Discussion Post: Anupama Announces Film Companion Will Not Cover Sacred Games or Sanju At All, What Do We Think????

Thank you to Akshat for bringing this to my attention!  I have no strong feelings about it, but I am finding it fascinating to consider from all angles and puzzle over what I would do, or what I would want someone else to do in this situation.

Anupama just put out this tweet formally announcing that the two big news stories of the Hindi/Indian film world this week, the release of the Sacred Games miniseries starting Saif Ali Khan and Sanju, the Sanjay Dutt biopic with Ranbir Kapoor, would not be covered at all by her website, Film Companion.

 

Some background, Anupama is a film journalist with impeccable credentials.  She started as a writer for a film magazine right out of college, then went to Northwestern University Medill school of journalism (right down the street from my office) for her masters.  Medill is the 3rd best journalism school in America, sometimes first best depending on the year.  Anupama went on to write in depth articles, and eventually books, on Hindi film.  Some of the best writing I have ever read on the subject, painstakingly researched and clear and memorable and extremely readable.

Image result for sholay anupama chopra

(Highly highly recommend this book.  Especially if you like the way I write, Anupama had a big impact on how I look at film and film journalism)

And she also married Vidhu Vinod Chopra, a director/producer who also has impeccable credentials.  He went to the Indian Institute of Film and Television, and his first student film won a National Award.  His next short film, a documentary, was nominated for an Academy Award in America.  He went on to direct a whole variety of critically acclaimed and popular films and eventually switched to producing.

Not only that, Anupama’s sister is a writer and director, and her brother is a novelist, careers that also run into her film journalism.

For years, Anupama and Vinod jogged along having similar careers that overlapped in a cheerful way.  I’ve read a lot of Anupama, and she talks about some of her earlier interviews (specifically Govinda) coming about because stars were trying to suck up to her husband.  She didn’t seek that out, she tried to get by on her own merit, but if they reached out through her husband, she also didn’t turn them down.

In a larger sense, Hindi film is a social world.  Vinod is working with these people, he’s going to invite them to his house for dinner, they will become friends with his family, including his wife, and that is going to be part of any interview or research Anupama does.  Most people in film know her socially thanks to their connection with her husband, as well as on her own as a journalist.

Image result for vidhu vinod chopra and anupama chopra

(Vidhu, Anurag Kashyap, and Farhan Akhtar all hanging out and being brilliant director’s together)

Anupama started as an investigative journalist, she did in depth interviews, and detailed massively researched books.  This is not a huge conflict of interest with her husband’s work, so long as her particular in depth interview and massively researched book is not on her husband’s films (or her sister’s films or anyone else in her family), there’s no problem.  But then she got funding to start moving into more of a cohesive film journalism role, an up to the minute “we cover everything” kind of thing.

Film Companion is a youtube channel, a website, a twitter account, an everything.  The kind of multi-channel project that makes my head hurt.  And the only way to keep all those channels busy is to keep providing constant varied content.  Which means it becomes harder and harder to avoid overlaps with what Vinod is doing.

Image result for film companion

(For instance, here is an interview with Farhan Akhtar, star of Vinod’s last movie Wazir.  Is Anupama allowed to ask him questions about that film?  Should she be concerned that even having him on the show will increase interest in it?  What about the ethical concerns of using her connections to even get the interview in the first place?)

 

Now, here’s the questions I am debating with Anupama’s decision to cut off all coverage by anyone on any of her outlets for her husband’s film or the mini-series based on her brother’s book:

 

1.Anupama finds an ethical issue here, but should she also find it an ethical issue to use her family connections to give herself an advantage as a journalist?

2. If Anupama feels that it would be a conflict of interest to cover anything that relates to her family on her channels, and if her family is so highly connected (husband producer/director, mother writer, sister writer/director, brother writer) to Indian film, then should she even have accepted the task of building these channels in the first place, knowing the conflict was inevitable?

3. Where does it end?  For instance, Anupama’s sister wrote and directed Dushman, starring Kajol and Sanjay Dutt.  It is currently available for purchase on YouTube.  If Anupama interviews Kajol and thereby increases interest in her work and thereby adds to the likelihood that someone will rent Anupama’s sister’s film, is that ethical?

4. Is it better to avoid all coverage and thereby let a potentially bad movie or miniseries escape without a bad review, or to review it honestly, good or bad?

5. Is it fair to those who consume Film Companion to cut them off from content, or is it better it simply use a disclaimer and let them make up their own minds?

6. Is the ethical issue that providing publicity for these films by acknowledging them at all might lead to increased audience interest, or that the coverage of them might be biased?  Or is it both?

 

I’ll put it another way.  When I become Shahrukh’s secret American wife, and he promises me a new diamond necklace if his next film is a hit,

Image result for shahrukh jewelry

 

Should I:

a. Review it honestly just like usual

b. Ask someone else to review it for me on the blog because I am afraid I will be biased

c. Not review it at all or acknowledge it in any way

d. Acknowledge it by announcing that I will not be reviewing it

e. Cancel the blog as soon as I become his white wife because conflict is inevitable

f.  Lie and give it a glowing review because diamonds are a girl’s best friend

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33 thoughts on “Discussion Post: Anupama Announces Film Companion Will Not Cover Sacred Games or Sanju At All, What Do We Think????

  1. In my opinion Film Companion should do reviews of Sanju and Sacred games written by some other member of the stuff. Anupama should write a tweet or disclaimer, that they are a serious site, so she personally won’t do the review , but as they “cover everything” they can’t miss those two.
    I find not covering Sanju and SC unprofessional. Especially Sanju. Such a big event, and I really don’t think FC review would change the destiny of this film.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m leaning that way as well. Or else Anupama should have never agreed to run such a site, knowing it would inevitably lead to conflicts. You can’t have it both ways, being this careful to avoid conflicts and also wanting to run a serious comprehensive film site and knowing your whole family is involved in Indian film.

      And of course she should also hire reviewers who have their own distinctive voice and opinions, so it would be clear any review they give (good or bad) comes from them, not Anupama’s influence.

      On Tue, Jun 26, 2018 at 4:22 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I keep comparing it to a skirt I make myself. To someone else, it may look wonderful, but I will always see and remember the little flaws. I imagine after living with Sanju for years and listening to Vinod vent about every little thing and so on, it would be impossible to watch it with a clear mind, without thinking about all the flaws only you know about.

        So fine, don’t review it, we will all understand. But why make everyone else on your channel skip the review as well? So strange!

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        • I am with you on this. There are other reviewers with established credentials who are part of FC who can review Sanju & Sacred Games. By this tweet, does she mean that she has the final say on any content published by FC, even if it’s done by someone else?Then I would be very wary of any content coming out of FC. You know the little girl who makes a pronouncement with a serious face ‘I can’t play, because I got booboo’. It sounds like that.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, exactly! If she is saying that she can’t trust any of her writers to be unbiased because of her relationships to the films, then it just means she doesn’t trust any of her writers at all. And maybe we shouldn’t either.

            On Tue, Jun 26, 2018 at 11:12 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I don’t read their reviews anymore although I agree that she was a good film journalist…(it’s the same for Rajeev Masand who has lost my respect)

    As for you I would like you not to change and do your work honestly/properly (no.1…and I think you would find something positive even if you don’t love the movie)…in any way it’s the audience that makes a movie a hit (at least in India, it seems to me).

    Having a number of reviewers who write for the Film Companion, let them all write their reviews…basically, a review reflects a personal opinion and if your opinion is to massage somebody’s Ego or to have to manipuate people there will come a time when people don’t believe in your integrity anymore.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The bigger question is how much Anupama trusts her reviewing staff. Does she feel they have their own voice and opinions, or are they just extensions of herself? If they are truly independent reviewers, and she fostered a culture of trust and respect, then she should have no problem trusting them to review her husband’s film openly and honestly. And if she doesn’t trust them, then she shouldn’t have hired them.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Claudia, I’m curious as to how Rajeev lost your respect. This interviewing the same people you review is a problem but he seems the least bad (or not).
      Margaret: I have ALOT of trouble with Anupama. She does a sweet interview and then trashes a movie. She completely didn’t understand JHMS (“who would believe they could sleep in the same bed and not have sex”–really Anu, really?) I think she bends over backwards to find fault with the films of people she knows and likes like Shah Rukh. She sat right next to his family at a school function days after she trashed JHMS. They have discussed how he and Vinod were friends. She should be review ANY film. She is too close to all of it. The only films she likes are done with a “feminist” center…Kangana…Sonam….no matter what. We met Sucharita who has enormous respect for her, so there must be something. But I think Anu has lost all perspective. The excessive tweeting etc about what she is NOT going to do is a case in point.

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      • I agree about her being too close. And the frustrating thing is, that used to be an advantage. The access she got for her interviews was amazing, I love the details she was able to pull out and put together in her books and long length articles. But now it is all mixed together, instead of watching a movie and then slowly exploring the background of it and building up her thesis, she is rushing through interviews with stars and then reviewing their films days later. And she is getting into the cardinal sin of journalism, putting herself at the center of the story. An Anupama review is no longer about the film, it is about what Anupama thought of the film and what we think of Anupama. This instance seems a bit of an extreme example of that.

        On Tue, Jun 26, 2018 at 8:23 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        Liked by 1 person

  3. Imo, cover both sanju and sacred games, just as they would normally, but provide the disclaimer verbally at the start of any related video, as well as running the disclaimer legibily along the bottom of the video for the full length of the video.

    By not covering these two properties, and yet being so vocal about not covering the two properties, she’s inadvertently bringing attention and thus publicity to both properties. Instead, the most ethical path is to be clear but quiet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s true, I didn’t even know Sacred Games was coming out this week, and now I do. And I guess that it is big enough she feels the need to do this special disclaimer. Maybe it wasn’t her intention, but all I got from this was “hey guys, two really really big things are coming out that I am super excited about”. Simply not covering them at all without any comment would have been better, if the goal was not to influence audience interest.

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      • A single tweet would have been one thing, but she has mentioned the fact that she is not going to be covering these two properties in 3-5 of her most recent videos, plus I’m guessing on her website or newspaper column or what have you, plus her various co-host have also mentioned it in their most recent videos.

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  4. She interviews every star before/after the movies. Also has various segments on her channel where she interacts with them all the time.
    So hypothetically she could have a bias for any movie.
    I feel she is trying to just show how much integrity I have by telling multiple times that she will not cover the movie.

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  5. I think she repeated the fact that she won’t be covering Sanju multiple times because people ask this all the time – on youtube and twitter. I mean she’s still being trolled for giving Befikre a goodish review and people in the comments section insinuated that it was because AdiC and VVC are cousins cos they’re both Chopras (are they? I didn’t think so). Anyhow, in India this is treading on very slippery (troll heavy) ground, so she probably thought it was the best thing to do to not review. I think it hurts her channel more than the movies or the show, because people today check all the reviews they can before watching something.

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    • Well sheesh! I can ignore trolls, and I’m not even getting paid for this, I would think she could power through and just do the work she knows is good. I do sympathize, because it’s awful to feel like people don’t like you, but if it is something as ridiculous as insinuating she gave a good review to something because it is a relative, and it isn’t, then I would think she could just ignore it. Or else get into a different business.

      On Tue, Jun 26, 2018 at 10:53 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • You joke, but that could have been another good way to handle it. I put my Shahrukh prejudice front and center and acknowledge it when it comes up. If Anupama had wanted to review the film, she could have started with a joking disclaimer of “of course, I think this is the greatest film ever and you should all watch it, and it has nothing to do with my husband promising me a new car!” Or she could have given a different kind of review, one that talks about why her husband wanted to make the film an what the process was like for them as a family. There is a way to do it that acknowledges the conflict of interest and turns that into a good thing.

      On Tue, Jun 26, 2018 at 11:55 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. If a whole team of trained experts cannot guarantee a fair and unbiased review for a project made by people that have close ties to the writers, then you really have to question every review they have ever written and every interview they’ve ever done because how do they even begin to claim “unbiased opinions” at any stage??

    Or maybe someone finally AC how totally she embarrassed herself with that giggly SRK interview and she’s afraid of something like a repeat of the same. So there’s like a precedent for her doing shit like that.

    That said, this is seriously unprofessional.

    Reviewers are followed regularly by people who are already biased in favor of their views. Like we do with you. Even if your commentators disagree with you 10% of the time, they come back because the other 90% of your opinions align with theirs.

    But I suppose that’s the difference between a “corporate” review machine like FC and your “mom and pop store” style blog– there’s a relationship here and it isn’t a one way street.

    So, to answer your question – if you were to become SRK’s secret white American wife, we’d expect inside r stories and tidbits no-one else covets anywhere 😂 😂 😂

    Also, maybe then I’d finally get my SRK films’ sparknotes 😂 😂 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! The Indian film industry has so much back and forth between the reviewers and the filmmakers. Reviewers also write screenplays and host award shows and just generally hang out with these people. I’m not even saying it’s a bad thing, it’s just what is. But this is saying that it is a bad thing to have these kinds of connections. And that calls into question the whole idea of Bombay based film reviewers. Which means, I guess, everyone should just read my reviews because I don’t know anybody!

      When I become Shahrukh’s secret white wife, I’ll make the blog private and share all kinds of dirt with my loyal followers!

      On Wed, Jun 27, 2018 at 12:02 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  7. I’ll play the devil’s or in this case Anupama’s advocate.She has removed her subordinates from the awkward position of having to lie to their boss’s face if the movie/series turn out to be totally worthless.Either they’d have had to couch it in words so diplomatic that the review loses its flavor or there would be hard feelings.

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    • Maybe she should instead have announced “I am taking a week off and won’t be watching/reading any of your reviews, My assistant editor is in charge, have fun, I’ll send you a postcard”

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    • Thank you! That was a fascinating read, and provided great context by pointing out that two other leading reviewers (Bhardwaj Rangan and Raja Sen) have similar but smaller conflicts of interest and it is just something the readers can learn to accept about them, without the need for a huge disclaimer. Plus the same things that bothered me, the idea that her staff is incapable of reviewing things correctly, which is ridiculous since media groups are constantly reviewing things produced by associated companies and it is assumed not to effect the individual reviewers.

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      • ya.. because the important fact i saw in that blog was Sucharita reviewing Raazi but can’t review Sanju. i saw the film today. It clearly whitewashes all Dutt crimes. That means Chopra was deliberetly was supporting the biopic

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        • Yeah, it’s a film that works best if you don’t think about it at all. And a reviewer is going to force you to think about it, to pick apart a little the version of the story it is telling.

          On Thu, Jul 5, 2018 at 10:18 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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