When the watchdog of democracy turns into a business enterprise and when journalistic ethics are pawned off for TRP-friendly sensationalism, it’s time to sit up and take note.
Without succumbing to cynicism typical of other filmmakers repeatedly offering us the so-called ‘slice-of-life cinema’, Ram Gopal Varma guides us through the innards of the fourth estate, revealing its dirty underbelly that serves as a handy tool for politicians in their power games in Rann.
At the centre of the drama, without hogging the limelight, is Amitabh Bachchan, playing Vijay Harshwardhan Malik, the founding head of a news channel, India 24/7. In a media age where news is selectively edited, hyperbolized and presented with attention grabbing headlines and dramatic background music to boot, Malik is somewhat an oddball. A conscientious newsman, he sticks to his uncompromising journalistic ethics, even though it may lead to nose-diving TRPs for his channel. No surprise that his US-returned ambitious son Jay (Sudeep) doesn’t believe in his dad’s ideals and opines that the news channel ought to be run like a business company if it has to beat their rival (Mohnish Bahl), who believes in ‘creating’ news rather than reporting it.
Things take a turn for worse when Malik’s son Jay and son-in-law (Rajat Kapoor) become pawns in the hands of the wily and cunning politician Mohan Pandey (Paresh Rawal) who masterminds a media-led campaign against his political rival to get to the Prime Minister’s seat.
There’s only one man who can put a spanner in their working - Purab Shastri (Ritesh Deshmukh) who imbibes the lofty journalistic ideals of Vijay Harshwardhan Malik and an unwavering desire to dig out the truth and report it to people.
Credit must be reserved for Ram Gopal Varma for not making ‘Rann’ a mere bland exposé of the world of overzealous hacks. Ramu pumps in enough drama, grit and a wee bit of suspense and thrills to make the movie a compelling watch. However, at times the maverick filmmaker does overflap in his flight of idealism. Sequences like the one where Bachchan is shown spieling against religious hatred on a national television seem far-fetched. Also the plot gets a little convoluted in the second half as the story keeps flitting between a dozen or so characters. There’s also humour to be found in some characters - like that of Rajpal Yadav, playing the creative director with a knack for sensationalizing even the dullest of news stories. In a sequence he tells a filmmaker (Gul Panag) that the media’s job isn’t very different from that of a filmmaker - that is, providing entertainment.
‘Rann’ boasts of some stupendous performances, not the least by Amitabh Bachchan and Sudeep. Big B somehow stays the central force of the film without hogging much footage, but it is Sudeep (of Phoonk fame) who truly impresses with his well nuanced performance. Ritesh Deshmukh takes to a serious role effectively and Gul Panag (as his live-in girlfriend) does emote well the few scenes she’s given. Paresh Rawal is superb as the debauched politician. On the sidelines, Suchitra Krishnamurthy (playing the programming head of India 24/7) and Neetu Chandra (the Muslim fiancée of Jay) perform well.
Like his previous film ‘Sarkar’, Ramu’s cinematographer Amit Roy plays with light and shade and cans the shots from imaginative angles. The background music however gets jarring at times. Ramu can’t seem to do without it. Rohit Banawlikar’s writing is not without holes. The dialogues reek of superfluity in some sequences.
‘Rann’ takes off well but begins to lose momentum in intermittent reels. The drama does build up nicely in the last half hour - with a literal ‘sting’ in the tale - and concludes on a thought-provoking monologue by Big B.
If you are looking for a dose of serious cinema, ‘Rann’ is the answer.