The Broken News: Can ends really justify the means?

Sonali Bendre Behl in The Broken News Photo: Trailer Video Grab

This one walks the tightrope: How much of news today, sensationalized or otherwise, is really true? Arising from that, in the TRP (television viewership ratings) battle, are there any limits? Can the end justify the means? How much should we subscribe to by way of vested interests like politicians, film stars and other influential celebrities, and at what cost? Finally, what does a journalist do about pressure coming from his media baron bosses, and how much should the latter bow to whenever truth is sacrificed for lucre, power and ambition?

Dicey questions, all, but The Broken News attempts to answer some and focus on all. Awaaz Bharati is a channel that lays great stress on its credibility and honesty, while Josh 24/7 is fundamentally about soaring TRPs. Because it is convenient to the narrative, their offices are coincidentally within the same building. Both channels also have an issue-based show at 9 p.m. every night, which can be a scathing expose of something or someone. Both channels cover everything from a debauched and arrogant film star, a student’s suicide, a monstrous scheme called Operation Umbrella in which the Home Minister is involved, a situation where cancer strikes victims of radioactive fallout and more.

Of course, there are payoffs to victims and informers, stolen stories and human conflicts as well. Dipankar Sanyal (Jaideep Ahlawat), channel head of Josh 24/7, is unethical to the hilt. He has issues with his wife (Sukhmani Sadana), loves his daughter to distraction, keeps a paid mistress (Shreya Mehta), defies his boss (Akash Khurana), exposes people without compunction, and in the race to be the best and fastest, often gets the wrong end of the stick.

Awaaz Bharati’s idealistic boss, Amina (Sonali Bendre Behl) would do anything to preserve the integrity of her channel, even resigning in the face of adversities like low TRPs and in-house friction. Her core team is led by the idealistic but, naturally, often confused Radha (Shriya Pilgaonkar). Dipankar and Shriya have been ex-colleagues, and he tempts Radha, again and again, to join him. And at one point, she almost does.

For both Radha and Dipankar, things also turn personal: Radha’s roommate and colleague has just died in a mysterious fire at a restaurant, while Dipankar’s ex-wife is set to go abroad with her new husband, taking her unhappy daughter along.

The series ends on a dramatic high, with a natural cliffhanger to a new season. Adapted from the British series, Press (whose second season was canceled), it examines media ethics and how the people as a whole can also be taken for a ride. To be politically correct, the writer has Radha utter a clichéd remark that speaking against the government is not anti-national, while Amina’s character symbolizes how tough it is to retain credibility along with survival in a TRP-driven jungle.

Vinay Waikul’s direction and Sambit Mishra’s script make for a coherent and gripping narration that picks up even more steam from the fifth of 8 episodes. The background score (Aditya Pushkarna), cinematography (Harendra Singh) and editing (Gaurav Aggarwal) are in perfect tandem with the need to create a drama that looks at core issues like truth, principles and subversion of morals.

The characters are beautifully etched and humanized by the script, and so the accomplished actors find their jobs easier. By leagues, this must be Jaideep Ahlawat’s career-finest performance. As Dipankar, he is so real and yet we cannot hate his ways when he essays a ruthless, power-hungry and ambitious channel head and a cautious and cynical individual. And we root for him as a caring parent. By episode five, I began to care for him!

Coming up trumps also is Sonali Bendre Behl, cast perhaps for the first time in her career in a meaty role that demands acting rather than mere glamour. She is pitch-perfect as Amina, who is trying to make sense in her muddled personal and professional life. Her expressions and body language are terrific.

Shriya Pilgaonkar has a character totally different from her recent turn in Guilty, but acts almost in the same way. A little variety can sure add to your skills, girl!

Tarruk Raina as the ambitious rookie scribe Anuj, Srikant Yadav as the obnoxious and visceral home minister, Faisal Rashid and Sanjeeta Bhattacharya as Radha’s friends and helpers within her channel, and Jay Upadhyay as Dipankar’s team member score high as well. The rest are good for their respective parts.

Watch this one for generating that sense of anticipation for what will happen next, and very few have had that quality. It is one of the better series in this year that susceptible viewers are bound to binge-watch!

Rating: ****

ZEE5 presents BBC Studios India’s The Broken News Produced by: Sameer Gogate Directed by: Vinay Waikul Written by: Sambit Mishra from a story by Mike Bartlett  Music: Aditya Pushkarna Starring: Sonali Bendre Behl, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Jaideep Ahlawat, Tarruk Raina, Indraneil Sengupta, Kiran Kumar, Srikant Yadav, Akash Khurana, Sanjeeta Bhattacharya, Mugdha Godse, Faisal Rashid, Jay Upadhyay, Jaywant Wadkar, Sukhmani Sadana, Shreya Mehta, Mohan Kapur, Sharad Kapoor & others




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