The Broken News cast: Jaideep Ahlawat, Sonali Bendre Behl, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Taaruk Raina
The Broken News director: Vinay Waikul
Two rival TV channels, one which chases TRPs to the exclusion of all else, the other which veers towards credibility and caution. Intrepid reporters who work hard and party harder. Me Too scandals in Bollywood. Electoral bonds. Power-hungry politicians. And a dark organisation mining big data which threatens to invade the privacy of billions of ordinary Indians. ‘The Broken News’, directed by Vinay Waikul, seems to have been cobbled together from headlines we have been living with for a while.
But just in case the web series is deemed ‘too real’, lots of highly-dramatised elements are bunged in, which keep the series sliding into filmi territory. ‘The Broken News’ comes off more like a crime thriller than what it promises at the outset – an exploration of how TV news is shaping everyday discourse in the country, and how news is not just broken on TV, news TV itself is broken.
Josh 24/7 is headed by Dipankar Sanyal (Jaideep Ahlawat), a supremely arrogant editor-anchor who is convinced that he runs the country; does his character remind you of someone? At the helm of Awaaz Bharati is Amina Qureshi (Sonali Bendre Behl), who is capable of making tough choices. Star reporter Radha Bhargava (Shriya Pilgaonkar) is after the truth all the time, even when she is conflicted personally and professionally. And then there is newbie Anuj Sharma (Taaruk Raina) who shuns integrity on the path to progress.
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Ahlawat is wholly convincing, managing to leap over writing glitches with ease. And it is good to see Sonali Bendre back. Shriya Pilgaonkar’s conscientious reporter is too similar to her lawyer in ‘Guilty Minds’: how about building in difference? Back-stabbing, stealing stories, stormy edit meetings where prima donnas throw tantrums, sycophantic yes-men, are all part of the game, as we see how news is constructed. Some of it has a bit of a sting to it, especially the segment which features a sleazy Bollywood star (Sharad Kapoor) who has been a serial abuser of young aspirants, and who does feel the burn when faced by accusations from victims who have kept quiet for years.
But much of it is a stretch, especially for those who know the news business. Colourful informants at the beck and call of reporters, brave employees calling out their bosses, owners of channels declaring to their staff: I own this channel, so you will do as I say. Really? And this line, from one character to another: ‘tum team ki moral compass ho’. Who says stuff like this? Others are made to talk about ethics and morality as if those things have never been said before. Maybe the team needs to spend time on a news-floor to see how much drudge work goes into a 24-hour cycle: it’s not all thundering anchors and their cowering guests, and ‘breaking news’.
And of course, none of it touches upon the real hot button subjects of bigotry and polarisation. It’s fiction, isn’t it?