Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Actors: Sudeep, Amitabh Bachchan, Paresh Rawal
Exposes are cheap devices; explanations, precious. Most good art achieves the latter, great films do. This is neither an expose nor an explanation. It’s just an exercise in corniness, not very different from the subject of its scrutiny.
Television news, especially Hindi, has been diving deeper into a ratings mess since one, Prince, fell into a ditch in the early 2000s. Frivolousness is sold as news content. “Kaisa lag raha hai” clowns (like the funny Rajpal Yadav in this film) pose to us as reporters. Trivia has a viral spread. Even advertising is passed off as news. Certainly, this is a threat to our sensibilities. And these are serious issues. They deserve mainstream reflection on news-media as both a business and an institution. This film is about none of that.
It’s about the manufacturing of news itself: a Wag The Dog, if at all. The nation’s leader of opposition seems more the Pandey (Paresh Rawal), a municipal politician. He has for hangers-on a bummer for a businessman (Rajat Kapoor), and assorted henchmen. The Prime Minister could well be your local corporator. Mr Pandey plants a video, accusing the PM of being the mastermind behind a terror attack. It plays on a leading TV station. An allegation this strong would be investigated by the CBI; shock the state dry. Here, the talking heads on TV are bumped off. The PM conveniently loses his job. Leader of opposition takes over. National politics hasn’t seemed less complex.
For a film that’s determined to seek the truth behind the media, it’s unsettling how little they’ve cared to even enter a newsroom. An entry-level reporter (Ritesh Deshmukh) participates in policy discussions, fraternises with the CEO, is sent out on assignments by the company COO. Crores pass hands to fund a new station, in return for a political favour. The CEO of the media firm is clueless. This could be a random gangster type flick – “dhanda par ganda hai yeh”! Since we know little of the underworld, realism on such movies is rarely an issue. My worry is, this silliness will be perceived as truth.
The hammy heir of this media empire meanwhile, the constantly sniffing leading man (Sudeep), comes in for unintentional humour. Bachchan, as always a stately, dignified presence, offers a moving monologue on the role of the fourth estate. He appears more a dramatist or a spiritual guru than a news-anchor. This final speech could’ve been delivered without the film itself.
Being a scribe and a film buff, journalism by association also, remains my favourite film genre: All The President’s Men, Shattered Glass, Frost Nixon, A Year Of Living Dangerously, Good Night Good Luck…I remember passing on a similar list to this film’s director once, when he’d asked if I could share with him some of the better movies made on or about journalism.
I suspect Varma merely watched Madhur Bhandarkar hits instead, and A-graded them with better framing, and Bachchan, of course.