Media, truths and falsehoods : The Tribune India

Media, truths and falsehoods

Media, truths and falsehoods

Karishma Tanna's (L) portrayal of Jagruti Pathak rings true, though one does wish one could see more of her nerves of steel.

Film: Scoop

Director: Hansal Mehta

Cast: Prosenjit Chatterjee, Karishma Tanna, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Harman Baweja, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Deven Bhojani, Tanmay Dhanania, Inayat Sood, Ira Dubey and Sanat Vyas

Nonika Singh

Hansal Mehta’s ‘Scoop’ is a chilling portrait of what we know happens often enough — travesty of justice, and the nexus between criminals and the police. As crime reporters in search of that exclusive page one scoop hobnob with police officials and pally up with gangsters and their aides, the results can often be disastrous, as well as further away from truth. Stories are planted, stooges are created and fall guys take a hit. Journalists are convenient scapegoats. One dies and another is incarcerated but lives to tell the tale.

Based on Jigna Vora’s book ‘Behind Bars in Byculla: My Days in Prison’, the six-part series takes refuge under words like ‘inspired’ and ‘work of fiction’. However, make no mistake, this is a real story of a star crime reporter branded a criminal. Accused of conspiracy to murder rival journalist Jaideb Sen (Prosenjit Chatterjee), the series stays largely with its lead protagonist Jagruti Pathak (Karishma Tanna), a crime reporter at Eastern Age. As we meet her as a single mother, a caring daughter and a committed professional, it’s a sympathetic gaze.

Mehta, also the creator of the series, along with Mrunmayee Lagoo Waikul, is not ambivalent about what he cares to say and what his stance is. The editor of Eastern Age, Imran (the competent Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), is Jagruti’s biggest cheerleader. He says, “If someone says it’s raining, and another person says it’s dry, it’s not your job to quote them both. Your job is to look out of the window and find out which is true.” Clearly, as Mehta looks, he wants us to see with empathy a young woman whose life was turned upside down and her career destroyed. She is implicated on the basis of circumstantial evidence, a mere fact that she interviewed a dreaded gangster.

Her overweening ambition to break page one stories that at times gets in the way of objectivity is factored in. But the sympathy for the woman who becomes a victim of the very system she is a part of never wavers. Her story is also that of media, perpetually in the race to be number one. The rot that has set in journalism, with hyperventilating anchors, is entertainment industry’s pet peeve.

Mehta, however, does not depend upon the crutches of humour to drive home his point or his story. Nor does he over-sensationalise the media, which otherwise loves to overstate. But the series, written by Waikul and Mirat Trivedi, with dialogues by Karan Vyas, reminds us how if earlier people turned towards cinema for entertainment, now sections of the media serve the same purpose.

What Mehta serves are home truths; acerbic, nasty and speculative too. If Jagruti’s counsel uses the word ‘speculation’ to buttress his argument in his defence plea, the word does hang heavy when the fingers of accusation are pointed at the police force. Especially, since the series bases its thesis on the collusion between India’s most wanted fugitive and the police. Perhaps, the fictional account does not always pass the test of veracity.

In a web of treachery, intrigue and the sordid world of crime that names gangsters by their real identity, one does not always know which part is true and which imagined reality. But even in the recreated world, the authenticity of the milieu from pressroom briefings to police offices to courtrooms and the city of Mumbai itself stands out. So does the cast. Harman Baweja, in a new and impressive avatar as the morally ambiguous JCP Shroff, Tannishtha Chatterjee as the tough-as-nails boss of a rival paper, Deven Bhojani as the endearing uncle, Ira Dubey as the jealous journalist’s wife facing the same gender bias with which her husband views Jagruti — it’s quite an ensemble and more than one actor impresses.

Prosenjit Chatterjee, who wowed in ‘Jubilee’, once again is in form, even if it’s a brief cameo of Sen. Above all, Karishma Tanna’s portrayal of Jagruti rings true, though one does wish one could see more of her nerves of steel. After all, how many women crime reporters are there in what is essentially a male-dominated domain? Her vulnerability is palpable, and even more during her travails in Byculla jail.

Jail scenes, though on expected lines, are hair raising. Here again, Mehta does not go for the jugular; there are no tear-inducing moments. He just intends to make us feel for her and we do so even more when Jigna herself appears in the concluding episode. As she shares that “only people who wronged me, they know the answer”, a question mark on the system, media included, which pronounces and presumes people ‘guilty till proven innocent’, stays and haunts.

A scoop is as much an expose as a penetrative reflection of the world it explores.