Rohith Ravindranath and Ruhi Sinha, his wife, have been working in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles for a while now. Inspite of being a part of the entertainment industry there came a point when they nearly lost all touch with films released in India, mainly because it was not a part of the culture or conversations at LA, a place considered the entertainment capital of the world.
The duo felt that Indian films deserved that structured and online presence – free of clutter and noise about celebrity gossip and more as an avenue for cinema appreciation and critique. Anybody can pick up a camera and make a film today and so this audience is much more informed and demanding and it has an opinion. This got them working on The Review Monk, as a side project while still working their day jobs, that was until Rohith decided to take it on full-time.
Rohith says, “For being the largest film industry, there really was no clean ‘one-stop-shop’ online that talked about the quality of our films and engaged its audience in that conversation – the way Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB have been doing, primarily on Hollywood films for years.”
The portal provides movie goers with an aggregated movie score based on reviews curated from noted film critics and publications in India. Users can also build their own public profiles by writing reviews for any movie, rating the performances of individual members of the cast, adding movies and songs to their favorites as well as adding movies to their watchlist. They can also create custom lists of movies related to a topic of their choice.
The reviews on the site are curated from a list of noted and well-followed critics, that include Rajeev Masand, Anupama Chopra, Khalid Mohamed and Shubhra Gupta and more. As a measure to moderate the reviews provides, the site does not aggregate reviews from unprofessional sources like blogs.
On a social front users can can follow other users and have their own followers. They can share their movie reviews on social media such as Facebook and Google+. The portal has profiles for each critic making it easier for users to see the history of their reviews. Similar individual profiles are also available for the members of cast and crew.
The site has been on a private testing mode for some time now and came out of beta only about a month ago. We haven’t started advertising formally for the website yet because we wanted to test how well we can handle traffic. “Currently the primary traffic is through organic searches and the highest spike in traffic is between Friday and Sunday due to new releases,” says Rohith.
The content on the site primarily focuses on Hindi and English films that are released in India. “It is still a humongous task to cover all the Hindi films released in the last century, but we are doing it gradually with a lot of error checking because we think that in the end quality will matter over quantity. We do however have classic films that have won national awards, from famous movie makers like Satyajit Ray already in our database,” says Ruhi.
Some of the other services that provide curated reviews from movie critics include, RottenTomatoes, which has started gathering reviews for some major Hindi releases, but their critics are from U.S. publications. Bollymoviereviewz, Review Schview and reviewgang are some of the other portals that provide critic’s reviews on Bollywood films.
An interesting addition to the website is its section dedicated to ‘Independent Films’ which is run in partnership with IndiaIndependentFilms. This section features interviews with Indie film-makers.
In the future the service plans to release a mobile app and add more categories, even sections for some regional languages.