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Breaking news, anyone?

Shoma A. Chatterji, TWF, Bollywood Trade News Network
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Is news on television meant to educate, inform and sometimes entertain? Or, do they exist to function as voyeuristic machines generating vicarious pleasure for its target audience via sex and violence? Do ‘sting’ operations really have the power to pin down the targets and eliminate corruption and moral decay? Shoma A Chatterji takes a look through a new film IT’S BREAKING NEWS

Television journalism has not yet featured as the main focus of any feature film in Bollywood. This marks a significant ‘absence’ in view of the ambience and spread of television news channels that, in recent years, have successfully and perhaps diabolically, converted ‘news’ into ‘entertainment.’ The television media, spreading across news channels for months together without break, had sometime back iconised the story of Abu Salem’s girlfriend Monika Bedi. The “D” of Dawood occupies prime slot in a Hindi news channel for months while blurred faces of ‘wronged’ girls are turned into hot property by television cameras, in effect, blurring the thin line that separates news from titillation and fact from voyeurism.

Into this ambience steps in IT’S BREAKING NEWS, a full-length feature film that explores the world of ‘breaking news’ on the national networks of satellite channels. “With sting operations becoming synonymous with investigative journalism and issues like ‘casting couch’ getting more prominence than the ‘Telgi scam’, it evidently describes the changing priorities of the media. IT’S BREAKING NEWS is a film that captures this change in priority and tries to uncover the darker side of the famous or infamous sting operations,” says director Vishal Inamdar.

IT’S BREAKING NEWS, once a ‘sacrosanct’ term, has today become a ‘slang’ word, part of regular communication language. “In the era of entertainment, journalism, which once began as a mission and moved on to be service, has now reduced to being merely a profession. Journalism has become a business where the struggle is not to ‘get’ right news but only to ‘generate’ one, crammed with glamour and sensation,” according to Inamdar .

Produced by Shreyas Mhaskar, the film features Koel Purie, Harsh Chhaya, Abhimanyu Singh, Swati Sen, Vinay Apte, Virendra Saxena, Shishir Sharma and Atul Parchure in the cast based on a story by Vishal Inamdar and script by Jayant Pawar. Cinematography is by Shirish Desai, Eknath Kadam has done the production design, the sound design has been taken care of by Manish Pingale and Rahul Bhatankar has edited the film. Kaushal Inamdar has composed the musical score while Saahil has penned the lyrics.

The story traces the footsteps of Vidya (Koel Purie), a young and dynamic news correspondent working with a news channel and covers the entertainment beat. She does it well and is happy with the beat. But she is soon transferred to the crime beat and does not like it very much. Unable to do anything about it, she decides to take it on seriously and do it well. A scoop story by her from Madhya Pradesh boosts the TRP ratings of the channel. The fame that the story brings her makes her greedy for ‘the’ breaking news she will be responsible for. Her values take a tumble and she begins to concoct stories that do not really exist just for the excitement it would generate and ensure the rise in the TRP ratings.

A chance telephone call from Sangeeta (Swati Sen), a Pune-based girl, offers the opportunity Vidya was waiting for. Sangeeta says the police have sexually assaulted her. Vidya chalks out a sting operation to cover the event ‘live’ when the SP is actually assaulting Sangeeta. Her plans go a bit wrong when instead of the SP who is the target of the sting operation, the DIG falls prey. Vidya captures the DIG raping Sangeeta live with the help of her cameraman Rafiq.

Later, the experience shatters both Vidya and Rafiq as they suffer from a deep sense of guilt for merely capturing the rape on camera for the sake of ‘breaking’ news. The television camera, they realize, has been used as a voyeuristic instrument of rape while Vidya and her cameraman have actually become collaborators and conspirators of the heinous act of the very crime they sought to break to their viewers. The channel they work for, however, think differently. For them, the ethics of the incident to get bytes of such proportion does not matter. In fact, it is confident that the channel’s market value among sponsors will get a big boost. Vidya promises Sangeeta that she will take care to block the footage before it is telecast, adding that it will be kept in safe custody to be produced as her defense in the court. The channel’s management group hardly cares to listen to Vidya and goes ahead with the telecast. Vidya is traumatized at this betrayal of faith. She gives up the job to join her uncle who lives away from the city and runs a small press of his own. He motivates her to fight the system she once stood for but now abhors. The question is – does she succeed?

“This film is a metaphorical story of the battle of every individual, who, at some point of time, chooses to disagree with the system and fight the corruption within. IT’S BREAKING NEWS is a film that narrates the awakening of a ‘strength’ that fights the ‘weaknesses’. It is this battle that a common man would relate to. This film is thus about a common man placed within a given set of circumstances. I have tried to place the conflict in the context of journalism because it is one of the most vibrant fields today. This could equally apply to all professions. I have tried to project it through the eyes and the changing perspective of my protagonist, Vidya,” Inamdar sums up. The film is scheduled for release in mid-September.

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