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Sundays are crazy! It starts when you switch on the TV. For an avid film buff, Sunday is perhaps the only day when you can catch up with all that is happening in the film world. Watch the new songs, get to know how the films are doing at the box office, get to see some good impartial reviews and maybe decide which one of the movies you want to catch in theaters. But, is that happening right now? 

No, would be the obvious answer. Yes, we do get to watch the latest songs on TV. But, the other two things mentioned above (i.e finding out box office performances and getting impartial reviews) is just not happening. There are programs that tell us about the latest box office standing and there are also the 'Vimarsanams' that turn out without fail. But, are they impartial and unbiased? Quite the opposite.

Over the years we have had many effective and honest (apparently) film based programs that told us about hits, flops and also gave us concise reviews; ones that would tell us whether the movie was worth watching in theaters. I guess that many of you would have been great fans of 'Madhan's Thiraipaarvai', a weekly feature that reinvented Tamil cinema criticism. The forthrightness and honesty with which movies were reviewed just a few years back was so heartening to see. They served as the quality control factors of the film industry and actually helped the good movies gain mileage. I would say that the current health of Tamil cinema (it is not at all bad) has a lot to do with the slow but sure process of unbiased and objective criticism that was instilled by the likes of Madhan. 

But, free and fair criticism through the media needs the right environment; one of zero interference and (to a certain extent) a bit of irreverence towards names and reputations. That environment, sadly, no longer exists in Tamil media. That is exactly why we see a critic and analyst of Madhan's caliber relegated to a chair judging 'tomorrow’s directors' instead of giving pertinent opinions about today's films. 

What happened to the free and fair environment in Tamil media? The answer is simple. To evaluate a film and be candid about its run at the box office you need someone who does not stand to win or lose anything from the success or failure of a film. But such a person cannot survive within the two giant media houses in Tamil Nadu at the moment. The reason - the two big media houses are also the two big production houses in Tamil cinema at present. Result- contorted box office reports, brash overstatement of success and absolute indifference to the films produced by the opposing camp. 

At the moment, there are three ‘Top 10’ ratings in Tamil cinema. One shown by channel A which prefers to put all the productions of X on top one after the other in the order of release date. The other rating is by channel B which puts all productions by Yand Z (not in order of preference) on top. It goes without saying that A ignores films by Y and Z while B pretends that films by X do not exist. The third and final rating is the ‘real’ one which gets lost or suppressed amid all this noise. 

One cannot really blame them either! If I was a producer as well as a media baron, it would be hard to resist the temptation of ‘power marketing’ my movies through my channel. Trailers, songs, promos and whatnots every five minutes. Now, that would be ethical. But, if I began running Top 10 features that kept my movies on top even months after their release and also stopped including other producers’ movies on the rating, no matter how they are doing; that would be unethical. 

The irony of the matter here is that the two media houses involved in this are not inexperienced fledglings in the field. They practically brought satellite television to the south. Definitely, they know that what is being done is wrong and we know that what is being done is wrong and in all probability, they know that we know that they are wrong. Then why would they carry on with such practices which only ruins their credibility and turns people off from channels and rating programs.

It is not easy to venture a guess. It is either a big three-way battle between production houses for supremacy in Tamil cinema and they are going all out – ‘All is fair in love and war’. Or it is a simple matter of premium footage not being exchanged between production and media houses which would enable either of them to include each other’s films on their ratings. Now, you cannot expect a first class channel to run ‘Top 10’ features without having footage from the movies concerned. Either way; if this goes on for too long, the ultimate loser will be Tamil cinema.

It is said that the symptom of a healthy democracy is a free, fair and independent judiciary. A just society is one where media is free to bring out the truth. Now, cinema is not a matter of national importance or societal justice. But, for those who love Tamil cinema and are concerned about its growth and health, the free fair criticism and transparent rating culture must return soon. Sure, the production and media houses in question are also doing a fair bit to promote Tamil cinema; making huge investments, breaking new grounds in publicity and also supporting small but good films in finding their way to theaters. In their individual capacities, they are doing wonderfully well. But, the battle between them might just be strangulating Tamil cinema’s quest for excellence. 

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This page hosts the views of the authors of the column. The views are generally about films, movie reviews, movie news, songs, music, film actors and actresses, directors, producers, cinematographers, music directors, and all others that contribute for the success or failure of a film. People looking for movies online, movie reviews, movie analysis, public response for a movie, will find this page useful.