The two biggest stories in entertainment this week are Rajkumar Hirani's film Sanju and Sacred Games, the first Indian original on Netflix. Which also makes it the perfect time to discuss the idea of conflict of interest.
I understood the term at Northwestern University where I was a journalism student. The Cambridge dictionary defines it as "a situation in which someone cannot make a fair decision because they will be affected by the result." Professionally, I occupy a Trishanku-like position – hovering between two worlds. I'm a film critic but much of my family is in the entertainment business.
My husband, Vinod Chopra, is a director and producer. My sister Tanuja Chandra, is a director. My mother, Kamna Chandra, is a writer. My sister-in-law, Shelly Chopra, will make her directorial debut with the upcoming film Ek Ladki Ko Dekha and my brother, Vikram Chandra, is an author. Sanju is co-produced by my husband. Sacred Games is based on a novel written by my brother. Which means that Film Companion, the platform that I lead, can't cover either.
It's frustrating to not be part of the conversation – I've seen Sanju and believe me, I have lots to say – but for me, it's the only correct response. What's intriguing is the response that I get to this response. Navdeep Soni posts on Twitter: I don't think it's the kind of conflict of interest that you have been thinking. It's work and you should review it to the best of your ability. @washutosh says: Why don't you review with a disclaimer like financial services companies do when they review the parent or business channels that do a story on an owner like Reliance etc.? Let the readers judge your objectivity. Deepak says: By not doing the review, you are making it wrong.
I'm genuinely mystified that people don't get that actually it would be wrong for me to review Sanju. I cannot go near it – even with a disclaimer. This is a film that directly benefits me financially – how can I tell you whether to see it or not. Sacred Games is a more tangential connection but how can I recommend and promote my family?
In the age of social media, everyone is armed with an opinion and a platform. So what does a critic bring to the table? An informed opinion and credibility. Someone wise had once told me that as a critic I needed to be like Caesar's wife – above suspicion. I'm not sure I've achieved it. But I have to keep trying.
Thank you for your understanding.