Indian journalists, featured in movies, web series
In Graham Greene’s 1955 novel The Quiet American, Thomas Fowler is a British journalist in his fifties, based in Saigon. He is a fearless journalist and believes in getting the facts to the reader. Fowler is the epitome of an ideal journalist who is driven by missionary zeal to expose wrongdoing and injustice in society.
The role of the media, as we know it, is to present information to the reader in all its shades — white, black or grey. For a journalist, it takes courage and conviction to go against the grain and stand up for what they believe in.
Bollywood films have largely shown journalists in an unflattering light. They have been portrayed as manipulative, morally fallible social climbers because they know which side their bread is buttered on. Some films have also portrayed them as idealists and social crusaders.
In Mashaal (1984), Dilip Kumar is an honest journalist who runs a newspaper called Mashaal. He exposes business and political shenanigans through his investigative stories. Trouble begins to brew when he blows the lid off a drug dealing business run by a wealthy and respected businessman. This tycoon (Amrish Puri) then tries to buy his silence by offering him money but the scheme does not work because the journalist is honest.
Scam 1992 (2020), a web series on the edge of the seat, deals with the infamous Harshad Mehta scam of the 90s. The film revolves around Sucheta Dalal, an intrepid journalist of the 90s. Her tireless efforts go to the bottom of Harshad’s financial shenanigans Mehta and piece together the puzzle that connects the crook to the stock market.
Sucheta (played by Shreya Dhanwanthary) successfully draws public attention to how Mehta has thrown the banking system and stock markets into turmoil. The film is a tribute to our country’s courageous women journalists who show immense commitment in the face of challenges.
The very disturbing New Delhi time (1986) conveys the fundamental duality that afflicts all journalists – the adrenaline rush of chasing a good story that is also a human tragedy. Intrepid newspaper editor Vikas Pande (Shashi Kapoor) manages to rescue news photographer Anwar in a volatile neighborhood of Ghaziabad. When they reach their hotel room, Anwar says, “On arriving here, I found that riots had broken out. I was thrilled. I just jumped on it.” A visibly surprised Pande asks him, “Are you happy about the riots?” and Anwar said, “You understood exactly what I was saying. You found a good story. I clicked good pictures. What else?”
In satirical comedy Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983), a cunning and opportunistic magazine editor exploits two gullible young photographers by asking them to take pictures of a killer so she can blackmail him into extorting money. The film scathingly exposes the devious side of journalism where even an editor can abuse his authority for money.
In Bombay Meri Jaan (2008), the fiancé of a successful television journalist dies in a bomb explosion in the first class compartment of a local train. The news channel she works for decides to take advantage of her personal tragedy to boost her TRP rating.
live peepli (2010), a black comedy about television journalism, deftly captures the desperate hunt for TRP ratings among the channels. In the film, a destitute farmer decides to commit suicide knowing that after his death, his family will receive heavy compensation from the government. When a journalist gets wind of it, he immediately skips over this incident and goes live, viewers glued to their television sets watching minute by minute the spectacle unfolding before their eyes.
In webseries Paatal Lok (2020), the megalomaniac editor of a news channel (Neeraj Kabi) with a Machiavellian side, is so blinded by his image and his popularity that the truth does not matter in the scheme of things. His social conscience touched the tampons.
Every profession has a few bad apples, but there are a large number of equally dedicated members who keep their noses in the grindstone in pursuit of excellence and journalists are no exception.
(The author is a Delhi-based journalist)