B Unnikrishnan has had his share of hits and misses over the years. In a candid conversation with Vishal Menon, the director was more than willing to accept his failures and all the criticism that came his way, particularly for his Mohanlal starrer Aaraattu (2022), which was panned by critics and audiences alike.
The filmmaker believes that the responsibility for the failure of all his films should be attributed only to him and no one else. He says, "We have to travel through errors. I am not bothered by criticism or social media. But I do believe there should be a democracy and courtesy in it. Just because I address criticism doesn't mean I am a great person."
Unnikrishnan began his career in 1999 by writing the screenplay for TK Rajeev Kumar's Jalamarmaram, which fetched him the Kerala State Film Award for Best Screenplay. Having come a long way since then, he also touches upon the manner in which senior filmmakers like him are addressed on social media. "Senior filmmakers and writers are now referred to as "vasanthangal" (seasons). This is the most beautiful word in the world. Many have quoted the famous proverb by Shelley: If winter comes, can spring be far behind? Seasons have thus been assigned to the most revolutionary things," he says.
He further went on to speak against the people who get vicious and verbally attack others online just because it gives them more traction. He says, "Social media gives anonymity. It is actually guerilla warfare. You can say anything about anyone and that is both its boon and bane. We can criticise anyone as long as our criticism are not grounded in hostility. It is a democratic exchange where you learn a lot from the person you criticise and what you criticise. When that gets into body shaming and verbal attacks, criticism become pure abuse."
The director-screenwriter is also no stranger to controversies. He has been marred by controversies over things in which he had no say. "Operating against someone isn't even on my agenda,” he tells us. “If that was the case, I should have reacted the most when Aaraattu came out. When producers had an issue with the “audience reviews” from theatres, they stopped them. Neither I nor my organisation had even thought about it. Similarly, it just so happened that the matter was discussed in the exhibitors’ association just before my next film’s (Christopher) release. It was between the producers and exhibitors, but I got the name (blamed) for it,” asserts Unnikrishnan.
Democracy is the term that he recurrently uses throughout the interview while addressing criticism. "Why should I take such things emotionally? Criticism should be insightful and sharp, but they should also be democratic," he concludes.