Pizza – should filmmakers “cheat” us?

Posted: April 7, 2013 by moifightclub in cinema, film review, movie reviews, reviews, Spoiler, Story / Plot / Synopsis
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i finally saw the film that i have been reading and hearing about for a long time. A Tamil film called Pizza which became a surprise hit and its remake right has been sold in many other languages including Hindi. That made me more curious. I knew that it’s a horror film. If you are told otherwise, it will be a spoiler. And that’s sad in a way because then you wonder if the film is so weak that if you tell the real genre to which it belongs, it wont work? Imagine if you always knew that it’s a thriller, and not a horror film. Would the film still work? Am not so sure now. Take Talaash, i think it works best when you know the spoiler. (Post here) And as a friend said it here – A movie is never about its twist, and if it is, it’s not worth it. Pizza is badly handicapped on that front.

Directed by Karthik Subbaraj, the film starts on quite a thrilling note. Almost like one of those found footage films. A bunch of guys trying to trace ghosts in an old building and everything is recorded on a handy cam. As it gets more exciting, as the so called ghosts are about to appear, you realise that this is not the real film. It’s a film inside the film which is playing on tv and the lead characters are watching it. You can brand this as cheating, or, you might overlook it because of the thrill that it provides. I guess the director set the tone of his film with this sequence. The way you react to it, my guess is you are going to react to the film in a similar way once it ends.

I was thoroughly enjoying the film till the interval. And i kept wondering how are they going to close it because it looked like a difficult task. Well, it turned out to be KLPD. Because the director cheats us not once, but twice actually. First time when we are hearing the ghost story. It’s in one flashback. Almost the first half. And second time when the lead character is trying to act scared, pretending to be spooked – breathing problem, blood on his back, someone in the loo. Even if you are willing to take the first instance as film making tool, what about the second one? The second one makes you completely believe in the first story and kills all your doubts.

So you enjoy the thrill so much that you don’t call it cheating, or maybe you even call it so but overlook the fact once you know the reality. Why? Because it was worth it. Or you brand it as pure KLPD, cheating and childish. There’s nothing right or wrong, it’s just the way you react. And so the question in the post because i felt it was cheating. You might be completely fine with it. Do let us know in the comments section.

I am guessing you are still with me and are reading this post because you have seen the film already. Otherwise it won’t make sense as am not explaining everything in detail. And remember Kahaani? Lot of us criticised Sujoy Ghosh for that one scene where Vidya is talks about her husband and we get to see her “fake” story in flashback. Unlike others Sujoy was honest enough to participate in a discussion with us after its release and gave us his version. You can check the entire discussion here.

I still believe that the character might be talking about his/her story but it’s the filmmakers choice how he is showing it to us. We are not peeping into the character’s head like Being John Malkovich. Now, if we criticised Sujoy for that one scene, imagine an entire film based on such a scenario. Pizza is exactly that.

Once you are inside the theatre, one completely trusts the filmmaker. Saying and showing things with the help of a character and making us believe in it is the simplest thing inside that dark room. And then you turn around and say that it was all false, well, those were my favourite games in kindergarten. Not anymore.

Interestingly, when i asked people on twitter to rate the film on a scale of 1 to 5, most people rated it between 2.5 to 5. So clearly am in minority. Or, maybe am growing old. I prefer human stories more than thrill pills now.

Or i can try a better one. Since i was talking about his closing lines in the last post, and most probably someone will soon say “The Usual Suspects” while discussing this post, so here’s a quote from his review of the same film – I prefer to be amazed by motivation, not manipulation.


  1. a) I thought the movie was fun, nothing more nothing less.
    b) I also wanted to see the opening found-footage movie, looked like a much more interesting one.
    c) I saw the movie over two days, before I could see the second half I found out the twist. I thought it was stupid but when I saw the rest of the film, the “freaking out” scenes became hilarious. And I think that was well-intended for repeat viewings.
    d) This doesn’t change the fact that the middle section was legitimately creepy.
    e) I don’t think this is “cheating”. I think films are an exercise in investing our vaery real emotions in a fictional story. Some filmmakers like to take this one level further.
    Speaking of levels, when “Inception” came out some critics hated it for the reason that most of the film takes place in a dream world, thus robbing all action of any weight. They just couldn’t invest in events that “weren’t really happening”.
    Just something to mull over.

  2. does kahaani comes under this? it was cheating too

  3. Sanju Shams (@sanjushams) says:

    I completely agree with @Cilemasnob here. Of course it is all about entertainment and you can use all tricks and tools you like but as underlined by post, I believe that there are some tools that are in the foul. I do feel cheated when you invest your emotions in a 20 min sequence only to see the one of the lead characters frantically snap out of the ‘the dream’ it was, this regardless of how good/bad the 20 mins were (case in point, Suriya-Jyothika-Bhoomika) starrer ‘Sillanu Oru Kadhal”. “Pizza’ only offers you a variant of the same tool, a far-stretched one at that. And yes I did feel cheated.

    @drdang I think it would be grossly unfair to compare “Inception” or for that matter “Matrix” films with the likes of “Pizza” as they are high-concept films which could not possibly be conceived any other way I suppose. Or rather we would not prefer them any other way.

  4. Shripriya says:

    I haven’t watched this film, but on the topic of cheating, I once watched a short film that was set up as a documentary and I watched it as one. It was about witnessing a suicide, surely a compelling topic.

    But here’s the issue, at the very end, at (or after) the credits, the filmmakers revealed that it was all fiction. No one killed themselves after all.

    So it was a narrative couched as a documentary. Except… as a narrative, it would not have worked as it was. There wasn’t enough setup and I didn’t care about the character enough. However, as a “documentary”, when you believed it was really a kid doing this to himself, of course you are affected.

    The entire point of that was… what? To prove that watching a doc about a suicide would have an effect? I think we all know that, don’t we? Narratives about suicide can also have that effect, *if* you put in the effort to make us care. But here… the effort was all on duping the viewer.

    Ok, great, you got me. I was duped. I watched this film a few years ago and I’m still annoyed when I think about it.

  5. Kris says:

    I accord to your statement here.. Also felt cheated after the first half. the movie had some good thrill but fell awfully flat after the mystery was broken.

    I believe most Horror films can be categorized into two categories. a)we experience the mystery along with the characters or b) character narrates a mystical event to engage us in his story,

    Always felt that option B is more manipulative giving cheap thrills and falls flat at the end because the character’s escape from the mystical event is mostly ROFL stuff. We tend to forget the thrills by the time the movie ends and just linger upon the ‘Twist’. Not healthy for a 120 min movie but works for short films.

    Whereas option A is always a winner if presented properly (Not RGV factory stuff) as you are one of the character and not an audience.

  6. dr vinod gondalia says:

    Its wrong to feel cheated. Some of you are feeling cheated because you want put any and every film in a straight jacket class.And hence, when you feel otherwise, you call it cheating.Come on! The director/writer tires to make a film with twists and turns to tell just a story which he/she wants to tell so that he/she wants to keep the audience engaged.Its ok to club a film in a genre, either before or after seeing it.But please give some space to the writers/directors.

  7. Avaneendra says:

    What about Stage fright ? It was the first instance when false flashback used IIRC. Even after that I have come across this technique few times and still have mixed feelings about it. But I think if executed correctly and depending on the effect creates on user’s mind it can induce the feeling of being cheated.

    For those who are interested :

  8. Fight club fans- you have to see this: it’s fight club: 1 man 1 movie 1 minute

  9. Ankit Saxena says:

    I believe this post evokes a sincere question. I haven’t watched ‘Pizza’ but there are quite a few movies where filmmakers have betrayed viewers in the name of creating ‘shock value’ through ‘genre’ & ‘story’. I would like to mention a movie titled ‘The Forbidden Door’ (an Indonesian movie) where the director immerses the viewers in a gripping plot only to give it a tame, psychological ‘shit’ ending. Even the great Martin Scorsese did the same in ‘Shutter Island’. As a filmmaker you have to be honest about it like Sujoy Ghosh was with Kahaani. Having said that, I can understand the mindset of the Director who is excused for pulling off such stunts since being under relentless pressure of giving a commercial hit. But I believe Censor Board could play a more vital role in pointing out such things as part of feedback during screenings. But it has to be feedback and nothing more.

  10. In Pizza, it’s mostly about the irreverence and ‘tongue in cheek’-ness of the film. It plays by its own rules. Of course, I felt cheated. But it’s as if the film was never intended to take itself serious. So I did. Like you said, they pretty much set the tone in the opening sequence..

    Whereas, in Kahaani, they cheated us all the while, with reverse engineered scenes/plot. No, i’m not talking about the flashback scenes alone.. Almost all the scenes. Have written in detail about the opening sequence here…

  11. Madhav says:

    I read your post few hours back before having my dinner.which gave me lot of space to think about it.You pulled out a good topic here.Let me start out with my first point.You told about cheating,what if people wanted to get cheated.In a way in most movies filmmaker cheats his audiences in one way or other.In a sense they come to theatre to get cheated.The second point is,there are two type of movies first one which gives us a clear abstract first and makes us to think it out after.The other clings to instant feel.Thinking about it or viewing it later makes you feel yourself a moron for liking it before.Other thing i felt about your post is you talks(indirectly) about certain constrains like a invisible rules prevails for certain genres.As i believe there is no rules in movie making.If your good enough to make something out of the existing and if it’s perceived universally, congrats!! you have made a new section/genre in the cinema.people with same notion will follow you indefinitely. So here #pizza do’s the same,what if they are trying to create a new path called “cheating”.Now a days i come across many movies of same sort coming to limelight in major scale.movies which are off roaders.after all it’s by a debut director who is obsessed in making a movie & as i see it is better than any other shitty movies out there that loot peoples money with out giving them any thing new.It’s like a life jacket in an ocean don’t consider or compare it with a rescue boat.

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