Tuesday, 5 July, 2022
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TRP or ethics? Sonali Bendre’s The Broken News gets Indian media right. With a dash of fantasy

Sonali Bendre's maiden OTT venture on Zee5 sees her playing an ethical journalist who just can’t seem to get the TRPs.

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The Broken News on Zee5 comes at an interesting time when Indian media is facing allegations of fake news and questions about what forms ‘ethical’ reporting and anchoring. Directed by Vinay Waikul of Raveena Tandon-starrer Aranyak fame, it hovers between fact and fiction, crime thriller and an exploration of media psyche in India today. It is based on the British series Press.

Starring Sonali Bendre, The Broken News brings together a plethora of headlines that have entered people’s drawing rooms and bedrooms over the last few years and have become things we live, breathe and eat. As a journalist, it is indeed fascinating to watch my own world unfold on screen albeit with a liberal sprinkle of fantasy. One glaring difference being the show is set in Mumbai instead of Delhi.

Be it MeToo or exposing corporate honchos or rape cases, real or false, the show looks at what makes ‘breaking news’ and what also makes our news broken. The personal and professional lives of journalists collide constantly, as they do in real life as well, to finally become the news that flash on TV screens.


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TV anchors and media honchos

Sonali Bendre’s maiden OTT venture sees her playing a role quite unlike her earlier Bollywood characters. She is an ethical journalist who believes media is truly the fourth pillar of the world’s largest democracy. She is convincing as Amira Qureshi, head of Awaz Bharati, an ‘ethical’ organisation that is unable to get high TRPs. It is refreshing to note that OTTs have provided ‘90s superstars with roles that make them human and not glam dolls, and that in itself is a big win.

Jaideep Ahlawat, who wowed us with his breakthrough performance as Hathi Ram Chaudhary in Amazon Prime Video’s Paatal Lok, is back as Dipankar Sanyal, an arrogant editor-anchor of Josh 24×7, who makes ‘kahaniyan‘ because news is blasé. Ahlawat is as powerful as ever, and the ease with which he makes you almost understand and side with an intensely unlikeable character is commendable.

Shriya Pilgaonkar is moving from strength to strength. After playing the straight-shooting lawyer Kashaf Quazae in Amazon Prime Video’s Guilty Minds, she essays the role of an investigative journalist Radha in The Broken News. The similarity of ideals and conviction is uncanny between the two characters, but Pilgaonkar manages to steer the wheel with her acting.

Radha’s almost hook-up and flatmate, and also adversary in some ways, Taaruk Raina as Anuj Sharma is impressive. From playing the typical college kid roles to becoming a journalist who sells his principles early on, Raina delivers a mature performance.


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What newsrooms are like

Are newsrooms in The Broken News a reflection of the real ones? The answer is both yes and no. Even in the media industry, there are stereotypes about what a newsroom looks like. So, you can’t point fingers at the show and says it isn’t ‘real’. The interpretation works well.

But, of course, there are also unreal moments. Like when someone is called the ‘team’s moral compass,’ or when stringers deliver tips and information at the drop of a hat. If only investigative journalism was that easy, or any form of journalism. The show doesn’t dwell on the other side of journalism—the endless waiting and drudgery. It sacrifices grunt work for snappy, catchy news.

What is the cost of staying ‘true’ or relatively true in the TRP rat race? The fate of Awaz Bharati hints at that towards the end. Drawn very obviously from recent events and even characters, The Broken News can become better in the next few seasons with more attention to detail.

A rendition of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Bol Ke Lab Azad Hain Tere in the closing credits of all the episodes is both ironic and poignant. Broken News gives what the audience probably wants. But it is not entirely made of truth. Isn’t that what media is about — which truth and whose truth makes the news?

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The Broken News on Zee5 comes at an interesting time when Indian media is facing allegations of fake news and questions about what forms 'ethical' reporting and anchoring. Directed by Vinay Waikul of Raveena Tandon-starrer Aranyak fame, it hovers between fact and fiction, crime...TRP or ethics? Sonali Bendre’s The Broken News gets Indian media right. With a dash of fantasy
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