The disturbing thoughts swim in the conscience as one could clearly hear the sound of social implosion in Ram Madhvani’s compelling thriller, lined with commentary on media ethics
In the week of big public apology, comes a film where a common man seeks repentance from a powerful minister for not being able to do his duty. A gutsy idea that fills you with nervous energy, the film is an official remake of a Korean flick but, closer home, it reminds you of the angry common man of ‘A Wednesday’. In the Neeraj Pandey film, the desperate everyman threatened to bomb Mumbai, here the despairing migrant crosses the line. The film makes you wonder what has changed in the last decade. Perhaps, the trust of the marginalised has been breached. Perhaps, it was reflected during the mass exodus from big cities to villages during the pandemic. It is not that the last man standing in the row was getting attention earlier but he was not being fed hope by a section of rapacious media. His trust was not being played with 24×7.
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The disturbing thoughts swim in the conscience as one could clearly hear the sound of social implosion in Ram Madhvani’s compelling thriller, lined with commentary on media ethics.
Largely set in the newsroom of a private news channel that markets trust to fulfill its insatiable hunger for ratings, it follows a fallen from grace news anchor Arjun Pathak (Karthik Aryan) who seeks to use a ‘breaking’ news story to retrieve his lost position.
What seems like a ‘usual’ terror attack/ hostage situation to him that he intends to milk, quickly turns personal as his estranged wife (Mrunal Thakur) is reporting from ground zero. Even as the threat lurks into the newsroom, the remnant of journalism left in his system is smoked out by a hard-nosed producer Ankita Malaskar (Amruta Subhash). For her, truth and news are two different things.
In the ensuing moral battle, it becomes increasingly clear who is the bigger villain of the piece. But, at the same time, the narrative also becomes increasingly predictable. As the taut thriller starts getting flaccid, you start picking up faults in the plot. When a film takes a high moral ground, the margin to slip also reduces. When a film that seeks to expose the artifice of prime-time news starts looking staged, it pains.
The set design and cinematography are top-notch but the functioning of the newsroom, the motivations of the ‘villain’, and the actions of the officer of the anti-terror unit (Vikas Kumar) leave you unsated. After taking you to the edge of the seat, the climax is a tad disappointing. A few more drafts, a little more sharpness would have helped. No such issue with Amruta who excels in a minutely observed character that exemplifies the state of a section of electronic news media.
Karthik has been astutely cast in the role of the hollow television anchor fattened by opportunism, teleprompter, and TRPs. Like in ‘Love Aaj Kal’, he plays the ‘straying’ part well but when it comes to the transformation, he fumbles. Thankfully, that portion is short here.
Dhamaka is currently streaming on Netflix.