The original The Broken News was a comedy satire, developed by Mike Bartlett for the BBC over a decade ago. Vinay Waikul’s Indian adaptation trades the satire for thriller as a genre. It’s an interesting choice given thrillers are a dime-a-dozen on the Indian OTT landscape. It perhaps makes the job tougher for The Broken News to distinguish itself despite an interesting premise. The show focusses on the battle for TRPs and stories between two rival news channels and their editors. It begins with promise and mystery but it soon descends into being something we have all seen before. The one saving grace is the performance of Jaideep Ahlawat, who once again proves why he is so highly regarded for his craft. Also read: Jaideep Ahlawat of Pataal Lok and Sonali Bendre to play warring news anchors in her OTT debut The Broken News
The Broken News is about the battle between Awaaz Bharti, headed by Amina Qureshi (Sonali Bendre) and Josh 24×7, headed by Deepankar Sanyal (Jaideep). The former is a more righteous, sober channel that still believes in things like journalistic ethics and objectivity while the latter is the number one news channel in the country, simply because it sensationalises and sells news like nobody else. The story follows the war between the two channels and their journalists as they try to unravel a big conspiracy brewing right under their noses.
The Zee5 show is bolder than most other streaming in India right now. For one, it does not shy away from using real names of people and places. So you have mentions of IIMC, Dawood Ibrahim, etc. It grounds the series into reality and makes it more authentic. But the real bold move on the series’ part is using relevant present-day happenings from the real world and weaving them into the narrative. It has references to electoral bonds, cyber surveillance, lynch mobs, Me Too movement, and the political-media nexus. Other shows have done it in the past but few have done it so seamlessly and organically. There is a scene where the home minister of the state has a conversation with a journalist on their mango-eating preferences.
The Broken News was billed and marketed as the comeback vehicle for Sonali Bendre, who is returning to acting after several years, and most notably for the first time since her cancer battle four years ago. On top of that, it’s her OTT debut. And it’s a credible comeback. Sonali seems to be at ease as Amina Qureshi, the idealistic editor of Awaaz Bharti and lends some much-needed maturity to the role. It is refreshing to see her break the mould on screen and play a character that is good but has shades of grey too. But the show does not belong to her. For one, the real protagonist of the show is Shriya Pilgaonkar’s Radha Bhargava, and the real star is Jaideep Ahlawat as the TRP-hungry powerful journalist Deepankar Sanyal.
Jaideep exudes the confidence and ambition of Deepankar in every frame and he convinces the audience in no time that he is indeed an immoral journalist who will sell everyone and everything for that big scoop. The greyness of his character and the zero effort with which Jaideep brings it to the fore, makes The Broken News a delightful watch. Shriya Pilgaonkar needs to be careful. She is in danger of being typecast as the perennial idealist crusading against the corrupt forces. Her Radha Bhargava here is too similar to her most recent role–the upright lawyer Kashaf Quaze from Guilty Minds. She is a talented actor and needs to find more roles where she can display her range.
The Broken News falters in what it wants to be. It begins as a show talking about the farce that 24-hour news channels often can be. And it establishes itself as a mirror for India’s loud news channels that serve as judge, jury, and executioner far too often. But pretty soon, it becomes a regular mystery where the journalists become private eyes to solve the case. What that does is it makes the show similar to many thrillers we have seen on the OTT space. Newsrooms become secondary and The Broken News’ USP is relegated to the back of the room. Maybe it would have been a better watch as a satire, much like the original British show.
It also does not devote enough time to present us with who these people are outside the newsrooms. Apart from Jaideep’s character, whose backstory and motivations are very-well sketched out, the show leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Throughout the eight episodes, which begin streaming on Zee5 from June 10, a lot of gaps are left unfilled. And that makes the characters somewhat two-dimensional. That, i makes it harder for the actors to stand out and for the show to be memorable and noteworthy. The Broken News is not a bad show. But it is not a great one either. What rankles me is that it could have been great. It had all the right ingredients. It just chose to take the safe route in terms of presentation and treatment, sacrificing a golden opportunity.
Series: Broken News
Director: Vinay Waikul
Cast: Jaideep Ahlawat, Sonali Bendre, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Indraneil Sengupta, Taaruk Raina, Sanjeeta Bhattacharya, Aakash Khurana, and Kiran Kumar