Murtaza Ali Khan- Biryani With Blogger II
The second interview in the series is with leading film review blogger of India Murtaza Ali Khan
Dr Amit Nagpal -After doing an MBA in Marketing, how come you decided to be a film review blogger? Please share your journey in brief.
Murtaza Ali Khan -I got introduced to the world of cinema during my second year of engineering. Soon I started reviewing movies on IMDB.Com. After completing my graduation I joined a leading IT company which took me to Chennai. While in Chennai, I got to watch a bunch of newly released Hollywood movies like Inception, Salt, Knight and Day, among others. It was during this time I started toying with the idea of taking up film reviewing as a full-time profession. It was quite tough managing time in Chennai as I was not only working full-time as an IT professional but I was also simultaneously preparing for MBA. After working for about a couple of years in the MNC I quit to pursue my MBA from Delhi Technological University. It was during the first year of MBA that I got introduced to the power of digital marketing and social media. Yes, I had been using social media since my engineering days but it was only during my MBA that I actually began to understand its true potential. The fact that we managed to organize a couple of highly successful national level events at the university during the first year itself with the help of Facebook proved to be a real eye-opener. I realized that posting reviews on IMDb wasn’t enough. I needed an independent platform. Now I had a personal blog which I rarely used. So I decided to revamp it as a movie blog. The first thing that I did was to republish all my IMDb reviews on the blog and within a month I had 10,000 hits from all around the globe. Within months my blog’s traffic quadrupled and I knew I was not blogging in vacuum.
Dr Amit- Which are your favourite genres in international and Hindi cinema? Name one favourite film in each genre.
Murtaza- Western and Film Noir are my favorite genres. And in many ways they are exact opposites. While one deals with hope the other is all about cynicism. The interesting thing about these genres is that over the years they have found new ways of keeping themselves relevant. While Film Noir has made way for Neo Noir, Western has made way for Revisionist Western. In Indian cinema we will see Film Noir influences right from early Guru Dutt films like Baazi and Jaal to more recent films like Manorama Six Feet Under and Mithya. As for the Western genre you will see its influences on films like Sholay to more recent ones like Gangs of Wasseypur and Babumoshai Bandookbaaz. While my all time favorite Western film is Once Upon a Time in the West, my favorite Film Noir is Touch of Evil.
Dr Amit - Name three favourite directors of yours and what makes them your favourite?
Murtaza - My three favorite most directors are Akira Kurosawa (Japan), Andrei Tarkovsky (Russia), and Satyajit Ray (India).
I adore Kurosawa for his storytelling brilliance that transcends the barriers of genre and language. While he made Samurai epics like Seven Samurai and Yojimbo he was equally capable of making Shakespearean adaptations like Throne of Blood and Ran. He could make minimalistic masterworks like Dersu Uzala and mystery thrillers like Nora Inu and High and Low. The visuals in his films are so powerful that they are impossible to forget.
I love Tarkovsky for his brilliant long takes. Unlike Kurosawa, he often dealt with complex themes and subjects. In fact, his films like Solyaris and Stalker are amongst the most complex films ever made. Apart from employing complex themes his films are also marked by allegory and symbolism to counter the Soviet censorship at the time. His film like Andrei Rublev and The Mirror are perfect examples of this.
As for Satyajit Ray, I don’t think that any other Indian filmmaker has done more than Ray to popularize Indian cinema to the whole world. Ray’s filmography consists of masterworks like Jalsaghar, Nayak, Pather Panchali, Shatranj Ke Khilari, Kanchenjungha, etc. It’s difficult to think of another filmmaker whose humanistic works left such a strong impression on audiences the world over.
Dr Amit - Why did you name your blog A Potpourri of Vestiges ? Please share the story.
Murtaza - Well, actually the name “A Potpourri of Vestiges” translates to a collection of memories. That’s exactly how I see movies… as a collection of memories. Actually, I had earlier given the name to a facebook photo album featuring my college buddies.
Dr Amit - What role can traditional media like TV and newspapers play in making cinema more effective as an instrument of social change?
Murtaza - I feel a lot of the times we tend to overlook the true power of cinema. I have always believed that cinema is the most powerful means of communication ever devised because the message propagated through cinema can reach everywhere and to everyone. I think we are yet to tap its true potential and media (both traditional as well as new media) has a very important role to play in it.
Dr Amit- What are the strengths and weaknesses of Bollywood vis-a-vis Hollywood?
Murtaza- We all know that Hollywood is nigh unparalleled when it comes to its big budgets and the use of technology. But, I believe Bollywood’s biggest strength is how it seamlessly employs song and dance into storytelling. Now, Hollywood too has an entire genre called the Musical dedicated to dance and music but I feel Bollywood’s approach is far more natural. Now, I am not really a big fan of item numbers but if you look at the Hindi films over the years you will notice several examples wherein the song and dance sequences actually allow the film’s narrative to flow seamlessly. Often these sequences allow the protagonists to express themselves in the manner that normal dialogues wouldn’t allow. Also, as Elleke Boehmer and Stephen Morton explain in their book Terror and the Postcolonial with reference to the movie Dil Se: “The songs and their exotic locations in the film were very important in masking the impossible reconciliation between the two protagonists by evoking pure fantasy though the phenomenon called the liminal space of dreaming.”
Dr Amit- Anything else you would like to share with our readers.
Murtaza- All I would like to add here is that in today’s competitive environment it is passion that is the single most important thing needed to thrive as a professional. We should only do things that we are passionate about. Doing a thing for the sake of it is just not good enough. Maybe there was a time when we could have survived doing something we hated but that’s a thing of the past. In today’s cutthroat times it is only through passion that we can truly excel. Success may not be immediate but if you have the passion then sooner or later you will attain it.
To know more about his blog and him visit- A Potpourri Of Vestiges