Naradan (2022) ‘Prime Video’ Review: An Unafraid Testimony to India’s Present Journalism Culture
Naradan (2022) ‘Prime Video’ Review: I cannot lie that I walked into this film with sufficient enthusiasm to last my patience for around 150 minutes. We have already watched so many narratives arising from the Indian journalism scene that I prefer to call this our latest affliction. However, the more important question is – why are we so bothered about our journalism culture? While India’s rank on the freedom index of journalism keeps dipping each year, making those in the profession more and more vulnerable to violence, our media organizations are conveniently caped in political colors and peddle news according to their convenience, real or not. Several Indian films in the recent past, including Jalsa, which was released last month, have tried their level best to produce a token of truth about the mishmash of immorality and corporate bargains in this world.
So far, none of them has succeeded in producing a larger picture as unsanitized and elaborately drawn out as Naradan, a directorial venture by Aashiq Abu. It stars the seasoned national superhero from last year, Tovino Thomas a.k.a. Minnal Murali.
The first thirty minutes of the film are uncomfortably real about life in a media organization, especially the newsroom. It also leads us into the life at the Press Club, which awakens at the end of the day with people of all the ranks coming together to share alcohol and gossip. Chandraprakash is our protagonist, and we follow him down the narrative as he juggles his emotional faculties with his journalistic skills to ultimately sacrifice it all to power, money, and TRP ratings. Does the film end up glorifying Chandraprakash’s transformation as the need of the hour for journalists to survive the cut-throat competition to stay relevant today?
Writer, Unni R, makes sure to put out a strong statement against yellow journalism, which has been watered down with some dramatic cinematic effects for the ease of digestion among the audience. The runtime is very long, especially with all the unnecessary minutes spent focusing on CP’s running and smoking routines; the writing is devoid of any major loophole and manages to make ends meet. A slim but impactful statement about caste politics also commendably features inside the narrative.
I sincerely wish we could divulge a little more into the contemporary socio-political situation that offers itself up for the propagation of half-truths and lies via media houses, but I guess that’d be asking too much from a film that already goes the distance to assimilate the nuance in its storytelling. The film, moving in a quiet, streamlined motion, undergoes an awakening when Chandraprash decides to steer his life into making a CP out of himself, a rude cinematic transition that offers little room for explanation. The director and the cinematographer don’t complicate the visuals, offering us neat and beautiful shots of sunset skies, corporate parks, city lights, and rural Kerala. The media house, rich and poor, parallels and the imageries are distinct; the red and the blue coming together to form a hazy kaleidoscope of colors on a white plastic sheet in front of CP’s face has to be a favorite takeaway shot from the film.
Tovino Thomas has become our own beloved Minnal Murali since last year, where his innocent, gullible nature seeps into his supernatural qualities, making him a lovable superhero. Here, he undergoes a similar change, but his mental faculties are channeled into making a Shibu out of him, a supervillain, at the cost of truth and fabricated lies. Albeit, Thomas bears the weight of his role in this film with superhero-like ease. During a specific moment in the newsroom, when his golden opportunity at a project is snatched away from him publicly, his face contorts – an expression, further tinged with fear, that makes a return during the final scenes. Perhaps, the smoking and the beard were all necessary to show us how money mixed with a streak of uncensored power and corporate villainy can physically transform a character; the subtleties of this transition are at a threat of getting lost in this process. He makes himself unlikable, reminding me too often of Jake Gyllenhaal in The Nightcrawler (2014). If you read deeper into his character, I am sure you will spot the foundation of an Aristotelian tragic hero waiting to be discussed in detail.
Anna Ben, who commands lesser screen time in this movie, impacts the film and its narrative as effectively as Thomas’ Chandraprakash. I must also commend every other actor, including Sharaf U Dheen, who plays the foil to CP, for their convincing performances. But why are there no women characters in more prominent roles in the film and the media houses in the film? Also, how is Chandraprakash’s silent, unconvincing, sorry partner a part of the plot? The balance is a little tipped at this end.
Naradan does a convincing job at putting its points across to the audience. It, yet again, proves the mastery of the Malayalam film industry in carefully handling a sensitive subject matter, almost impersonating a real-life spokesperson of yellow journalism in this country. It tells us that media organizations have a massive task on their shoulders. Failing which, they not only affect the delicate balance between truth and untruth in society but disrupt the mesh of socio-political hierarchies in a democracy. While we ponder upon this, let us also ask – How much truth shall we have to acquaint ourselves with before we open our eyes to reality?
Aashiq Abu’s Naradan is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.