The Common Man Speaks

14Jan/180

Spielberg’s ‘The Post’ is a loud reminder of the state of media in India currently

Spoilers alert!

The basic message in Steven Spielberg’s The Post comes right at the end when a character says, “The free press is to serve the governed, not the governors.” The sentence provides an overwhelming effect for it summaries the excellent efforts of the film to showcase the true meaning of a free press.

But being an Indian citizen who has been following the media scenario in India over the last decade or so, it also reminded me about the rapid deterioration of the freedom of the press in the country.

The Post is based on a newspaper’s brave efforts in the early 1970s in obtaining and publishing classified documents that reveal how the US had been lying to its people with respect to the Vietnam War. The team of journalists is taken to the court by the government but, astonishingly, the media wins the case. In other words, they are allowed to point out their government's grave offence against the people.

Taking nothing away from the film and the fearlessness shown by the journalists of that era, I feel the challenges faced by the Indian media today are many notches higher (I am talking about true, genuine journalists).

The PostCan you even imagine news of such a humongous nature being reported by a mainstream newspaper or a news channel today? Well, leave alone that, one can’t even print a report about the possibility of corruption by a citizen who happens to be the son of the party head of the ruling party. On the contrary, the publication gets sued for defamation (by the way, the complainant hasn’t been able to prove the charges).

Just recently, an FIR was filed against the reporter of a well-known publication for carrying out an investigative report showing severe security lapse in the entire Aadhaar scheme.

But if you think this is bad, wait for the next. Few years back, a film journalist lost his job for reporting true box office collections of a well-known movie. He spoiled the party of the makers who were circulating fake collections through various mediums.

So, at a time when even film related news gets you sacked, what are the possibilities of our media being allowed to carry out something as earth-shattering as shown in The Post?

Unofficially government-run media:

Government crackdown on the media isn’t the only major hurdle that today. Over the last few years, the concept of unofficially owned news channels has cropped up. Those having watched such channels even for a few days would realize that their main motto is to show the government in good light even when they have been messing things up up left, right and center.

Their loud-mouthed anchors disguising as saviors of the nation would scream out lies till they start appearing like the truth. If a report of such magnitude gets published, these anchors would label the team of reporters as criminals. Anurag Kashyap’s recently released Mukkabaaz has a line which translates to, “Truth isn’t something you know. It’s something people believe to be true.” In fact, anyone having a contrary view is shouted down and labeled anti-national, naxalite, leftist; depending on their mood.

Being an era of internet and social media, the role of government run trolls also cannot be ignored. Its paid troll army would be up in arms and instantly manufacture fictitious links of their reporters with some criminal, terrorist or the opposition parties (opposition = criminals, by the way.) And if a reporter would have been a female, it gets worse.

The Post is a loud reminder of the sorry state of affairs with respect to the freedom of the press currently in India.

By: Keyur Seta

26Mar/170

The Salesman Review

It is believed that technical aspects like haunting and loud background score, editing effects and fast camerawork are a must for edge-of-the-seat thrillers. But Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar winning Iranian film, The Salesman manages to create an enormously thrilling effect just through the use of the script and presentation and leaves you super impressed.

The film tells the story of a married couple, Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), who are staying in Iran. They work together in a theatre group. Emad also teaches theatre and performing arts in a college. Suddenly, the building they are staying in starts collapsing. They manage to flee along with other residents.

Obviously, they are frantically searching for a new apartment to shift in. Babak (Babak Karimi), their theatre colleague, helps them find a new place, which was earlier occupied by a mysterious woman. One night, Rana goes to take a shower. When Emad returns home, he is shocked to find her badly wounded on her head. Was it an accident or assault?

The Salesman posterThe Salesman is an ideal example of getting your basics right. It proves that if you get your basic prerequisites bang on, you don’t need anything else to hook the audience. Not even a background score. In fact, not having any sound in the background is Farhadi’s trademark. Yet he manages to thrill through an ideal combination of an interesting story, watertight screenplay and brilliant execution.

The film doesn’t start off as a thriller by any means. It seems like a simple drama. But Farhadi has brought in the thriller effect slowly as the story progresses without you even noticing it. The effect keeps on increasing with the passing time. In other words, you don’t realize when you shift to the edge of the seat. Along with providing thrill, the climax also says a lot without saying anything.

Like the content and treatment, the characters too are simple, everyday people faced with extraordinary circumstances. The film shows that even the most ordinary and random person in a large crowd can be living a complicated tale.

The film does have few areas of concern though. The incident of building collapse doesn’t get with the rest of the film. Its magnanimity makes you think about it long after it has passed, which wasn’t needed. There is also one questionable moment in the last 20 minutes or so.

Hossein Jafarian’s camerawork gels with the nature of the film. It’s simple yet effective.

The performances match up to the numerous plus points. Shahab Hosseini beautifully succeeds in playing man possessed with a lot of questions. But he also manages to underplay himself, which was needed and would have been very difficult for most actors. Taraneh Alidoosti portrays various emotions with precision. She too wonderfully succeeds in speaking through expressions.

Farid Sajjadi Hosseini enters only in the last 30 minutes or so but leaves a terrific impact with his brilliance. Babak Karimi, Mina Sadati, as Sanam, Maral Bani Adam, as Kati, and the rest of the supporting actors leave no scope for complain.

Overall: The Salesman is an outstanding thrilling drama. The film is a must watch for anyone who wishes to enjoy something meaningful as well as riveting. Its appeal is universal. It's releasing in India on 31 March 2017. The positive word-of-mouth might help the film earn decent collections at the box office.

Rating: 4/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Director: Asghar Farhadi

Producers: Memento Films Production, Asghar Farhadi Produdction and Arte France Cinema

Cast: Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti, Farid Sajjadi Hosseini, Mina Sadati, Maral Bani Adam

Music: Sattar Oraki

Genre: Drama/ Thriller

Runtime: 125 minutes

India release: 31 March 2017