Rann is director Ram Gopal Varma’s expose of electronic media. The film looks at the corruption of television news. How the maddening race for TRPs forces news channels to compromise journalistic ethics, resort to sensationalism, and convert news into the worst kind of masala entertainment.
These are urgent and relevant issues but Varma’s film is the cinematic equivalent of the type of television he is castigating here. Raan is poorly written, badly researched, and deafeningly sensationalist.
The film pits the old-school, upright channel head, Vijay Harshvardhan Malik, played by Amitabh Bachchan against his own more ambitious and morally-suspect son Jai, played by Sudeep.
When a channel headed by an erstwhile colleague, Amrish, played by Monish Bhel, beats the Maliks in the TRP race, Jai enters into a Faustian bargain with a wicked politician, Mohan Pandey played by Paresh Rawal. He fakes a sting operation and cons his father into airing it.
The ensuing uproar forces the country’s prime minister to resign, which of course paves the way for Pandey. But Jai and Pandey’s incredibly inefficient scheming is unraveled quickly by Purab Shastri, an idealistic rookie journalist, played by Ritesh Deshmukh. Eventually Purab and Malik senior unveil the criminals both behind and in front of the camera.
Rann had the potential to be powerful drama but Varma and his writer Rohit G.
Banawlikar fritter away the opportunity with cardboard characters and feeble plotting. There aren’t any flesh and blood people here, just types with one defining trait. So Malik senior and Purab are good, Pandey and the oily businessman Naveen played by Rajat Kapoor are bad.
Jai, who inhabits an interesting in-between zone, is undone by an irritating habit of flicking his lighter open and shut and twitching about like a recovering crack addict. These men, shot with the strangest camera angles imaginable, have no discernable arcs.
The narrative is equally flat and full of football-size loopholes.
The first lesson every journalist learns is: check out the source of information. But Malik senior, supposedly India’s most respected journalist, agrees to air an anonymously done-sting operation which implicates the prime minister in orchestrating a communal riot, without once checking its origins.
The chief operating officer of his channel, who is actually a mole for his rival Amrish, meets Amrish openly in a bar to exchange information. And this was my personal favorite-Purab who has just joined the organisation gets to sit in high-powered editorial meetings and pontificate the channel’s programming. How I wish we had such clout.
The shrill dialogue doesn’t help matters much. Subtlety is not this film’s forte.
So characters mouth lines like: "Computer ke zamane mein typewriter nahin chalta and duniya mein do tarah ke log hote hain, sher ya bakri". And in case you still don’t get the point, the helpfully blaring background music and lyrics underline what you are seeing. A sample: when Malik senior finds out that he has been part of a con, the song goes: "Kaanch ke jaise saaf usool, kaanch ke jaise tooth gaye".
If you get past the lyrics, Malik’s shattering discovery is one of the few moments when the film gets it right. Bachchan’s superman veneer cracks movingly as he delivers a speech on media and responsibility.
But Varma can’t leave well enough alone. He allows the bhashan to go on and on until you are beyond caring.
Bachchan, Ritesh Deshmukh and Suchitra Krishnamoorthy, playing the mole, bring some restraint and dignity to this cacophonous tale. Otherwise it’s sound and fury signifying little. (NDTV)