‘Naradan’: A rogue journalist's hunt for quick TRPs
Mythology considers sage Naradan (also known as Narada muni) as the celebrated medium or rather the media person in the celestial world with half of the problems in the heavenly abode either caused or exacerbated by him. In short, he is considered the most pertinent mythical character in the time of the post-truth. And his name is dropped during conversations on a regular basis.
With media being a prominent industry, news has come to become an industrial product today. But when subjugating, jingoist governments are in power, a part of this industry becomes a tool for false propaganda. So if Naradan were to be equated with the media of today, it is where he would transform himself from an innocent narrator to an instigator of virulent ideologies.
The role of media, especially visual media, in aggrandising the power and image of individuals with huge money and political supremacy is now being discussed on every platform. Popular cinema, series, stories and novels are taking it as the central theme too. The plotline of The Millennium Series, one of the popular novel series of the 21st century, revolves around a small, but influential magazine called ‘The Millennium’. The novel discusses ethical journalism and media morals. Films like Spotlight, The Post and series like The Newsroom and The Morning Show deal with the same subject.
Malayalam film Naradan, a political thriller, directed by Aashiq Abu and written by Unni R, is another unique work in that path. Kerala is a media-driven society and news anchors and TV reporters are popular like films stars. The state, which boasts of starting the first private satellite channel in the country, also has an irreplaceable place in the history of Indian television. India’s first full-time regional news channel was also started in Malayalam. With better literacy rate and long tradition of morning newspaper reading, television news has become an inevitable habit of the Malayali middle-class life. But after almost three decades of TV news, criticisms and condemnations against the changing culture is growing louder. The film ‘Naraadan’ is an attempt to talk about this significant media environment through the eyes of a visual media journalist.
The film revolves around the life of its protagonist Chandraprakash (Tovino Thomas), an ambitious young news anchor who has a safe and bankable position with his flagship debate show ‘News Track’ and is the prime face of the prominent Malayalam news channel, ‘News Malayalam’. Unchallenged in the industry and numbed by success, Chandraprakash has become so complacent and stoic that he unflinchingly dumps his girlfriend and cold shoulder his friends. He does not have any emotional connection to anyone other than his father, a crooked semi-urban patriarch whom he adores.
Pradeep John (Sharaf U Dheen), a modest and upright journalist, working with the rival News 24×7 channel, an organization struggling to pay their employees, is the opposite of Chandraprakash, even though they are drink buddies at the Press Club. Pradeep who values camaraderie is a journalist who attempts to report and present the news in an ethical and reasonable way.
The audience is also introduced to Shakira Mohammed (Anna Ben), a young and passionate lawyer who works at the state legal service authority. Political being to the core, she is always willing to help the needy. She lives with her caring father, a retired chef and shares the apartment complex with up-and-coming rapper, Mudiyan among others. Shakira is very close to Father Purampokkil, a rebel priest who works for the maginalised, and also happens to be a source of information for many enthusiastic journalists. The activism of Shakira and Father Purampokkil get intertwined with the news television when an illegal granite quarry run by Babuji, a powerful politician meets with stiff resistance from the local people.
These are the major characters of the thriller and the theatrical ups and downs of their professional/personal lives determine the narrative of the film. Chandraprakash’s professional fall-out and disgraceful exit from the channel and professional come back as CP, the chief editor of a new channel called ‘Narada’ is the turning point. Sensationalism and utter carelessness about other social beings become the new motto and persona of the channel and Chandraprakash. And disregarding the basic principles of journalism is the ultimate idea of their media ethics.
The film portrays professional rivalry, pressure from management to boost the channel’s viewership, insane working hours and the unrewarding job of journalists with reality and clarity. Characters of CP and Pradeep John are safe and secure with Tovino Thomas and Sharf U Dheen. Anna Ben’s elegant performance as the socially committed young advocate and Indrans’ cameo give more colour to the film.
How do power, popularity and prosperity transform ordinary people into monsters? How basic human values are annulled and abandoned? These are the powerful questions posed by the film that the viewer takes back with him.
The film, however, stands the risk of being shunned by a few in Kerala media who may find it to be a direct criticism about their organisation or star vault anchors. But director Aashiq Abu and writer Unni R have made it clear that it only tells the story of a character who goes rogue during his professional stint.