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Maaran is a journalist movie.

In Indian cinema, there is a good cop movie. There is a bad cop movie. There is a thief movie. There is a village movie. Like these there is a journalist movie.

Just as cop movies portray policemen as ridiculously corrupt and horribly brutal or super efficient and diligently honest, journalist movies portray journalists as steadfastly honest and suffering for a cause. If there has been a villainous reporter in Indian cinema, it would have been a rarity. Villainous media owners are common though.

No, there really is no such separate thing as investigative journalism. The journalist’s job is to get information from those who often don’t need to share it. So, there’s an element of investigation happening all the time. Sometimes, the reporter gets to uncover an unreported crime in the nature of his or her work. And, crime reporters who often do investigative work are among the poorest writers. So the ace investigative reporter and brilliant writer never come in one piece as Maaran.

Today, RTI activists and NGOs do a better job of investigation than journalists. More power to them.

The daily grind is enough to sap the journalist’s energy and most don’t have any time to do serious investigative work. Today, RTI activists and NGOs do a better job of investigation than journalists. More power to them.

In Maaran, Dhanush and Malavika intercept phone calls and impersonate to get a story. No journalist ever does any such thing. Most of the dramatic investigative stories in the real world happened because someone decided to leak the information. From the exposes on sand mining baron Vaikundarajan to Bofors, someone decided to give the information to the reporter. The prosecutor in Stockholm was irritated that India seemed uninterested in pursuing the Bofors bribes case. And the scandal exploded on Indian newspapers.

No reporter ever orders people around like Maaran. The ideal reporter is a fly on the wall. He will make an excuse if he gets noticed. None of us is a Dhanush. Photo Credit : Dani Charles Silverscreen Media Inc.- Wikimedia Commons

Policemen often laugh at how movies portray them. Journalists too laugh at journalist movies. The journalist’s time is mostly spent on obsequious phone calls, not adversarial talk or lecturing.  No reporter ever orders people around like Maaran. He or she is not wired to. The journalist is taught to listen, observe and be invisible. The ideal reporter is a fly on the wall. He will make an excuse if he gets noticed. He is rarely, if ever the hero in his own workplace. None of us is a Dhanush.

The reporter may ask a rare adversarial question in press conferences but that’s more for show than substance. It’s for the television cameras. If a reporter is asking a pesky question on camera, please realize that she has been instructed to do so since the channel she works for is showing it live and they want to come out looking as if they are doing their job. Print reporters get their information backchannel if they need to. They don’t make a show of it on camera.

Maaran is a crime thriller and the journalism profession brings the element of a heroic character standing for truth to the character played by Dhanush. Some research seems to have happened about how sources come seeking journalists who are making a name for themselves. Beyond that, Maaran is just regular Tamil cinema. If policemen don’t do anything that movies show them doing, how could a journalist bash up rowdies like Dhanush?

In any case, journalism is barely a profession and it’s a low paying one. Careers and livelihoods are made or unmade by the whims and fancies of the Editors and owners. After many decades of working, a journalist can be homeless if that month’s salary doesn’t come. What drives journalists is ego and an illusion that they count for something and they are impacting society, perhaps even doing good.

The world of journalism has more verve and enthusiasm than Maaran. That’s the profession’s saving grace! It’s why journalists do what they do.

Some get into journalism because they want to be on camera and become famous. Well, the next time you see a TV anchor nodding vigorously even if the person being interviewed is saying something banal, just know that the anchor is getting a lashing from the producer on her earpiece that you can’t quite hear. The fame is barely any compensation for the long hours, little family life and low pay.

There is old fashioned sibling affection in Maaran. There is a new fashioned heroine who can drink like a fish and freely uses four letter words.

The affection for sister is the driving element in the movie. Much of the plot revolves around Dhanush seeking revenge for what happens to his sister. When the plot gets to that, Maaran stops being a journalist movie. Thank God for that.

For all its intricate plotting and thriller elements, the main actors are mostly deadpan. The world of journalism has more verve and enthusiasm than Maaran. That’s the profession’s saving grace! It’s why journalists do what they do.


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