Recently, while promoting his upcoming movie Chattambi, actor Sreenath Basi ended an interview after getting increasingly frustrated with the interviewer’s line of questioning. After being asked to rank the actors he’s worked with in terms of the biggest “chattambi”, the young actor apparently used a series of profanities to criticize the interview.
Subsequently, the online media platform that originally conducted the interview did a 13-minute long in-depth dive into what happened, recreating every moment in painstaking detail, and perhaps even taking the liberty to insinuate deeper meaning into the actor’s actions and words.
In this case, believing that Bhasi was in fact rude in his demeanour doesn’t negate the fact that the line of questioning was juvenile, or vice versa. Perhaps, this issue will resolve itself with an apology from the actor, a mutual discussion between all parties involved or maybe even legal proceedings.
However, the real issue that’s been highlighted through this incident threatens to go unresolved.
What’s The Real Problem?
As Bhasi pointed out in another interview, many interviewers end up asking inane questions with the sole intention of generating views, rather than having a real conversation about the actor or the art.
This is not to say that all interviewers in the Malayalam entertainment industry are clickbait-seeking individuals indifferent to the cinema. However, it’s completely understandable why things have reached the low point that Bhasi complains about.
Unlike thirty years ago, there are no longer gatekeepers when it comes to creating entertainment-related content. Thanks to the internet, smartphones and social media, more people than ever can establish platforms that will be frequented by actors.
Actors like Bhasi are compelled to sit down for countless interviews because streaming services have dramatically expanded audiences’ options. We no longer have to frequent the local theatre for an entertainment fix. We have movies and TV shows from all over the world available on our smartphones.
Audiences across Kerala are now inundated with entertainment content aimed at promoting new movies of actors. The media landscape is so fragmented that your friend in Kochi might hear about Chattambi due to Bhasi’s appearance in a different interview from the one that made you aware of the movie.
We are now in a lose-lose situation for all three parties concerned. Actors like Bhasi (and he might be the most vocal about it, but certainly not the only one) detest sitting down for dozens of interviews that invariable end up asking the same set of questions.
Interviewers are in a race to figure out new and interesting questions, and failing that, cook up ways to get soundbites that go viral. “Soubin is the biggest chattambi I’ve worked with, says Bhasi” would definitely guarantee views for the segment producer.
Audiences end up clicking such videos and feeling cheated when they realize they’ve been baited into watching silly content.
What could possibly be a solution for this dysfunctional three way relationship? Should interviewers be bombarded with comments on their platforms, urging them to ask “good” questions? Good interviewers know there are finite number of great questions you can ask an interview subject. Great questions elicit expansive, detailed answers that quickly negate any similar questions brewing in other interviewers minds.
Should we as audience members be ruthlessly discerning when it comes to viewing interviews? The problem is most of us don’t know an interview is any good until we’ve clicked on the video and increased the viewcount. Besides, there are so many content creators online right now that audiences cannot keep up with which ones are good and which aren’t.
Which is why perhaps Bhasi himself has the solution for Bhasi’s problem.
The Solution To Bhasi’s Problem
There are a limited amount of good actors in Malayalam cinema at the moment. Most of them crave good interviews that allow them to expand on their craft and delve deeper into why they’re passionate about their profession. So if actors like Bhasi decide to curtail the number of interviews they do, and begin frequenting only the ones they find fulfilling, there will be a much needed course correction.
Yes, it will be a sacrifice in the short-term. Producers will fret that their new releases aren’t getting the visibility because their actors aren’t promoting on enough platforms. But within a relatively short period of 2 or 3 years from now, we might have a different media landscape.
The best interviewers will have increased viewership thanks to actors who give limited interviews. The skilled interviewers won’t have to stoop to stupid questions, the viewers won’t be cheated with clickbait, the actors will have more time on their hands. And the poor interviewers won’t get berated by actors!