'Rann' offers peek into India's media industry

NEW DELHI Thu May 7, 2009 5:10pm IST

(From L - R) Bollywood actors Paresh Rawal, Ritesh Deshmukh, Amitabh Bachchan and Indian filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma attend a news conference for their forthcoming movie 'Rann' at an art gallery in New Delhi May 6, 2009. REUTERS/Vijay Mathur

(From L - R) Bollywood actors Paresh Rawal, Ritesh Deshmukh, Amitabh Bachchan and Indian filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma attend a news conference for their forthcoming movie 'Rann' at an art gallery in New Delhi May 6, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Vijay Mathur

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - "Rann", a new Bollywood film, delves into the highly competitive world of television news reporting in India, putting the spotlight on the media industry's insatiable appetite for advertisers and viewers.

The film, directed by top filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma, is touted as a behind-the-scenes look at how news channels greedy for ratings are being manipulated into sensationalizing stories to grab eyeballs.

"What will the media do if torn between commerce on one hand and conscience on the other -- that is the premise of this film," lead actor Amitabh Bachchan said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Bachchan, arguably India's biggest superstar, plays the head of a prominent news channel in "Rann". Other channel bigwigs, an honest reporter, an unscrupulous industrialist and a power-hungry politician complete the cast.

With more than 60 English and regional-language news channels in India beaming into TV-owning homes, the film comes at a time when broadcasters are scrambling to provide exclusive content.

Indian television channels were criticized by security agencies for showing live pictures of November's Mumbai attacks and allegedly giving away important information to attackers trapped inside hotels and a Jewish centre.

"In order to be able to hold a person's attention, the only way they can do it is to create high drama," said director Varma.

The 47-year-old filmmaker, an acknowledged Bollywood master at making gangster movies, is no stranger to controversy.

Varma raised conservative eyebrows in 2007 with "Nishabd" -- a film about love between a girl and a man old enough to be her grandfather. The same year, his remake of the landmark 1975 film "Sholay" had critics denouncing the attempt at tinkering with classics.

With "Rann", which opens in cinemas later this year, the maverick director has delivered an idea he had been toying with for many years, based on an industry that has always fascinated him.

"If the media is a truth-telling machinery in a democratic society, in the age of competition and compulsions, can it really stick to that and be really truthful," Varma said.

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