‘Newsense’ web series review: Navdeep embraces the grey shades in this gritty tale

Telugu web series ‘Newsense’ starring Navdeep and Bindu Madhavi is a fairly engaging exploration of media, politics and police despite a few predictable tropes

Published - May 12, 2023 03:03 pm IST

Navdeep as a mofussil reporter in the Telugu web series ‘Newsense’, streaming on Aha

Navdeep as a mofussil reporter in the Telugu web series ‘Newsense’, streaming on Aha | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A small town is in the grip of two ruthless rival political groups. Its hapless people have nowhere to go since the cops have turned a blind eye to their woes. It’s a familiar tale in mainstream cinema. The new Telugu web series Newsense, streaming on Aha, uses this familiar setting to narrate a fictional story of newsmen and women in Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh, and discuss the role of the media. Written by journalist Priyadarshini Ram and directed by Sri Prawin, the series led by actors Navdeep and Bindu Madhavi is not a story of heroic saviours but one that opts for a dark portrayal of the functioning of the media.

The six-episode series, with each episode lasting 25-35 minutes, is filled with multiple characters across social strata who drive the narrative forward. A woman who repeatedly visits the police station to enquire about her missing husband, an elderly couple that runs from pillar to post to fight for their usurped farmland and an ailing elderly man and his granddaughter are some of the characters facing the apathy of local governance in the story. There is overt predictability in the arcs of these characters. We know that their situation will go from bad to worse and may become the reason for some pivotal characters to take on the negative forces.

Newsense (Telugu)
Cast: Navdeep, Bindu Madhavi
Direction: Sri Prawin
Music: Suresh Bobbili
Streaming on: Aha Telugu

Priyadarshini Ram’s story takes its own time to unravel the characters in the maze, some of them morally ambiguous and unapologetically in a grey zone. Take Shiva (Navdeep) for instance. He is shown as a smart alec who is called in to solve a dispute at a police station. As a reporter, he knows the dark secrets of some of the people involved and uses these as trump cards to broker peace. He doesn’t shy away when offered a sum for his services. In fact, when the narrative shows us a motley group of reporters at the rundown press club sharing their collective kickbacks, it makes us wonder if there isn’t a single mediaperson in that town who aligns with ethical practices of journalism.

Amidst this group of stringers, the story places Neela (Bindu Madhavi), a television news presenter. The sole breadwinner of her family, she wants to scale high. This is the early 2000s and the electronic media has begun to grow stronger.

The production design, cinematography and the dialect spoken by the characters help in the lived-in depiction of the Madanapalle milieu. Navdeep sports a tanned, rugged look and is convincing in his portrayal of a shrewd reporter who knows which side of his bread is buttered.  This is among his best work in years. There’s a scene in which he narrates a short story to a young girl at the end of which, a shocking realisation dawns on the listener. The writing and staging of this scene establishes why reporters in this story have chosen not to be idealistic. 

Newer characters keep popping up, each with a backstory or a quirk. The hard-nosed cop Edwin (Nanda Gopal) adds to the drama. One of the things that work in favour of Newsense is its casting. Bindu Madhavi as an aspiring television reporter who wants the spotlight, the actors who play the parts of the stringers and the political heavyweights give the series the authenticity it requires.

Season one of Newsense ends on a cliffhanger with several conflicts unresolved and with a new one emerging. Not all of the drama is riveting. But with the premise and its multitude of characters established, there’s enough scope to weave a more intriguing web of media, police and politics in the next season.

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