RANN. Director: Ramgopal Varma. Players: Amitabh Bachchan, Reitesh Deshmukh, Mohnish Bahl, Sudeep, Paresh Rawal. (Studio 18)

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When socially astute filmmaker Varma (Satya, Company, Sarkar)teams up with Bachchan—more often than not, there is a spark. With Rann, Varma takes a magnifying lens to the thin line that separates news reporting from news making. And without necessarily churning any fresh evidence on the age old moral quandary, Rann still delivers a credible boost for the Varma-Bachchan pairing.

Seen through the eyes of Vijay Malik (Bachchan), a hound-dog old school media stalwart who confronts a ratings decline at his well-rounded all-news channel, Varma’s film also touches on professional jealousies, political corruption and double-crosses. In his quest for ratings, Malik ropes in his ruthlessly ambitious son Jai (Sudeep) and an idealist newbie staffer Purab Shastri(Deshmukh).

While Rohit Banawlikar’s story is well-written, it presents a completely male-dominated point of view. The female characters are either homebound inward-looking maternal types or scantily-clad love interests of the principal male characters. Additionally, both the villains, chief amongst them Rawal’s political kingpin and schemer Bahl, and their “legit” counterparts, like Deshmukh’s intensely principled investigative reporter, fit cozily stereotyped script-writing gloves. The movie could also have done without the jarring rock-heavy soundtrack.

In spite of the shortfalls, leave it to Varma to inject intrigue and even some suspense into the gamesmanship that drives modern mass media—especially television. It is a foregone conclusion that in order to carve out prized ratings, brand name media outlets rely on pseudo-news, infomercial, mockumentaries and extended “intros” for hyping “news” items that, on the grand canvas of modern life, are seldom newsworthy or even all that interesting. Bachchan’s calm on-air news delivery, fortunately, serves as the focal point for thematic integrity and Bachchan does a fine, weathered, Walter Cronkite-esque newsman who is highly credible. That makes Rann worthwhile.

Entertainment Quotient (EQ): B

Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.

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