Media Muddle

Hindi cinema’s portrayal of media persons has little resemblance to real journalists. Why do filmmakers get the media so wrong?

Published: September 6, 2013 12:24 am

Raj Kumar Gupta

Filmmaker,No One Killed Jessica

A filmmaker’s perception of journalists comes through news channels. And mostly I think a lot of them try to portray it in the best possible manner. As films are a visual medium,our representation is mostly restricted to the visual side of news and fail to acknowledge the other streams of journalism. Somewhere down the line,we take the liberty to fictionalise the world of journalism.

However,while making No One Killed Jessica,I tried to stick to the case and whatever research material I could get access to. I tried to be accurate in portraying Rani Mukerji’s character of a journalist. Of course,I took some creative liberties in terms of the personality traits of her personal life. I received a lot criticism from film reviewers for making her character look over the top,but her character was sketched from what

I have seen in real life. I have seen journalists

who are loud and brash. And nowadays on

TV,the decibel level of journalists are increasing.

As a filmmaker I did not think my portrayal was over the top,it was reality for me. In terms of portraying the personal life of a journalist,a filmmaker can take liberties but when you are representing the procedure followed in

the profession ,you should be accurate as far

as possible.

The larger issue is that if three filmmakers start representing journalists,each will adopt a different approach. Having said that,when I view journalists I am watching their personal space too and not just their professional conduct. So when we put it all together

— the personal as well as the professional aspects — it might appear that one is taking sides. But it will be very difficult to detach the emotional side of the character. I would like

to see that side.

When you see a journalist on TV,you don’t see their vulnerable side. That is an incomplete image of a journalist,as it only forms 30-50 per cent of their life. There is another side,which we never see in real life and that is where filmmakers fill the void. But the image of media persons in films can still be improved.

Anna MM Vetticad

Author,The Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic

It’s surprising that Hindi cinema portrays the news media inaccurately so often,considering the amount of interaction that takes place between journalists and the film industry. After all,research for a writer,director or actor in this case is as simple as calling that journalist who interviewed you yesterday and saying,“Hey,mind if I hang out with you at work for a while?” No one is expecting a documentary about the media every time a Bollywood film features an important character who is a journalist or where the news media is an element in the plot,but

at least actors should get their body language

and clothes right,and writers should write credible scenarios.

For instance,in Satyagraha,Kareena Kapoor plays a prominent journalist from a national news channel who joins a people’s movement she is covering as a reporter. I don’t mean her heart lies with the protestors,but that she actually becomes a leader of those protestors right in the middle of her reporting assignment. It’s laughable. In the real world,chances are that the politicians she was opposing would have complained to her bosses,she would have been pulled up if not fired from the job,and at least some viewers would have been appalled.

Even a good film like Raj Kumar Gupta’s No One Killed Jessica in places shows a limited understanding of the functioning of the news media. In one scene,a national TV channel sends a reporter to conduct a sting operation. Not only is she stupid,she is also a recognisable face on the channel. Why would any sensible TV channel send a recognisable person to conduct an undercover operation?

This though is a minor grouse when you recall Hindi films that have got even basic terminology wrong,or shown heavily-made-up female crime reporters in stilettos visiting police stations or,like Ram Gopal Varma’s Rann,been too filled with speech-ifying to be taken seriously.

That’s why films like Page 3 and Peepli Live stand out. I may argue with certain positions taken by both films,but at least they felt real.

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