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What makes a good movie?

Warning: I wondered if i should be giving this warning right at the beginning or make it a post script. I only thought it fair that a warning should be given at the very beginning. So far, all of the pieces i have written have been about sport. Insightful, they might not have been, but i would like to believe that at the very least, i did not make an utter fool of myself. Sadly, i cannot say the same thing about this piece. The very first time that i have ventured outside my comfort zone, i have made an utter hash of things.  Structure, clarity and consistency are the bare minimum necessities for any half decent piece. It is abundantly clear to me that this piece lacks all the three. I had half a mind to delete the whole piece, but it seemed such a pity to waste the effort, however poor the output might be. I only hope that the popular idiom 'practice makes perfect' proves true. Lastly, at the very real risk of coming across as a narcissist, i request your feedback. 

What makes a good movie? Simple enough question but like all simple questions, the answer is devilishly hard to find. Particularly, in this question, you hit road-blocks straight away. No sooner, do you start looking for an answer, you begin to realize that all films are bound by the rules of the genres it straddles, the audience  it targets and the time it encompasses. Thus, there can be no one single parameter to judge a film. This much is clear enough, common sense tells you that.

Having agreed on the fact there can be no single set of values on which to judge a film, we then proceed to examine if there is not at least one single feature that should be present in all 'good' films.

Let us try and list out some possible characteristics that fit the bill:

1. It should make you laugh and have the ability to make you forget your troubles, if only for the most transient of periods.

2. It should have a consistent plot, devoid of flaws, at least the more glaring of them.

3. It should be just as engaging the second and third times as it was for the first time.

4. It should haunt you long after you have finished watching the movie.

5. It should have powerful characters, fantastic in their depth and colour.

6. It should be wed to reality, earthy in its approach and truthful to its setting.

7. It should capture your imagination and take you along in its flight of fancy.

8. It should offer a means of escape from mundane reality and offer true joy if only for the duration of the film.

9. It should give a message, serve a bigger purpose and act as our moral conscience.

Any connoisseur of movies can add to this list, that too in far more meaningful way than i have managed to. Yet, it is apparent from the list, that no one one common strand exists unifying all good movies. It is but obvious even to the most casual of observers that a movie can be 'Good' without having even a single of the above characteristics. In fact, some of the above listed characteristics are clearly contradictory.

Hence, we come back to where we started, i.e. a film is bound by its genre and audience and there does not exist any single feature that distinguishes all good films. Having given it considerable thought, i am convinced that we are going about it the wrong way. So far, we have been trying to solve the problem from the perspective of the audience, the recipient. Clearly, it is not working. Let us try and flip our perspective. Let us look at it from the creator's point of view. Whatever the art form, the artist is the fountain-head of all creation. It is within the fertile mind of the creator that all ingredients come together and the screen is merely the canvas that displays the creation.

Thus, it is only logical that a movie, as any other art form, has to be judged not only from the view-point of the creator but in fact by the creator himself. Simply put if a movie satisfies the director, if a movie fulfills its purpose, as envisaged by the producer; if a movie gives space to the actor, if a movie provides an opportunity to myriad other artists to display their wares, then it is a good movie. But the obvious question that arises is that can a movie be both good and bad at the same time? A peculiar characteristic of a movie is that unlike most other forms of art, a movie belongs to no one person. Rather, it is a conglomeration of work done by a myriad  people, encompassing businessmen, professionals and artists. Hence, it is not only possible but rather probable that a movie satisfies some of its stakeholders while leaving others in a lurch. Hence, a movie can be both 'Good' and 'Bad' at the same time.

But, where does all this leave the audience? After writing all that hog-wash, i can only offer you this: a good movie is a movie you like. Even as i write it, i can sense how pathetic it sounds. I can hear you ask, what then is the point of the article? Could you not have just posted that one line as your Facebook status and be done with it? I plead guilty!

Having failed miserably from the view-point of the creator and the view-point of the consumer, i make one last-ditch, futile as it may be, to redeem this article. I try and analyze it from my point of view. I have seen a fair number of films. They have ranged from the truly terrible to the remarkably profound. And so i tried to find out if there is a common thread among the movies that have truly moved me. I could come up with only this. All movies that have impacted me, whether it be Ben-Hur or Taare Zameen Par, have overcome a sense of inertia within me. All these films have displaced me or to be more accurate elevated me for however  short a period. They have enabled be to look within, to introspect and to question myself. In other words, they have yanked me out of my comfort zone and forced me to think.

This is sadly the best i could do. 


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