Sucharita Tyagi started her career as a radio jockey in the mid-2000s, when she was still in college. Now in her early 30s, she has established herself as one among the most prominent film critics in India.
The Delhi-girl, who had uprooted herself to Mumbai for the love of broadcast media, moved from radio to online content only a few years ago. In 2015, she joined Film Companion, a digital, video-first platform founded by renowned critic Anupama Chopra. Sucharita’s show on this platform – cheekily named ‘Not a Movie Review’ –strikes a chord with urban youngsters who take cinema seriously.
In a recent chat, Sucharita spoke to MAKERS India about her journey and how she looks at the evolution of contemporary Bollywood cinema.
Sucharita says that her parents raised her like a boy. “Growing up, I had really short hair. Before puberty hit, people actually thought I was a boy,” she laughs. The eldest of three siblings, Sucharita did not even see gender disparity until she was in her teens, she collects.
“When I was in high school, I realized that the world is not the same for women and men. Women have to fight harder, strive harder, work harder to achieve the same goals that men achieve faster and easier because the system is rigged to help them. But till then, I had not felt that I belonged to a gender that is treated unfairly.”
And Sucharita walks her talk on the quest for gender equality too. Last year, she was embroiled in controversy when she spoke her mind about the blatant sexism and misogyny in Kabir Singh, the Bollywood remake of Telugu blockbuster Arjun Reddy, and the director Sandeep Reddy Vanga responded derogatorily.
#KabirSingh is deeply, deeply problematic, and the congratulatory tweets have filled my heart with equal parts gloom and despair.
I haven't been this uncomfortable watching a movie in a long ass time.#NotAMovieReview for @FilmCompanion - https://t.co/vpbg2yFSFt pic.twitter.com/481l7VMBXA
— Sucharita Tyagi (@Su4ita) June 21, 2019
In case anyone was still wondering if Kabir Singh was celebratory or cautionary, you don’t gotta wonder no more.
— Sucharita Tyagi (@Su4ita) July 6, 2019
When asked the reason behind films being made in a misogynistic way, despite conversations on equal rights, she says, “In my limited understanding, I think it's because we know it reflects life. We are at that point when, as a country, as a world, people are angry and agitated, and they just want to see things that will not agitate them more. So they want to see things that maintain the balance of power, which is men having all the power.”
She goes on to clarify, “I am not saying that people shouldn't be making any particular kind of films. It's a free country; make whatever kind of films you want. But as an audience, we are responsible which film we pick to watch. That's why audience follow film critics, because film critics tell you which film(s) they think you should be watching.”
Of course, the portion of film-lovers who closely follow film critics may be tiny, considering we are a population of 1.4 billion in India. But Sucharita says that film critics themselves have faced prejudices. “For so many years, audiences used to believe that critics only like boring, art-house cinema, and are always against masala cinema. Now, the scenario is changing for good; but there are still filmmakers and audiences who don't take film critic seriously,” she adds.
However, Sucharita believes that the ongoing lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic will give rise to more film critics. “Now that COVID-19 has struck, OTT platforms are all we have. So in the next few months, we're going to see new films that will come out on these platforms. And I think there will also be an influx of more movie critics, more people who are going to be commenting on these films and other content that's going to be coming out, because the content will keep coming.”
While she appreciates about more people expressing opinions about films on public platforms, she has a warning too. “Be sure to have your own opinion rather than follow other critics blindly. I want more and more people to be able to speak their truth when they're talking about popular culture,” she concludes.
(Producer & Video Editor: Urmi Chatterjee)