anjupama Chopra: The truth is, the only way to not let it affect you is by not looking because there’s no way for you to read it and not be affected. That kind of superhuman, Zen attitude, I certainly don’t have. I can’t do that. I genuinely do not look.

The outside atmosphere is now so polarised that everything is a battle. You’re either with me or you’re against me. I just feel that in that environment, the best you can do, again, is say what you have to say and leave. Exit the room for the next couple of hours because then it can’t impact you.

I got trolled because I liked the Gunjan Saxena trailer. Everybody went crazy. ‘Oh, she’s nepotistic, something, something, something,’ I can’t even remember the choicest gallis. Some of them were not so bad. One said that I was a ‘nepo-gang propagandist.’ But the point is, I cannot not like a trailer because I’m afraid that people will troll me. I cannot not express my view on a piece of art. I do not express my political views on Twitter. I have no interest in getting into those conversations. What my political views are should not even matter to anyone. My conversation on Twitter is restricted to how I feel about cinema and entertainment, and I’m okay to say whatever I feel.

My advice would be: exit the room for a couple of hours, and they will forget about you, and you go on. These people that you’re talking about, I don’t even know who they are. At one point, at the height of this thing, a director from the industry called me and said, ‘Do you know they are going after you?’ I had no clue. So, she was like, ‘Are you serious?’ And I was like, ‘You know, there’s no point,’ because more than anything else, it’s an energy and time suck. Who has the time for that? If you read it, you’ll get affected, it’ll impact your work, and you’ll want to respond, and you’d be unhappy with someone – that’s two hours of your day gone. My whole thing in life is productivity. How can I do more in a day? Toh time hi nahi hai.

That’s the only way, but you cannot be afraid. You have to say what you have to say. You can’t not like a film. You can’t succumb to ‘okay chalo I’ll not like this too much because those guys are going to get pissed off.’ You can’t do that. Again, don’t compromise on your voice. That’s all you have as a critic – your voice.

Aatreyee Mohanta: How does one leave their biases behind when they’re entering the film industry as a reviewer that one may be bringing along as a viewer? How do I view a film as objectively as possible?

Anjupama Chopra: The crux is, you have to decide for yourself. It’s not like you can leave it. You can’t fill it in a handbag and claim to have left it outside. It’s instinctive. I’m a big sucker for Shah Rukh Khan. I’m a big sucker for big, pretty, overblown Bollywood movies. I love song and dance. I’m very happy with pretty things on screen. I get seduced by that. I was, again, one of the three and a half people who didn’t hate Kalank (by Abhishek Varman) because it was just pretty. I was like, ‘Yaar, do ghante, itni sundarta! It’s okay. Life is so tough. Why not just look at these beautiful and glorious fabrics, and this wannabe Bhansali universe?’ I can never disconnect that part of me.

I’ve never been a great fan of horror, but if I see a horror film that’s amazing, like Get Out (by Jordan Peele), I will enjoy it. So, my bias cannot work in the face of art. You will always have things you like more than other things. That is not going to prevent you from seeing good work or bad work. If it comes in terms of, let’s say, politics, if there’s an artist whose politics drives you up the wall and you find yourself unable to approach that film without being annoyed, then don’t do it, because there is no way to actually remove biases. You’ll find out as you review films more and more that when you’re confronted with a movie, you’re not going to say, ‘I don’t like horror, so I’m not going to like this film.’ You will appreciate the artistry in it. It will get to you; it’ll get inside your skin. I mean, Get Out is a great film; there was this other genre fare, more pulpy, Don’t Breathe (by Fede Álvarez), which was about a blind man who unleashes horror on teenage kids who have broken into his house. I went in thinking, ‘Oh man, what is this going to be?’ You couldn’t actually breathe because you were so afraid! A great piece of work will get past your biases. I don’t think it will get in your way, genuinely; unless it’s a political thing or something like that.

Let’s say you want to look at a film through the lens of women. My colleague, Sucharita Tyagi, mostly looks at films through the lens of women. She will judge a film on how it’s dealt with the female characters, what it is saying about women, do they have agency, how it is treating them and what they are seeing. She judges a film from that lens, which is fine. That’s your personality as a film critic. That’s your differentiator. I don’t do that. If I started reviewing films like that, seeing if women have agency, I would hate all films. My sensibility is different, so I don’t do that. You’ll have to see what your politics are, what your biases are. If it’s a question of merely liking something more than something else or liking a particular director, I don’t think it’s going to get in your way.

Avinash Madivada: How did Film Companion begin? What were your initial thoughts about starting something like this?

Anjupama Chopra: Smriti, Kalpana (Nair), and I used to work on The Front Row together. We did that for two years. When the contract for the show expired, we were thinking about what to do next. The thing we could do was produce content. We knew how to make videos. We knew how to make editorial content. At that point, my husband suggested that we look at something digital because he said that film reviews should be available whenever people wanted them and not by appointment viewing at 8:30 on a Friday night; it should be available to them whenever they want to go see a movie – they should be able to Google what you said. It was just with that idea.

When we started, we knew nothing. We knew nothing about uploading videos on YouTube. I have such a clear memory of the day when we uploaded the first video, which was a video about Kick (by Sajid Nadiadwala). We popped a bottle of cheap champagne.

 

Smriti Kiran: No, Anu, it wasn’t cheap champagne. It was expensive champagne that Vinod had gotten. We poured it into three or four glasses and sat in front of the computer expecting ki views badhenge.

Anupama Chopra: Correct! That’s how clueless we were. Hume laga ki ab toh post hogaya, ab millions of people will come. It took four-five years to get to that first million. It was very tough, but that was the idea. Then it just evolved. As we grew, it became more and more clear in my head that we needed to create a pan-Indian platform for entertainment – we needed to cover the South; we needed to cover Marathi films; we needed to cover Bengali films; we needed to talk about Punjabi films, because India and Indian cinema is beyond Bollywood. There’s so much great cinema happening beyond the confines of Film City. That was really exciting for me. Then we persuaded Baradwaj Rangan to join and start the South bureau, and from there on the ball just kept on rolling.

Deepak Jain: How do you strike a balance between reviewing a commercial film and an offbeat film and remain unbiased while reviewing them?

Anjupama Chopra: First of all, there’s no partiality. I have grown up watching mainstream Hindi cinema. My core sensibility is mainstream. It’s not that I won’t review anything else. Our job is to review films that will be seen by people. We always cover festivals. My worry is that I’ll talk about a film that nobody will have the opportunity to see. At Film Companion, we are reviewing documentaries, we are reviewing short films, we are reviewing stuff that showed at the Toronto International Film Festival. In a normal year, I would be at the Cannes Film Festival; Baradwaj goes to the Venice Film Festival. We cover the most offbeat films as long as there is some avenue or access for people. I can’t review a film that is only available to me. Uska fayda kya hai? Like I said before, the great service that we can do is to showcase the work of less celebrated artists, to showcase offbeat cinema. We try to do that all the time, which is why we have Rahul Desai constantly reviewing short films, because shorts are a very important ecosystem. We’ve been doing it for four or five years now.

Personally, I might be reviewing more mainstream than offbeat only because more mainstream releases in theatres. It’s purely a function of Friday ko kya aa raha hai. Bas vahi baat thi. We are not purposefully trying to not review offbeat films. In fact, we would love to champion lesser seen films.

Sarthak Jain: With the rise of OTT platforms, whose market share is getting impacted the most: theatres or satellite/DTH? Are they carving out a brand-new viewer segment?

Anjupama Chopra: That will only become apparent once theatres are in full swing. The truth is, they just opened today (15th October 2020). There’s no new product. It’s all re-releases. The test is going to be when Sooryavanshi and 83 come out in the theatres, and we’ll see how many people are going to show up. Right now, of course, we think that viewing habits will have changed over the last seven months, and OTT platforms will have completely eaten into the theatre market. But I don’t know. I mean, aren’t you dying to go to the theatre? I know I am. My parents are very old. I see them once a week, and I won’t do anything to jeopardise that; but the minute I feel that I’m comfortable, I’ll rush to a theatre. So, I don’t know if theatre markets are going to be destroyed by streaming platforms. I hope streaming platforms are carving out their own market, creating a new audience and a different audience, an audience that’s willing – because it’s private viewing as opposed to public viewing – to accept different themes. That certainly seems to have been born out. We’ve seen so many OTT shows that are pushing the envelope in so many ways, which is so exciting. My fantasy is that theatres and OTT platforms will coexist happily.

Naman Issar: Some actors use what is happening in their own lives to portray a character. Is that a good way to perform? How best to pursue cinema or acting at a time when the industry and universities are not at their best?

Anjupama Chopra: Because I’m not an actor, I would never presume to know what it takes to be an actor or to say what a better way is. What I’ve understood from 25 years of interviewing actors is that everyone finds their own way to getting to the essence of a performance. One of my earliest experiences of watching an actor was watching Sridevi on the sets of Chandni. Because my mother had written it, we had access and we would go to her shoot. It was amazing. She would just be sitting there when the camera wouldn’t be rolling, not speaking to anyone. She was very imposing—she was a very tall, beautiful woman—and would sit looking very regal, by herself. But when the camera would start rolling, she would be like magic. There was so much life and energy, and she was so animated.

I don’t know what that transformation was. I don’t know if she was necessarily a method actor or what her process was. In all my years as a critic, I’ve interviewed Deepika (Padukone) so many times, she’s like, ‘Please don’t ask me about my process. It’s so specific. It’s so internal that I can’t even explain to you what I really do.’ Each actor evolves their own way, and I’m here to look at that performance and enjoy it. I would never even dream of telling an actor how to do it better.

I agree with you that this is a very hard time. It has been tough on actors who have flourishing careers even, so of course, it must be hard for aspiring actors. There’s something that Rajkummar Rao said in Kissa Khwabon Ka, which has always stayed with me. He said that when he was struggling and was doing the rounds, going from one audition to the other all day, every evening when he came home, he did something to do with acting. He read or acted with whoever he was rooming with, or read parts of a script, all of which made him understand that he was still connected to the art. Auditions dete dete aur reject hote hote your spirit can break. What I have heard so many actors say in interviews during the lockdown is that they are practising their craft, honing their craft, watching YouTube videos, joining as many online sessions such as this to learn more.

Consider this: for those of us who are fortunate enough to have food and shelter can consider this as a time to learn and improve what we do. Just approach it from there. Do as much as you can to be better. That’s what I’m trying to do. As a critic, I’m just trying to get better.

 

To watch the full video of the Dial M For Films session with Anupama Chopra in conversation with Smriti Kiran click here.

For more information about the Dial M For Films series click here.

P.S: The Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI) conducts Dial M For Films, an online knowledge series, free of cost because we believe in fair and equal access to the insight and experience of talent from the world of cinema for all. If you find these sessions of value and would like to quote from them or distribute them further as study material, we request that you give MAMI and Dial M For Films credit while doing so.

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