I am a terrible film critic.
Now, I could judge acting, cinematography, plot, script and music for hours.
I could even attempt to tell you if the special effects were worth the cinema ticket.
But I usually forget about all that. Especially when Bollywood is involved.
Yes, the acting may be cheesy, the dancing extravagant and the plots unrealistic, but that is not the point.
Bollywood is an experience.
For example, I saw Dhoom 3 recently.
Starring Aamir Khan, Katrina Kaif and Abhishek Bachchan and revolving around bank heists and a circus set in Chicago, it was three hours of non-stop colour and action.
Sure, the “twin magicians rob banks” plot was a bit “Prestige”-meets-“Now You See Me”.
But whether it was Katrina’s remarkably tasteful strip tease, Aamir with dual personalities or rubber-burning motorcycle scenes on familiar streets with Abhishek that captured my imagination, I don’t know.
I couldn’t look away once.
We judge our viewing experience by certain standards.
These standards may be personal, critical, but are most often cultural. And that is where viewers of international media hit a snag.
America in particular has a very specific idea of what makes a good film.
It must be believable, authentic and the world of fantasy and reality must be clearly defined for the audience. That’s what we have genres for.
Many cultures don’t feel the need to make that same distinction.
Why is a film or drama with “bit of everything” so difficult for some people to enjoy?
What’s so bad about song and dance, bright colours and tragedy, comedy and romance in the same story?
Dhoom 3 was by no means realistic.
Circus tricks defied gravity, there was little character development and it was both flashy and overly-dependent on action and movement to drive the story.
But it was an excellent example of Indian cinema on American streets, two cultures colliding to form an exciting three-hour ride.
It was an experience.
Sometimes, film is simple entertainment. And entertainment requires the suspension of belief.
When people go to a movie theatre, log in to Netflix or download the latest box offices hits, they expect to be transported to a different world.
Because it’s an experience.