Tuesday, January 11, 2011

No One Killed Jessica.....the role media should play

I thought NOK Jessica was a fantastic film. It was a tough job for Raj Kumar Gupta as Director to relate a story which everyone knows already. I thought he did a fantastic job. Both Rani and Vidya played their roles remarkably well. There is a certain "new age" feel about the film.....no over-acting, easy language (foul language, but the type that you and I would normally use), new age music and a very modern setting.

What I liked the most in the film was the way media was portrayed. While Peepli Live showed the pathetic  (and very funny) downside of Indian media, this film shows how an alert media can make sure the powerful dont get away.

But first, let me give the highlights of the story (I can do it.....its not a suspense thriller!). When Jessica is killed, the killer's father (who is a big politician) makes sure that the witnesses are threatened or bribed.....and basically, what appears at first sight to be an open and shut cases is anything but. The accused is freed. All this happens before the interval. Rani Mukherjee plays the role of Barkha Dutt....she even works in NDTV (those days, there was no Times Now and CNN IBN!). She gets pissed off and takes things in her own hands. Basically, she traps various involved people and witnesses and makes sure that the case is re-opened.

Here's what I like about the role of media:
1) It plays an activist's role. When media realizes that the powerful have gotten away with murder, it steps in and makes sure that justice is delivered.
2) It energizes an otherwise disheartened junta and makes them take up the cudgels on behalf of the victim. Even ordinary citizens come out to fight for the cause. No one else can play this role except media.
3) It keeps the issue alive.....much against the wishes of the powers that be. At one time, the politician father tells the CM "This is a temporary wind and it will blow away soon". Media makes sure that that does not happen.
4) It ends with people feeling good......not depressed about where the country is going. It elevates the mood of the audience.

Here's what I found different with today's "sensationalizing" media:
1) Even though media knows that the politician is involved, it does not pronounce the accused guilty. Media does not play the role of judiciary. All that media does is ask questions.....get evidence by whatever means......and forces the authorities to take note. Even though there is a strong belief that the accused is guilty......there is never any "judgment" passed by media. The principle that "Everyone is innocent until proven guilty" is adhered to.....even as there is a strong determination shown to nail the bastard. At no point is Kalmadi declared guilty!
2) At no point is the coverage sensationalized to the extent that it is today. Even while the pressure is mounted on the authorities and  "evidence" presented, a certain decorum is maintained. "Liar Kalmadi", "Corrupt CM".....these kind of pronouncements are avoided. At the same time, it mounts unrelenting pressure on the judiciary to re-open the case.
3) Media empowers the people. A candle light morcha would be ineffective unless millions more watched it on tv. Media makes that possible. Its the collective might of the millions that politicians fear....not the court battle that the victim's family pursues.

There is of course also also credit given to the role of films. The candle light morcha shown in the film is credited to Rang De Basanti. This is what I like about this film. The easy way in which it gives credit to RDB....compare that with today's media that keeps shouting "Reported first by xyz...on pqr date". Pathetic.

In many ways, this is the role that media should play. Aggressive about its questions, unrelenting in putting pressure, determined in pursuing the matter, nailing the bastards.....yet never pronouncing the verdict. It never slanders anyone. It maintains a certain decency while handling very indecent people. It uses its power strongly.....but also lightly. Let me give an analogy.....its like the detectives in CSI v/s those in CID.....there is a certain polish and finesse with which the CSI detectives conduct themselves. Indian media must maintain those standards.

The movie also shows why India as a country has a bright future. Firstly, its a democracy, a benefit taken for granted and understood very little by most of us. Secondly, there is a strong media which wont condone the ill-deeds of the powerful....even though its becoming increasingly TRP-obsessed and raucous these days. And thirdly, there is (finally), an emerging consensus amongst the major political parties to stay focused on economic growth. This combination of factors will make sure that India will always be a better place to live in than China.....even if China's economy is 3 times the size of India's.


  1. Prashant,

    you are confusing your emotional invetment on the nature of the story (i mean, who doesnt get angry when Jessica Lal's murder is mentioned?) to the narrative arc of the film.....

    I thought it was very flat.... it falters very badly in the second half.... technically the production design and some of the casting was amateurish.... yes there were some good points and the performances of vidya (it is difficult to play such an quiet and underwhelmingly yet potently effective character) and some of the secondary characters was very good (especially the cop and the junior reporter).. Rani Mukherjee was so wannabe that she came out as unintentionally funny... She just cant carry off the 'cool and aggro chic' routine.. She came across as trying too hard..

    I disagree with your notion that media should act as a de facto judiciary agent... we all know what the Vir Sanghvi's and Barkha Dutt's of this world were upto recently and too much adulation for these jokers here blurs the line between journalism and power broking...

  2. and Rang De Basanti was a UTV production.. it helps to have the rights to showcase clips in your other in-house movies...

  3. Hey Shyam.....I in fact argued that media should NOT be the judiciary! I thought media did not play the role of judiciary in the film.....it only forced the courts to take notice!