In a democracy, the voters hope for but don’t necessarily believe that all politicians are on the up and up. Many are above board and legitimate and are true public servants. But this is not always the case. When financiers, industrialists, and their lobbyists hook up with political big-wigs with massive egos and unbridled ambition, and get into the same bed with the media moguls, you can be assured that green money will soon become under-the-table black money. What’s more, in short order, the country’s political conditions will destabilize and become chaotic.
That’s a pretty strong statement isn’t it? Before you get yourself all worked up, keep in mind that there are watch dogs in place like alternate arms of the government and the media. Historically we seem to trust the talking heads on TV don’t we? Newscasters like Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Douglas Edwards, David Brinkley, and Peter Jennings have garnered strong followings in their days on our televisions.
As does the fictional news broadcaster, Vijay H. Malik. Malik is portrayed by the legendary and veteran Indian film actor, Amitabh Bachchan in the 2010 film Rann which was directed by Ram Gopal Varma. In a nutshell, Malik is not only the Cronkite of today in the world of Indian news broadcasting, he also pioneered the concept of all news all the time. Accordingly he is not only the main talking head, but he also owns the channel.
The competition is fierce for rating points which are a component of how advertising revenue is generated. Malik as a newsman is beloved. He is the trusted father figure to the nation’s newswatchers, and an idol for journalism students across the country. But while his news and editorial content have not been slipping, his channnel’s ratings have. It seems that a competing news network has moved into the lead with a higher share of the viewing public. Every time Malik and his team come up with a new feature or concept, they are scooped by the opposition. With revenues falling, and the corporation stock shares nearly ready to go into free-fall, the fiscal situation is not looking good.
Meanwhile, out in the country, another terrorist bomb has exploded killing hundreds. The Prime Minister not only takes to the airwaves, but also goes to the streets to speak to his countrymen. He calls for reforms in the country’s laws. He wants to beef up security, have the Indian courts give him a wider latitude to pursue terrorism, and have the Indian Parliament allocate more funds for security and police.
Malik’s son Jai runs the business side of the channel. And he is fighting a losing battle in keeping the channel’s finances in order.
The Opposition leader, Mohan Pandey, a crafty political veteran starts espousing publicly that the rampant terrorism, is the fault of the sitting Prime Minister. He calls for his defeat at the polls.
Then in a stunning revelation, Malik’s channel comes into possession of a video tape that links one of the Prime Minister’s closest advisors to a shadowy person in what seems to be a planning discussion about the bombing that happened last week.
Malik is shocked. He had gone on the air and staunchly backed the P.M., but after much soul searching, he decides to air this astounding video, and he must recant his statements about the PM, and throw his support to the opposition.
Director Varma has blended a bit of the film Network, and the real life situation that became the book and the film, All the President’s Men, into a modern day masala that is both a political thriller as well as provocative thought piece about the power of the media. The media is supposed to report the news not create the news, or is that just wishful thinking?
The main players are Bachchan who is terrific as the Cronkite-like Malik. Sudeep gives us a gripping performance as Malik’s son Jai, the CFO who gets caught up in the finances and is basically placed literally between the rock and the hard place..
The Opposition leader, Mohan Pandey, played by Paresh Rawal always wears white, but his sun glasses give him away as the black-hearted knave that he is. The Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein roles, taken from our own history, are combined into one journalist striving to find out what really happened. Ritesh Deshmukh, as Purab Shastri, is both a hero and a victim as he is caught between the opposing forces while on the pursuit of the truth..
Varma has given us a very well made and thoughtful look at the underside of politics, the backroom maneuvering that we never see or hear about in both the government as well as the media, and journalistic integrity. The fact that this film is set in modern day India should not make you hesitant about seeing this film. It might as well have been about a sitting government in Washington, London, Bangkok, or Canberra.
As the poster above says, Will we ever know the truth?