“Journalists are the true do gooders of the Nation …they are our conscience, our analysts, our informers, our point of view … they are supreme ..” (DAY - 3064)
Sir, the quote recalls memory of Citizen Kane (1941), the big daddy of journalism movies. Citizen Kane is almost uniformly celebrated as the greatest movie ever made in English. Orson Welles put in such a towering performance as the lead actor and the director that he didn’t need to make another movie. Welles, however, did make more movies, but never again with the grand sweep of Citizen Kane.
The story of a newspaper magnate, Kane, the film busts the myth of American capitalism with an exquisite human story and genius filmmaking. As Kane’s newspaper circulation and clout rises, the owner-editor’s life falls apart. The mysterious magnate dies a lonely death. The meaning of his last word—Rosebud—remains elusive until the end. The word in the context of the film recalls a purity and innocence that the journalists in the film fail to understand because they have distanced themselves from the essence of life. There is no better metaphor for the dwindling relevance of the media.
Citizen Kane also brings to life the power a political journalist can wield. Policy can be dictated by stories he does and wars can be started. And with this power often comes megalomania.The editor-publisher’s megalomania in the film has since been amply displayed in several newsrooms across India. Citizen Kane, this, is still a template for journalism movies.
In the same year, 1941, when the English language film Citizen Kane created a sensation in the world of cinema, was released Hindi film Naya Sansar ("New World"), on radical journalism, directed by reporter turned director, N. R. Acharya, and written by a journalist himself, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, who started his film career with this film. It won him the Bengal Film Journalists' Association Award for the best story and screenplay. The film remains one of my most favorite films ever, firstly for it starred Ashok Kumar in the lead, who was my most favorite actor from the early era of Hindi cinema, and secondly, the story was written by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, my favorite journalist since his Blitz days, whose Last Page, written by him, I must not have missed to read ever. Abbas, a film critic at that time. used his journalistic background to create a story about the rising radicalism in Indian society and journalism. The story addressed the conflict between a dynamic young reporter and his cautious, yet idealistic, editor of the fictional progressive newspaper, ‘Sansar’. The story line revolved around the editor, Premchand (Mubarak), who is in love with a beautiful orphan named Asha (Renuka Devi), whom his family has raised from an infant. Soon after Asha starts working for the paper, she falls in love with Sansar star reporter and dedicated radical-journalist, Puran (Ashok Kumar). Asha, however, still feels indebted to Premchand's family.
When Premchand starts to hedge on his radicalism by dealing with the evil Dhaniram, Puran quits, and starts his own newspaper, "Naya Sansar". Premchand quickly sees the error of his ways, and not only returns to the paper's previous left-wing stance, but also condones the marriage of Ayesha and Puran. Nowhere near the spellbinding impact of Citizen Kane, the movie made a great beginning to Bollywood movies that followed on the subject, especially during the last few decades, when suddenly, the Bollywood screen is flooded with journalists. After Kareena Kapoor in Satyagraha, it is Nargis Fakhri's war correspondent in Madras Cafe. They are young, hip, loaded with attitude and invariably female. While reality has been the buzzword for both films, the attitude quotient about both actresses as depicted in the field of duty could perhaps give screen divas a run for their money. Amrita Rao will soon play out a similar role in the Sunny Deol-starrer Singh Saab The Great, while Raveena Tandon will be seen essaying what is said to be a sexed-up version of Shobhaa De in Shobhana Seven Nights.
"We drew references from real journalists to create Nargis's character for our film, and we came across several women who have been reporting from the war front. Women like Anita Pratap and Barkha Dutt have made immense contribution to this stream of journalism and were definitely an inspiration," says Madras Cafe director Shoojit Sircar, reasoning his decision to present a female journalist.
If the war correspondent in Madras Cafe managed to be in sync with the brutal reality the film exposed, she was still playing second fiddle to the hero, as is the case with most such depictions. A rare case where the female journalist took center stage was Konkona Sen Sharma's National Award-winning role of a party hack in Page 3. The role struck a chord departing from the oft-repeated denim-clad, mike-totting diva Bollywood is prone to show.Konkona's performance as the middle-class girl who shares a flat with two friends, travels by locals late at night after jostling with the cream of society all evening was something viewers could easily connect with.
The only film that has credibly questioned journalistic ethics in recent times was Peepli [Live]. Beyond the satire about a villager's bid to commit suicide was a scathing comment on the divide between the smalltown newspaper hack (played by a yet-to-be-famous Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and the high-flying urban TV reporter when it came to professional ethics. The film seeped in realism superbly showed the media's unending hunger for TRP.
The list of journalists in recent films have ranged from Rani Mukerji's fabulously fiery reprisal in No One Killed Jessica and Deepal Shaw's surprisingly real act in A Wednesday! to the likes of Kangana Ranaut in Knock Out or Priyanka Chopra in Krrish - roles that were mainly included to up the film's glam quotient. Preity Zinta's role in Lakshya, was hyped as being inspired from Barkha Dutt. Preity Zinta started the trend of journalism in Bollywood.
Men, of course, have been in the minority in Bollywood world of journalists. We have not seen many takers since Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani so brilliantly enacted the victimised newspaper hacks in Kundan Shah's cult satire of 1983, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron.
The only notable male journalist lately has been, you, sir, Vijay Harshvardhan in Rann, as the CEO of a struggling news channel in Rann.
"I wanted to expose the media with Rann because at times democracy is controlled by forces that are not always visible to us," director Ram Gopal Varma had said around the time of the film's release.
I would like to conclude with my big applause for “Pinkvilla” for sincerely apologising to you for using your picture in makeup which you did not want to be used till the ad was released. They really have set an example of good media ethics for the rest of the media.
With regards and best wishes