Naaradan(Malayalam, Amazon Prime)
Starring Tovino Thomas, Anna Ben, Sharafudheen, Vijayaraghavan
Directed by Aashiq Abu
Rating: *** ½
Some sluggish passages in the screenwriting by Unni R could have done the film in. No such catastrophe overtakes Naaradan , a taut, largely gripping occasionally slack morality-tale that is located in the fomenting heart of fourth estate.
This is the second Hindi film located in a television newsroom. Whereas Ram Madhvani’s Dhamaka captured the suspense of the moment in a one-to-one encounter between a terrorist and an overambitious journalist, Naardan penetrates much deeper bringing out the immorality that has crept into a once-noble profession.
In some crucial ways Chandraprakash(Tovino Thomas) who later transforms into a media-monster named CP, reminded me of Arjun Pathak(Kartik Aaryan) in Dhamaka: the same disregard for rules and ethics. Except that Chandraprakash will stop at nothing. His lack of scruples and the belief that news at any cost is worth it as long as people watch you and your show(in that order) on television, is an unsettling mirror of what a section of the media has become in our country.
The anything-for-TRPs culture has been patented by power-hungry news channels. Naaradan gets the shrill anxiety dead right.Chandraprakash echoes the bullying sordid self righteous verbal vomit of one particular star-journalist from real life. No prizes for guessing who we are talking about.
Screenwriter Unni R takes up the culture of instant fakenews and weaves an arresting plot around it. Tovino Thomas, totally transformed from the caped crusader in Minnal Murali,constructs a persuasive moral compass to his mediahound’s character. He plays the despicable scumbag without filters, not allowing us to feel even a shred of empathy for him.
There are other actors who contribute to the vast moral landscape of the proceedings. Sharafuddin as the upright ethical journalist plays the antithetical face of the unscrupulous side to electronic journalism without seeming overly representational. However I’ve my quibble with the talented Anna Ben. Playing a Muslim lawyer fighting the Big Sharks she ticks too many boxes to seem totally organic and credible.Anna’s role is a second-cousin to Nimisha Sajayan’s lawyer fighting caste and gender prejudice in that other Tovino Thomas film Oru Kuprasidha Payyan.
The second movement of the agitated plot is almost entirely a courtroom drama where Chandraprakash meets his nemesis. While the ever-dependable veteran Indrans is a delight as the presiding judge the courtroom sequences lack the spontaneous punch of the newsroom antics.
In spite of its flaws Naaradan is an important film. It delves into the dirt that has accumulated in a certain kind of journalism and emerges with a compelling narrative that never fails to carry us along in spite of the snags on the way. Among other things, it is also further proof that Tovino Thomas is one of the finest contemporary Indian actors.