“Critically” speaking

Somehow I never really got to understand what being “critical” was all about. “Critical thinking” and “Critical speaking” were all terms being thrown around in college but I only had a vague idea of what it all meant.

(And no, this is not a post complaining about the system 😛 )

If you’re as confused as me, I found a couple of videos that might help:

Recently we got the chance to attend a talk by film critic and journalist Baradwaj Rangan. The talk was informative in the sense that it allowed us to explore architecture not just as a prop or a storytelling device, but as markers of the society and time itself.

However my takeaway from the talk wasn’t any coalition of architecture and cinema – it was cinema itself, and the multiple and nuanced ways of looking at it. It was about how this may inform the ways that we look at architecture itself – both as a layman and as someone in the field. (The Architecture of Immersiveness talked about similar ideas, so you may want to check that out.)

Baradwaj sir talked about celebrating cinema as it is – a straight up narrative device – but also how going beyond and looking “critically” at it can reveal much more. No movie is a single person’s (director) effort; and the collaborative effort in cinema opens it up to multiple interpretations. One interesting point which came up was that a lot of these interpretations needn’t have anything to do with what the director is trying to “say”.

I couldn’t help but draw analogies to architecture (I know I’ve been doing it for all the posts I do, bear with me 🙂 ) Architecture rarely tells stories straightaway unlike cinema. It is experiential, naturally open to multiple interpretations, and intensely personal to each person – why aren’t we as the general public more critical about it? I mean, if we consider them purely as art forms – architecture, cinema and music have the widest outreach to the public right?

So where do the parallels end? Commercial mass market cinema is entirely consumption driven – if people are able to relate to the story the director was trying to portray in the way he was doing it, it is usually a hit. Commercial architecture isn’t too dissimilar – if it solves a problem the architect or developer says exists, it is lapped up quickly by the public. There is no avenue for multiple interpretations here, no real need for them.

But then once in a while comes a gem of a movie which makes everyone happy – critics, public, director, producer, everyone. If we’re able to critically look at such movies, maybe we can find something to be translated. To produce buildings that the public love to live in and talk about. 

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