Naradan review: Tovino-Aashiq Abu’s film shows the reality of new age journalism

The film, directed by Aashiq Abu and written by Unni R, also has great performances from Anna Ben, Sharaf Udheen and Indrans.

When Aashiq Abu is Naradan ends, it’s almost as if you’ve finished watching a long enough newscast. Two and a half hours pass too soon when you have mostly been on your guard. Without murder, without crime, or even a car chase, the film manages to take on the tone of a thriller, simply by revealing the workings of the news channels. And it does it quite well. At the start of the film is a fairly lengthy disclaimer disproving any similarity to real or existing entities. But you can’t help but look at Tovino Thomas, who appears in costume midway through the film, screaming and unsmiling, and think how oddly he resembles many national news anchors and especially someone who has done of that infamous brand of loud journalism.

Tovino plays Chandraprakash, who initially appears as a rather calm and fair journalist, the face of the number one Malayalam news channel. He lets his panelists do the talking and corrects them when they make false or exaggerated claims, asserts himself and smiles at comments. At the bar of the Press Club where the male journalists meet at the end of a day’s work, he is friendly, casual, but not so talkative. You only get a hint of his competitiveness when a small rival channel breaks up an interview his channel didn’t do and he has to respond to the boss.

Sharaf U Dheen wonderfully plays the ethical reporter of the small channel, frustrated at not being paid on time, another reality in the world of journalism. At the bar, a middle-aged journalist, who goes on long drunken tirades, asks why no one was reporting on the loss of media jobs. Writer Unni R has diligently included many major events in journalism in recent years, including a politician’s honey trap for launching a channel.

Even Chandraprakash’s transition from a calm and fair presenter to an aggressive and controlling presenter, inspired by many prime-time presenters, is the result of the pressures of work. After two breaking interviews, the journalist from the small chain gets his job. He is quickly pushed aside by a condescending boss (Joy Mathew in another avatar).

Watch: Trailer of Narada

But the pressure of work alone does not change anything inside. You’re not at all surprised at his drastic change because you’ve watched him as he walks home to his parents and the dad blurts out why the son has lost interest in his girlfriend. Even as a fair reporter, Chandraprakash didn’t seem to care much about personal relationships. Expressionless, you only get a whiff of everything that burns inside when it races aggressively on the roads of Kochi.

The script does not lag, adding a personality development guru to turn Chandraprakash into a CP. The unruly curls are pressed, the beard disappears, and an angry geek-looking man emerges as the face of a whole new news channel launched by the rich and powerful. CP begins to show their new priorities by interviewing the new recruits. “Caste is a reality, why don’t you have it?” he asks a woman who had dismissed “Menon” for her father’s first name. On the air, journalists are referred to by their dominant caste name. The casteist thought that lurks among so many others is slipped into the script during a minor exchange between a lawyer and his client – “I’m not going to plead the judge (who is of an oppressed caste), I’m a Menon.”

Through the fast-paced film, even as you watch with an understanding of the ‘lows’ some media stoops to, you also realize the power they wield to tarnish anyone’s character, create new norms, make so that the moral police seem legitimate and awaken such tendencies in others. Cleverly, CP is mostly framed inside a TV screen, suggesting just how controlling a voice in your living room can be, guiding your decisions and shaping your opinions.

Most of the film’s second half takes place in a courtroom, and Anna Ben plays a smart young lawyer with pleasant comebacks. Indrans is adorable as a magistrate and it’s just nice to see him walking slowly towards the court, holding a copy of the Constitution. Only the jerky English arguments of senior counsel (Renji Panicker) seem out of place.

The film finds room for a bit of humor, and the edgy music (DJ Sekhar, Neha and Yaksen) ensures you’ll be tuned in, even if the story might lose the audience’s interest with a prolonged concentration on a single subject.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its critics have any commercial relationship with the film’s producers or any other members of its cast and crew.