News, lies, and more lies...

BY TERESA REHMAN| IN Media Practice | 28/11/2014
The scramble for TRPs distorts the truth and hinders justice.
That’s the message of a new film by an Assamese director which releases today, says TERESA REHMAN
Many Bollywood films such as Ram Gopal Varma’s Rann and the Aamir Khan production Peepli Live portray the nuances of the media, mostly in a critical way. Now a filmmaker from Assam, Mridul Gupta, is set to release his new film called “TRP aru” (TRP and) highlighting the battle for Television Rating Points and how this can distort the truth.   
 
Why is a north-eastern film maker tackling this issue? The region has witnessed a media boom and there are more than six satellite channels aired from Guwahati alone, all fighting to enhance their TRPs. 

Amid the glitz and glamour of television channels, the ‘inside stories’ in the race for TRPs remains confined to the television studios. Gupta, a cinematographer, director, and producer says, “I have been associated with the media for almost 30 years now. I have seen how television channels make news and sell news. I have seen how television channels impose their views rather than showing the news in the proper perspective. I have tried to delve into this aspect through my film. I am trying to depict the reality.”

The film deals with the lives of four young people. Siddhartha Sharma is a young promising documentary filmmaker with progressive thinking. Aparajita Saikia is a bold, talented, journalist ready to stand by the truth. Utpol Das, a friend of Siddhartha and Aparajita, also works for a news channel as a reporter and, though conventional in nature, is still a good fellow and friend. 
 
The film deals with the role of the two media houses in the events that unfurl. Pallabi is the fourth and main character of the movie who was sold by her own father while she was a young girl, Pallabi is an example of human trafficking. The story shows her being stigmatized as a prostitute by a news channel. Siddhartha protests, saying that she is a victim of human trafficking like thousands of others. He decides to fight for Pallabi and to dig out the culprits responsible for her situation.

In this journey in search of truth, his close friends Aparajita and Utpol extend their support and the trio try to provide justice for Pallabi. Ranged opposite them is Satyabrata, channel head of Jagrata Prahari, who is supported by some political leaders directly or indirectly related to Pallabi. Despite this group’s best efforts to defeat them, the three journalists do not give up.  

A statement on the film says:  “It’s a story about those newsmongers who hardly hesitate to deform their news for money only…..The film reveals the heretic and rigorous political will, supported by the…deeds of the media houses. It tells us how the commercialization of the ‘fourth pillar’ has harmed the whole society. They used to sell the truth and they’re doing this unethical deed very efficiently in the name of ‘social responsibility’ and ‘freedom of speech’.”

Actor Urmila Mahanta, who plays  Pallabi, says, “It’s a realistic portrayal of the role played by the media today in the craze to score brownie points in the form of TRPs. It’s also a story about those girls who are trafficked from this part of the country.” 
 
She is optimistic that audiences will be able to relate to the film as the scramble for TRPs is a common phenomenon throughout the country. “Unlike Bollywood films made on the role of the media, this film is in a very localized context. I think a strong message will go to the society,” she adds.
 
Bobbeeta Sharma, chairperson of the Assam State Film Finance and Development Corporation which co-produced the film, says, “The script committee selected the film on the basis of its content. It is a film on an important subject like women trafficking and how the media sensationalises such a sensitive subject to suit its needs. It has a young cast and shows how young minds can think of innovative ways to spread their message without being dependent on traditional modes of communication in this age of the internet.” 

Monimala Das, one of the scriptwriters, says the script evolved through a series of discussions and research. “We spoke to some insiders in the industry in order to know what’s happening inside the television studio. We wanted to raise this issue which has a universal appeal…and show how the truth is distorted by a section of the media.”  

The film touches on several contentious issues including the media-politician-corporate nexus. Having made his points, Gupta is feeling somewhat apprehensive about reactions. “People find it hard to accept reality. There is no happy ending in the film,” he says.
 
(Teresa Rehman is editor of www.thethumbprintmag.com.) 
 
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