The media is also known as the fourth estate in certain democracies, where politicians and their policies go through intense scrutiny by those wielding the pen or the camera, going behind the scenes to dig, probe and investigate, to expose misdemeanors and wrongdoings, to act as the non partisan check and balance. Of course it can also be manipulated to the advantage of certain quarters, and just where our own lies, well we all should already know.
Politicians, industrialists, and media moguls all make strange bedfellows. Each have their own interests to pursue which may run contrary to the other, so when all of them come together, you can bet your last dollar just what is being planned, and who the outcome would benefit. For the politician, the mass media remains one of the best ways to pimp their popularity, with a non flattering expose always threatening the outcome of their attempts to get into office. For the industrialists, favours to corrupt politicians would mean corners expected to be cut to pursue their profit making objective. And to a non-independent media, whoever's in control would be painting somebody or something in better light than they are.
Ram Gopal Sharma's Rann examines the corruption of the media and how it can be manipulated or seduced by either party into compromising or even forgoing their ethical obligations, in the name of favours, and money. And in some respect, the issues presented here aren't far fetched, and from incidents time and again, we see how the media can be used to gain an unfair upper hand, and the power that it wields to bring down positions of power when investigative journalism gets into gear. And of course, having the evergreen Amitabh Bachchan star in a leading role as Vijay Harshvardhan Malik, an ethical, no-nonsense media mogul who runs his own news channel called India 24/7, is one of the major draws of Rann.
As the moral compass of the country, Vijay's editorial news programme sets the agenda, but unfortunately in the face of stiff channel competition and falling ratings, his son Jai (Sudeep) wants to take the channel into a new level through the injection of external funds. Cautious that the source of such funds would mean an erosion of ethics that his channel is renowned for, Vijay decides to allow Jai to proceed with his plans, but little does anyone know that under their noses, India 24/7's COO Nanlini (Suchitra Krishnamoorthi) is a mole in their corporation, feeding chief rivals H24, run by Amrish Kakkar (Mohnish Bahl) all the information on India 24/7's strategy, thereby letting the competition always stay a step ahead.
The story by Rohit G. Banawlikar is fantastically multi-layered, with ample development given to the this industrial espionage, and how it draws Jai to the dark side of shady deal-making, which ultimately culminates in the assistance of his industrialist brother-in-law Naveen (Rajat Kapoor), and his friend, the dubious politician Mohan Pandey (Paresh Rawal), with the ambition of taking over the prime ministership of the country, through a carefully crafted scheme which draws upon threats, murder, terrorism as well as a fake undercover expose recording, delivered unknowingly and none other than Vijay himself.
It is also the story of a greenhorn investigative journalist Purab (Ritesh Deshmukh), who idolizes Vijay and his pursuit of journalism excellence, and whose honor and ethics Purab wants to emulate, so much so that he decides to join India 24/7. A part of the story has Purab caught in the entire web of deceit, and the moral dilemma he faces with acknowledging the probable stain in his boss's reputation and career, an act of betrayal, the realization that his inexperience had caused a lot more damage than it should, before deciding to gamble it all in doing the right thing. There are ups and downs as we follow Purab in his journey, making him one of the more well developed characters in the film that we both root for, and be exasperated with.
It's not all doom and gloom though, with well timed comic relief introduced (without going overboard) through Anand Prakash Trivedi (Rajpal Yadav), a presenter who just tries too hard, with an interview scene being one of the funniest delivered in the film. But the more memorable scene here has to be the stinging monologue that Amitabh Bachchan delivers with gravitas, a rebuke on the role of the media, and how it is so easy for those in powerful positions to collude for self interests and money, that everything, including the progress of a nation, can be sacrificed. There's no big bang finale action, but a talkie finale which hammers it in with heartfelt emotion, one that I wish our own powers that be could have a chance to listen in, and perhaps remind themselves of their back to basics responsibilities.
The film quietly builds itself into a fire-cracker finale, having to witness how deep the rabbit hole goes, and just when you thought it had hit rock bottom, more events unfold to dig us further into the consequences of the conspiracy which not only impacts the individuals on a personal level, but you shudder at the thought of how the impact would be on a national scale. When it it bottoms out into an inevitable conclusion, on one hand you'd expect difficult sacrifices and decisions to be made as a resolution to the problem posed, while on the other feel sorry for those innocent caught up in the crossfire, and shrewd as RGV is, there's room for a sequel to be made as well.
Should there be any gripe, those who cannot stand shaky camera movement will find it disturbing to view the film through a camera lens not mounted on a tripod, which in a way provided a sense of a documentary feel to the entire proceedings with its fair share of twists and turns. Female characters too are tokens in the film, mostly relegated to wives and girlfriends who repeatedly looked quite sorry at being bewildered at their man's problems. There was a little bit of a brushing of a couple's differences in religious backgrounds (something sensitive with the older female generation perhaps?) that despite it being mentioned and played out briefly, didn't serve up any depth in the issue, probably side-skirted and being an abandoned sub plot.
If anyone would think that Bollywood makes Masala type films only, then obviously their horizons need to be broadened. Rann is an excellent political thriller that's kept tight and pacey from the get go, coupled with a charismatic cast whose delivery will keep you at the edge of your seat as the narrative unfolds. Definitely recommended stuff, and it goes into my books as an early contender for the top films of this year.