July 12, 2015 7:00:58 am
Did you see the trailer? This refrain gathers steam every time a new film is about to release. And every time I have to shake my head. No, I didn’t. Oh why? Because I don’t watch trailers. But why not? Well, okay, let me share with you my reluctance to see anything ahead of the film that I am about to watch. Because even if I see one frame of it, the film gets old in my head. And I want everything new and crisp. I want each frame, each scene, each sequence, each line to surprise me.
This is getting harder as time goes on. Months before the film is up for release, the PR machinery starts grinding. Supplements are full of little snippets “from the sets”, about how a star is full of “pranks” (what, are these grown-ups playing at being grown-ups? Or is it only a time-tested PR exercise?).
Usually a “break-up” or two, or a steamy liaison between the principals is splashed on print and TV. Interviews with the cast and crew start infesting all media. Controversy springs up, suspiciously close to the date. There is no escape.
The desperation to get the film noticed is clear in the way the airwaves are carpet-bagged. How else does one break through the clutter?
How do you get the fickle punter to commit to hauling herself to the box office and plunk down ticket money?
The closer the release date, the more the flurry. “Unofficial” trailers are “leaked”. Official trailers are launched with as much fanfare, if not more, as the film itself. Posters, “first looks”, “second looks” get “reviewed” with great solemnity.
Red-carpet whirls around these events, orchestrated to the last inch, get covered with much gushing prose. Websites carrying pictures from each conceivable angle of the “celebrities”, who arrive at these launches, are scanned furiously: full-fledged industries have sprung up around keeping everything revved up, and such is the saturation that you can neither run, nor hide.
Back in the day, before “online”came into existence, it was easier to ignore the noise. Those days, us film critics would occasionally be invited to a theatre to catch a show-reel (car chases, “rape scenes” featuring leering villains and cowering heroines, snippets from songs). It was mostly for the trade, with exhibitors and distributors and sales agents showing up to catch a flavour of the film.
The distributors then were powerful enough to suggest the inclusion of a scene or two, and given their power to infuse cash into the movie, their “suggestions” were mostly followed through. I went a couple of times, and even though the gap between seeing the show-reel and the film was huge, I found that I remembered far more than I liked.
The dreaded feeling of “seen this, so what’s new” is something all film critics (and viewers, if you ask me), should avoid like the plague. The practice continued even up to the early 2000s: I remember going off to a five-star suite to catch a few songs of a film from a new director who would go on to rewrite the independent cinema scene in Bollywood. The producer and the exhibitor (who had invited me) were waiting with their laptop. I sat, watched and left, intrigued. The film never released, but when I did catch it much later, at a festival, it wasn’t as novel as it should have been.
Now I plain refuse. I ignore the flood on social network sites. I do not click on links that will lead me to “trailers” (though sometimes, when I am returning exhausted from yet another terrible film, I wish I had, because the ghastliness would have been evident in those two minutes).
But I don’t. I even close my eyes when trailers of “forthcoming attractions” play just ahead of the feature I am about to catch.
Last week, I received one such link to the trailer of a much-celebrated film, which recently won plaudits at an international film festival, and which is about to release. I sent one line back, “saving myself for the film”.
No foreplay. Straight to the action.
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