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Journalists on screen

It is a post-television world in Noor. Print journalists are a rare species in the film, just as they are in every other Bombay film these days. On-screen journalism is only about mic, camera and piece-to-camera. The “kalam wali bai” (lady with the pen), as Nana Patekar called Dimple Kapadia in Krantiveer, is now a thing of the past. In Lakshya, we had Preity Zinta doing a Barkha Dutt in Kargil, right down to the hair. Now we have several films portraying TV journalists — from No One Killed Jessica to Mumbai Meri Jaan.

Noor is a product of the social media; both the film and its protagonist reflect popular perceptions about journalism that one often encounters online.

A lot happened to journalists with the social media boom: interactions with followers bred familiarity with which came both respect and contempt. If a journalist’s view didn’t match yours, you could dismiss her with easy cynicism. Meanwhile, the freedom to be able to express oneself online in 140 characters and through status updates also led to a curious democratisation of the profession — anyone could report, opine, write. Is there a need for journalists at all when citizen journalists cover everything from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street?

Noor expresses a disregard for the profession — the painstaking practice is set aside for the naïve assertion that a hashtag will bring in a revolution, inspired, perhaps, from the role of social media in the Tahrir Square protests. An old editor is seen as redundant against a bright young raring-to-go reporter, who has more angst in her than rigour, who believes rather foolishly that she has exposed a scam with two testimonies recorded on her mobile phone. And we aren’t even talking about the film’s engagement with ethics, and checks and balances yet. Journalism in Hindi cinema is never about the story or how it was broken, like in All the President’s Men or Spotlight. Looking for authenticity and a deeper understanding of the media is too much to ask for, save some exceptions.

It’s a far cry from the 1950s when the figure of the writer/poet/journalist in films used to get coalesced into one, standing for idealism, integrity and trustworthiness. Instead of the hashtag, it was the printing press that had the power to bring about change. The socialistic mindset was that he (more than a she) was poor, often khadi-clad, with a jhola hanging from his shoulder.

It was the post-Emergency degenerate world in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro that brought us face-to-face with the corruptibility of journalists, and since then the image has been going steadily downhill. The omnipresence of the camera and the media circus envisaged in Peepli (Live) may have stemmed from the much-criticised coverage of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, but was pre-empted in the TRP wars portrayed in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani and even before that in the fake story creation in Main Azaad Hoon. From Page 3 to Rann, the seamier side of journalism has been building up in popular perception. The only bright spot is how most of our filmi journalists, hopefully a reflection of our newsrooms, are women. Even if ditzy ones like Noor.


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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 6:15:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/journalists-on-screen/article18201304.ece

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