RJ Balaji's Reviews Hurting Tamil movies...?
First things first, Big FM RJ Balaji's movie reviews are unbelievably hilarious, unabashedly funny and thoroughly original. Last week, a controversy erupted between UTV Dhananjayan and RJ Balaji due to the latter's scathing soundcloud review of Settai. When we enquired a few members of the film fraternity, we heard some interesting opinions about RJ Balaji and his reviews.
One of the producers who gave a mid-budget hit movie last year felt that the producer association which wastes most of its time in-fighting and standing up for causes beyond their control should pick up this trend as a serious concern. This internet-savvy producer who preferred to be anonymous urged our Tamil producers to stop giving the rights to play upcoming Tamil movie songs on Big FM network, which runs their radio channel purely based on movie content. It is unclear why Big FM's parent organization is staying quiet? Would they allow RJ Balaji to review the same way about their next Tamil movie that will be produced or distributed by Big Pictures/Reliance Entertainment?
Others felt that the film industry members should take themselves less seriously, develop a funny bone and take it in their strides. But, agreed that since they were not on the receiving end of these mocking reviews, they did not find anything wrong or offending with these reviews.
Having provided the industry view point, let's look at the top 5 reasons why RJ Balaji's reviews may be hurting Tamil movies,
1. To be funny, RJ Balaji often stretches a point beyond truth...
Comedians cannot be funny by being subtle, middle of the road or nuanced. Knowing this very well, RJ Balaji often pushes the reality to extreme ends as he trashes a movie outright. If something would evoke a "gubir sirippu" (as he says), he would not hesitate without caring too much about whether he is accurately representing the movie's strengths and criticisms.
2. RJ Balaji often manipulates his fans...
RJ Balaji is very calculative about building his fan base and hence carefully decides his selection of movies to review. RJ Balaji doesn't review all Tamil movies. RJ Balaji did not review Ajith's Billa 2 and it is also unlikely that he will review when Vijay delivers a dud. However, he positively reviews a hit movie from a mass hero promptly (as seen for Vijay's Nanban and Thuppakki). Balaji strategically picks the movies that will increase his listener-ship without hurting the sentiments of fanboys.
3. RJ Balaji's reviews get personal?
In the case of Settai review, RJ Balaji and UTV Dhananjayan have been locking horns since Mugamudi release. When you keenly notice the review points, RJ Balaji's review of Settai was mostly responding to UTV Dhananjayan's tweets such as the ones about 'Aircheck song rankings', Settai as a "'U' rated movie and promotions trying to attract families, and that Settai was made for target audience who didn't watch 'Delhi Belly'.
Similarly, RJ Balaji in 'Kadal' was sarcastic and called himself as not intelligent enough to understand the movie. Again, this was in direct response to Arvind Swamy's tweets that indirectly pointed that many of the viewers did not have the maturity to understand Mani's vision.
4. Is RJ Balaji Biased?
Among handful of positive reviews last year, 2 of them were that of Vijay, 2 of them were for his long-time friends and supporters of his radio show. Balaji gave a half-hearted thumbs up for "3" and positive recommendation for 'Poda Podi' while soft-pedaling any negatives in the movie. When Thuppakki was overshadowing Simbhu's movie last Diwali, Poda Podi team was retweeting RJ Balaji's positive review hoping for a miraculous turnaround.
5. RJ Balaji is more powerful than traditional Media based on the reach
The reviews of RJ Balaji reach approximately 2 Lakh listeners. A popular weekly such as Ananda Vikatan and Kumudam each have a circulation of 3 to 4 Lakhs per week with majority of their target readers well above the age-group that watches movies in theatres. But, RJ Balaji's 2 Lakh listeners are part of the core target audience who are theatre-goers during the initial days after release. Any negative reviews have direct impacts on the footfall seen in theatres.
So, why did some Tamil cine-twiterratis' support RJ Balaji?
It came as a surprise why twitteratis in the film fraternity such as Udhay Stalin, Dhayanidhi Alagiri, Venkat Prabhu, CS Amudhan, director Balaji Mohan, Priya Anand, producer Shashikanth and others encouraged, praised and/or helped virally spread the Settai reviews by broadcasting to their fans. Such actions among people in film fraternity encouraging RJ Balaji has irked the Settai team.
Some of the above mentioned celebrities have not shown maturity in handling negative reviews in the past including Udhay Stalin who was known for stopping paper advertisements for a leading English daily (known for giving 3.5 stars) when the leading media house negatively reviewed 7aum Arivu. Similarly, Venkat Prabhu was known for his defensive reactions to Goa's negative reviews.
"With Great Power Comes..."
With listenership of RJ Balaji rivaling the reach of popular dailies and weeklies, there is no denying that Balaji has the ability to sway the box office outcome by at least a few Crores (on the negative side). As per Uncle Ben in Spiderman -- "With great power comes great responsibility".
Does RJ Balaji understand the power vested in him and his responsibilities to accurately represent the truth in his reviews?
Updated April 17, 2013 : RJ Balaji's response to the above article