The Broken News S2 Review: Does Not Fluff Its Lines, A Few Stray Blips Notwithstanding

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A still from The Broken News 2. (courtesy: iamsonalibendre)

Ruminations on the ethics of news journalism follow a freewheeling yet tortuous path in Season 2 of The Broken News as professional principles and personal prejudices collide in a deleterious and bruising battle for supremacy between two television channels.

The eight-episode Zee5 series, fronted by Sonali Bendre, Jaideep Ahlawat and Shriya Pilgaonkar, explores the labyrinths of an all-out war of agendas and belief systems and presents an engaging tale of a clutch of journalists who labour to sift fact from falsehood, sach (truth) from sansani (sensationalism), and public interest from propaganda.

Set in the capital city of a large state where an opposition leader (Sandesh Kulkarni) mounts a political campaign against the chief minister (Srikant Yadav), the show, adapted from a BBC One series, centres on two leading national news channels who take sides and continually snipe at each other, reflecting the bitterness of the clash of ideologies unfolding in the larger arena on the ground.

The Broken News S2, executed with consistent competence and awareness of the times, is a tale of political crimes, a newsroom drama and a revenge saga that builds its plot around events that have been in the news in the real world of late.

It is strewn with references to data theft, troll armies, electoral bonds, a mass suicide, an app-based moneylending racket, the death of a social media influencer, a midday meal scam, the mysterious demise of a geologist, an attempted cover-up of a water contamination case and, inevitably, the big industry seeking to control the flow of news and the exercise of political power.

Is that way too much to handle in a single season of a series? It perhaps is. The Broken News S2 is at times undermined a touch by the fact that it has to resort to hurried board strokes. That apart, a degree of confusion creeps in when it adopts simplistic methods to draw of battle lines between opposing worldviews.

If that does not major damage to the overall outcome it is because the script ensures that there is just enough happening in the narrative at a pace that rules out the possibility of the momentary snags sticking out and slowing down the show.

In the follow-up to the Vinay Waikul-directed 2022 newsroom drama series, writer Sambit Mishra falls back on newsy titbits to rustle up an intriguing story that touches upon pertinent themes with the seriousness that they merit. Not that all of it hits home with equal force, but parts of The Broken News Season 2 do strike a chord and provoke thought.

Aided by strong and steady performances from the lead actors and the supporting cast (Sanjeeta Bhattacharya, Faisal Rashid, Taaruk Raina, Indraneil Sengupta and two key news additions, Geetika Vidya Ohlyan and Akshay Oberoi), the show wends its way through a series of events that elicit divergent responses from two news channels run by two individuals whose approaches to journalism are diametrically opposite.

Jostling for power, pelf and position, the journos vent their feelings and beliefs in edit meetings and on prime time shows. Season 1 had ended with Radha Bhargava (Pilgaonkar) of Awaaz Bharati, a channel headed by Amina Qureshi (Bendre), being jailed after Dipankar Sanyal (Ahlawat), editor-in chief of Josh 24/7 network, brands her an “anti-national”.

Halfway through the opening episode of Season 2, Radha gets bail. She plunges right back into her ongoing tussle with Dipankar, who, on his part, does not budge an inch from his pursuit of eyeballs. Terms like ‘virtue signalling’ and ‘confirmation bias’ are heard as the journalists debate each other.

Radha, young, uncompromising and wedded to a cause, seeks to harness of power of truth as a means to settling scores her bete noire, the man responsible for her stint in prison where she has slighted and tortured for more than a month.

In the process of trying to right the wrongs done to her, Radha appears to blur the line that separates the journalist and the activist in her. It is a tightrope walk. There is a price to pay as Radha opens up several fronts and plunges headlong into the complexities of a multiplicity of stories.

In her own newsroom, Radha has to contend with her mentor and friend, Amina, an old school journalist who swears by objectivity. Those who speak the truth, Amina says, are often isolated. She accuses Radha of allowing her anger to come in the way of her journalism.

Outside of their newsroom stands the towering and pro-establishment Dipankar, who brings a third way of looking at the business of news. TRPs mean the world to him. A self-styled voice of the nation, he signs off his news shows with “Yeh sawaal hai desh ka“.

Rehana Ahmed (Ohlyan), who moves from reporting on Bollywood stars to chasing hardcore news and anchoring shows, represents another face of journalism. From an underprivileged background, work is a daily grind and a necessity. “Deshbhakt marne tak” are the words that she rounds off her shows with.

A single mother struggling to get ahead in life and ensure that her son secures admission in a quality school, Rehana frequently displeases her boss at Josh 24/7 with her impulsive ways. She is taken to task but she carries on regardless.

And then there is Ranjit “Ronnie” Sabharwal (Oberoi), who takes over as the business head of Awaaz Bharati as a representative of a tech giant that is readying itself to roll out thousands of EVs in India. News as an assembly line commodity meant to be bought and consumed like any other product in the market – that supposition represents one of the principal strands of the saga.

As was the case in Season 1, the newsroom showdowns and shenanigans in S2 are held together by the performances. While Sonali Bendre and Jaideep Ahlawat deliver pitch-perfect interpretations of two different kinds of reporters, the real star of Season 2 is Shriya Pilgaonkar. She traverses an entire gamut of mercurial emotions with impressive conviction.

Geetika Vidya Ohlyan, playing a conflicted and often embattled reporter, sways between the highs and lows of the character’s arc without missing a beat. Akshay Oberoi as the suave corporate honcho running a news operation captures, with a keen sense of the issues at play, the contradictions and challenges that the man faces.

A few stray blips notwithstanding, The Broken News S2 does not fluff its lines.


Sonali Bendre, Jaideep Ahlawat and Shriya Pilgaonkar


Vinay Waikul

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