Most of the criticism I have heard of this film has to do with it's predictability, it's popularity, and it's humour. You have said a few times that somebody enjoying the film doesn't qualify it as being a good film. What does?
I'm beginning to wonder, are only films with unpredictable plot-twists good? It seems to me that most movies that bank on suspense and the unexpected are often unrealistic and forced. Perhaps we are able to predict what happens in this movie because it seems plausible, or perhaps because that's what's likely to happen because it's a movie. Neither of these are really reasonable criticisms of the quality of the film, so much as opinions on what one particular person feels entertained by.
And if a movie is popular, does that necessarily mean it is bad? There seems to be a strong sense that the so called "masses" don't have the discretion to assess what a good movie is, and if THEY enjoy it, it MUST, be stupid/trivial because they CLEARLY don't have the capacity to enjoy the "high art" appreciated by the "classes". This masses/classes division is entirely false, and is a result of some really snobbish notions about "high" and "low" art.
As to humour, that's a very personal thing. It is evident that a lot of people found this film to be hysterical. It's completely understandable, then, that it is called a comedy. On the other hand, it being called a comedy doesn't necessarily mean that everyone must find it funny. Humour is subjective, and one cannot determine its "quality" based on how intelligent, slapstick, rhetorical, or anything else it is. That is an assessment of the kind of humour, not the quality.
It seems to me that we've acquired this vocabulary of arbitrary criticisms that we use whenever we don't find the movie to our taste. Melodrama, for instance, is cinematic device, a convention of Hindi cinema, a stylistic choice, and cannot logically be used to criticise the quality of a film, just the way Charlie Chaplin movies cannot be disregarded for the character's exaggerated expressions/curious walk. We criticise films CONSTANTLY for being melodramatic or masala films. Again, a "masala" film is a KIND of film, not a QUALITY of film.
If a movie gives people pleasure, why is that not enough to make it a good film? Why must we impose these self-created pretensions about what makes a movie "good"? Why can't we stop judging our films based on foreign appeal or comparing them to foreign/art films? They are not the same, and (hopefully) they are not trying to be the same. Why can we not just appreciate well-thought, well-written, well-made Bollywood films for what what they are rather than tearing them apart for being Bollywood? Assessing a film from one tradition (say, Bollywood) using the parameters of another tradition (Art film/Hollywood/French film) is fallacious, because the film you're criticising isn't even aiming to satisfy those parameters.
I wish people would stop thinking of Bollywood or mainstream Hindi cinema as the bastard cousin of Art Cinema or Hollywood or European film. It might be useful to reassess our expectations of what good film is before we start to assess whether or not a particular film qualifies.
I'm on the same side as you.
I don't have anything to add. I just wanted to applaud you on this incredible and well-written post.
Oh my God..! This movie is sh*t..!!!! Saw it today and somehow managed to complete the movie because of my nagging parents who forced me to watch the whole movie..! :( It deserves to be on the IMDB Bottom 100 list.
pity the people who enjoy such films
I think LRMB is not just a good film, it is a great film. It is a poverty of thinking ability on part of Indian media that it could not recognize what a film it is: of what calibre. Let us read the film a different way: what the film finally said? In a time that is corroding everything, the only place where truth or identity resides is a neurosis. What can be a better statement than this about these neurotic times? Hirani the director, to narrate the neurosis did not create a neurotic film language, what some other directors like Bergman (virgin spring), Herzog (Aguierra) or Koppola (Apocalypse Now) would have created. I don't know why Hirani did not create such a neurotic film narration like these three films. Maybe he could not. Maybe he did not. Maybe he wanted to narrate a story in a very attached and loving way, as if telling it to his own children, like a father does. In fact, the first one who witnessed the neurosis was a boy that served tea. The story does not forget him. When to Jahnavi's place for the first time, while depicting what condition of the country, Munna becomes excited and angry in a childish way: why? Because he is feeling his feelings on behalf of this boy, boys like this: maybe. And LRMB could reach and touch mass being what it is. I know how great the three quoted directors are, but Hirani does not become cheap because he chose a quite different kind of narrative. This is a great film. It talks about a neurosis: the only thing that can reach truth and identity. Munna reached his identity and truth only through this neurosis: and we felt it. I got shivers quite a lot of times while watching this film.
PS: someone mentioned Ray's Apur Sangsar. As a Bangla-speaking guy who loves films a lot, I can tell you, AS is never some great thing. Ray has his great moments, like Charulata and Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen, but not AS. Please take it from me. It is quite anti-history in so many ways, and so much self-glorifying. In fact the very earlier film in this trilogy, Aparajito is a gem too. Even Pather Panchali has some unforgettable moments too: like after seeing Apu in a mean act his mother looks outside and we get a cut to a train-shot, they are returning to their earlier poverty: the jerk of discovering Apu degrading made her to take the jerk of leaving that relative comfort behind and deliberately get thrown into the old abyss: at least she can save her son. Like this. Many other great moments. But, please, not Apur Sangsar. It is quite forgettable. I say, BPL, Below-Poverty-Line, what Ray's most films are.