Why Annapurna Sunkara Matters

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July 29, 2015 by Zerub Roberts

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Couple of days ago, there was this video that popped up in Facebook, “Telugu films should change”. It was an interesting watch, by the same girl that made a viral video on India’s daughter – a speech I felt was eloquent, thoughtful and timely. There was a flurry of responses to her critique of the Telugu industry on Youtube – furious film fans, frustrated writers, enraged short film producers all lambasting over her video. Some considered her speech bloviating, some called it attention grabbing, some came up with valid responses to her critique, and some with scurvy ad hominem attacks.

Some of the responses were plain ludicrous – one reoccurring comeback was to challenge her to make a movie herself and lead the way. What this response does, is to question the right to critique something without simultaneously shouldering the burden to excel at it yourself. Her job is not to be a director. It doesn’t mean she has no warrant to condemn someone who does a poor job at directing a film. I am not a cricketer; that doesn’t take away my right to express frustration publicly, as a fan, at a player who is constantly under-performing – without necessarily being a competent cricketer myself.

Personally, I feel directors shoulder a responsibility to create movies that lead to positive social change. One could equally argue that a director is completely justified in making a film purely for the purposes of entertainment with no intention to bring reform – not everything one does ought to be done for utilitarian means.

I felt her remarks on Ali are spot-on – some of his actions have been despicable, and are not worthy of laughter. Her description of the Avanthika scene was well articulated and I’m sure it has changed how many viewed the debate, including myself. Atleast, I’ve moved from “Cmon, how is that offensive, they’re lovers!” to “Ok, that’s a valid point”.

However, lets zoom out for a second. Irrelevant of whether she was right or wrong, whether her speech was rude or polite, what we can all agree upon – is that she has started a debate. This much, is indisputable. She has stood up, and led the way to fearlessly raise her voice and express her built-up frustration. There are already dozens of response videos to her, whether in agreement or in disagreement, thousands of comments, some hateful and some constructive.

Her video has brought up many others point of view into the limelight – debates and arguments at family dinner tables have now spread into Facebook and Youtube. This is what Annapurna Sunkara has achieved. She built a platform for a debate that should’ve taken place a long time ago. And for that, she deserve an applause.

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Zerub Roberts

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