Journalists are mostly idolised in our films. Our filmmakers have been making films on the media and media persons since the black and white era. The films mostly portray the hard-working reporter overcoming all sorts of hurdles and pressures and managing to put the unstained truth in front of the masses. Whether the masses have the ability to handle the truth is another matter. Though some films have been satires as well, portraying the seamier side of the noble profession. They do make for interesting viewing, though in truth they are nothing but highly glamorised versions of the actual life of media people. We bring you a list of Hindi films from the last two decades which have brought the press and reporters in the limelight. We hope it’ll add a novelty to your movie-watching experience this quarantine.
Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (2000)
Director: Aziz Mirza
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla, Johnny Lever, Paresh Rawal
The film was a satire on the callous nature of the TV news media. Ajay Bakshi (Shahrukh Khan) is a successful loudmouthed TV news reporter. Ria Banerjee (Juhi Chawla) is another ace reporter belonging to a rival channel. The two are forever entwined in a game of one-upmanship. Both want to be the one to get the story first. While Ajay is willing to cut corners, Ria is more sincere. While they are attracted to each other, they don’t acknowledge the attraction, preferring to be rivals. Mohan Joshi (Paresh Rawal) guns down the brother-in-law of a minister. He’s framed as a terrorist but Ajay and Ria come to know of his true story. It transpires that his daughter was brutally raped by the man he had killed and later lost his life. He took the drastic step because the police were unwilling to act because of the man’s powerful connection. Moved by this narrative, they both agree to investigate it together and bring Mohan justice. Their investigation exposes the rot in the political, judiciary and police circles. They come close together during the investigation and finally are able to procure Mohan’s release by turning the public opinion against his death penalty.
Page 3 (2005)
Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
Cast: Konkona Sen Sharma, Atul Kulkarni, Boman Irani
The film brought out the seedier side of both page 3 journalism as well as the mainstream reporting. Madhavi Sharma (Konkona Sen Sharma) is a young journalist, who arrives in Mumbai looking for a job. She is hired by newspaper editor Deepak Suri (Boman Irani), and is assigned the task of reporting on celebrity news, writing articles for Page 3. Disillusioned with her beat. Reputed crime journalist, Vinayak Mane (Atul Kulkarni) is told to mentor her. They witness a bomb blast in the city, and Madhavi is shocked by the antipathy shown by the authorities on the whole thing. She later uncovers a story that kids are being abducted from an orphanage. And that a rich industrialist is molesting these children at his farmhouse. The story is squashed through political pressure but using her page 3 connections, Madhavi sees to it that justice gets done. The film told us that real news never gets written. Konkona and Atul Kulkarni were both praised for their acting.
Kabul Express (2006)
Director: Kabir Khan
Cast: John Abraham, Arshad Warsi, Salman Shahid, Hanif Hum Ghum, Linda Arsenio
The film was based on director Kabir Khan’s own experiences as a documentary filmmaker. It was shot on location in Afghanistan and chronicles the misadventures of two rookie journalists from India on their first tour of Afghanistan. Suhel Khan (John Abraham) and Jai Kapoor (Arshad Warsi) are Indian journalists who are sent into Afghanistan to create a report on what life is like in the country following the US Invasion of the country. They hire Taxi Driver Khyber (Hanif Humghum) for their journey. Along the way, they meet American journalist Jessica Beckham (Linda Arsenio) who wants to report on the US side of the War in Afghanistan. She joins them on their tour but the three journos are in for a shock when a Taliban official, Imran Khan (Salman Shahid), takes them hostage and persuades them to take him towards the Pakistan border. They later come to know that he’s actually a member of the Pakistani army named Wassim Chaudrey who joined the Taliban but now wants to go back to his homeland, Pakistan. They get to see the real face of the conflict, as also how war has adversely affected the Afghan landscape. It’s a sobering experience for all three and for the viewers as well.
Peepli Live (2010)
Director: Anusha Rizvi
Cast: Omkar Das Manikpuri, Raghubir Yadav, Shalini Vatsa, Malaika Shenoy, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Naseeruddin Shah
Farmer suicides are a grim reality and the film showcased the system’s apathy to such happenings. It also sheds light about how the media manipulates a situation in search of higher TRPs. While the agenda of the media gets served, the issue they focus their limelight on seldom gets resolved. Brothers Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri) and Budhiya (Raghubir Yadav) are slackers and drunkards who have a large loan on their heads. They are without means to pay the loan and spend all their free time getting drunk. They come to know that the government pays huge compensation to the family if a farmer commits suicide. As they are discussing this, a local reporter overhears them and reports it. It soon becomes national news and two rival news channels descend on their village to cover the suicide. It becomes a media circus of sorts. The political parties too get involved. Everyone tries to take advantage of the situation and Natha, who has become an unwilling celebrity, starts to fear for his life. The government does find a dead body in the end but no compensation gets given as a case of accidental death is made out. Worse, the bank takes away their land as well. One felt as if one was watching real events unfold and not fiction.
Tere Bin Laden (2010)
Cast: Ali Zafar, Sugandha Garg, Pradhuman Singh
The film was a black comedy which pointed out how the craze of breaking news makes the media forego editorial protocols. The film may have come years before we woke up to the very real danger of fake news, but it did point towards its flaws. Ali Hassan (Ali Zafar) is an ambitious reporter with Danka TV, a downmarket local TV channel in Karachi, Pakistan. His dream is to make it big so he can earn enough money to settle in the USA. Through his own foolishness, he gets deported out of America. Later, he chances upon a Bin Laden lookalike, Noora (Pradhuman Singh). He makes a plan to make a fake video of Bin Laden. With help from his travel agent’s assistant Zoya (Sugandha Garg) and a local radio jockey Qureshi (Rahul Singh) and his assistant Gul (Nikhil Ratnaparkhi), he fools Noora into dressing up like Bin Laden and makes a fake video. When he ‘leaks’ it, it creates a sensation among the American and Pakistani intelligence circles. The defence agencies of both countries hound Ali and Noora. After a long set of misadventures, they are both captured. To save the face of the Americans, Ali proposes to make another fake video where Bin Laden proposes a ceasefire. As a result, the American in charge of the operation gets promoted, and even Ali realises his American dream. Noora, meanwhile, finds love in Zoya.
Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Sudeep, Paresh Rawal, Rajat Kapoor, Mohnish Behl, Riteish Deshmukh
Rann was a political thriller that exposed how the media can act as an influencer and be used as a tool for political advancement by powerful politicians. It also showed us how truth can easily be manipulated. Vijay Harshwardhan Malik (Amitabh Bachchan), the ethical CEO of struggling television channel India 24/7, is losing the rating battle with a rival channel headed by Amrish Kakkar (Mohnish Behl). So when he gets a tape showing the Prime Minister (KK Raina) as being complicit in a terror attack, he decides to run it post haste, thinking he has got a scoop. The news creates a political turmoil, as a result of which fresh elections are held and a corrupt politician, Mohan Pandey (Paresh Rawal), comes to power. Malik later comes to know that the tape was fake and the whole thing was manipulated by Pandey with the help of his own son Jai (Sudeep) and his son-in-law Naveen (Rajat Kapoor). He comes in front of the audience for the last time, exposes the culprits, asks for forgiveness and gives the reins of his channel to the young reporter Purab (Riteish Deshmukh).
No One Killed Jessica (2011)
Director: Raj Kumar Gupta
Cast: Rani Mukerji, Vidya Balan
This hard-hitting movie is based on the murder case of Jessica Lal. It stars Vidya Balan as Jessica’s sister Sabrina, whereas Rani Mukerji’s character of Meera Gaity is inspired from the various TV news reporters following the case. Jessica (Myra Karn) refuses to serve three men after the last call. One of the men, Manish (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), who’s the son of a big-time politician, shoots her in the head in anger. Though there are dozens of eyewitnesses, no one comes forward as a witness as everyone is afraid of Manish’s political clout. In what could have been an open and shut case gets botched by the police and the judiciary. While Sabrina loses all hope of ever getting justice for her sister, a news reporter Meera Gaity picks up the gauntlet. She starts investigating and is helped by Inspector N.K. (Rajesh Sharma), to gather evidence. Her reports start a mass outrage and the public demands a retrial. The case is fast-tracked, the police do their job properly this time and the accused gets sent to life imprisonment. Both Rani and Viya were highly praised for their performances and so were Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub and Rajesh Sharma,
Director: Sunhil Sippy
Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Kanan Gill, Shibani Dandekar, Purab Kohli
The film is based on Pakistani author Saba Imtiaz’s novel Karachi, You’re Killing Me! The novel was about a young reporter working in Karachi who has a set of misadventures as she learns about life. The film was set in Mumbai and not Karachi, however. Noor (Sonakshi Sinha) would love to do a serious story but is assigned to chase fluff pieces instead. While she’s editing a feel-good story about a doctor, her maid informs her that the doctor, in fact, is a criminal engaged in the organ harvesting business. She even introduces her to one of the victims. Unfortunately, her story is pilfered by her boyfriend Ayan (Purab Kohli). The life of both her maid and the primary witness is now in danger. When the witness is killed, she launches her own investigation and comes up with enough evidence to convict the doctor.