Review: 'While We Watched' has Ravish Kumar as a tired, lone fighter against predators of sensationalism
What's even better is that this documentary is now available for free to watch on YouTube.
Published: Monday,Nov 06, 2023 13:45 PM GMT-07:00
While We Watched
As While We Watched begins, we see Ravish Kumar in a dark, under-construction place, trying to search for something with the flashlight on his phone. This sets the tone and acts as a metaphor as to what While We Watched is going to be about ahead. In a country where you can be termed anti-national for asking the right questions, you either have an allegiance to a political party or you are against them - the fight to focus on genuine journalism instead of sensationalism is the kind of fight that continues to get tougher and tougher with every passing day. While We Watched showcases Kumar in the light you expected but did not know the internal struggles, trials and tribulations. Having had the chance to see the documentary at the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2023, here's what I thought about it-
A Lone Fighter
The idea of what is 'news' and how is it presented can be such a linear topic in a certain manner but is easily the most misinterpreted and misused term consistently. Today, when you switch on the television, watching the news isn't just about being informed with the right facts but the need to do it in a way that is engaging and appealing to the viewers. While We Watched pirouettes between two of the most controversial and popular news anchors and their ways of conducting their segments on the channel while on the other hand, Ravish Kumar refuses to bow down to one-sided nonsense and tries to be truthful.
Of course, the greed-mongering and vicious world that we live in doesn't help as we witness how there is a team that Kumar has at NDTV India, who believe and respect his ideologies but cannot help and fight the cruelty of moving on in life. This is where the documentary shines the most. Amid the chaos going on between the channels and the narratives, the more emotional and vulnerable moments are where you connect to it even more, Kumar is most heartbroken when one of his most efficient producers bids adieu to the channel and is further followed by more and more people leaving. The team of channel is shortening, the ratings aren't coming, and the problems are only increasing.
This Side or the Wrong Side
While We Watched doesn't want to give any benefit of doubt to the news anchors it is highlighting, who are allegedly 'blindly' following the Modi government. In that sense, it is a bold call but essential. You see essential glimpses in the loud, erratic and eccentric debates of a popular news anchor labelling his panellists 'anti-national' only because they are not in favor of a few decisions and measures taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi or his government. We also see the harsh reality in several aspects where the aforementioned anchors and the channels are seen winning the rating race, a few of them even winning awards and getting sponsor slots.
While We Watched reminds us that you are also the reason why Indian media resorts to what it does. It tells us that you can't be cribbing about sensationalism, eccentricity, and almost sheer stupidity being reported, shown and presented to you - because you have been the one to lap it up and enjoy it even. Parallely, the nuggets that show Kumar receiving death threats and scary phone calls only add to the tension, but it is Kumar's approach that further proves his nonchalance towards nonsense. Towards the end, with Kumar choosing to go on-field and have an actual survey with people from the most remote places, he gets an idea, and we get an idea as to just what is going on. There isn't a certain way in which the documentary ends that revolves around hope or disdain, but it just ends with burning questions, which is what is important.
While We Watched is yet another reminder of how broadcast media is indeed going down to the dogs the right-wing preachers and us, the viewers are both equally responsible for that. It focuses on a tired lone fighter in the form of Ravish Kumar, who does question his principles and think of quitting but never compromises on the reportage of news. What's even better is that this documentary is now available for free to watch on YouTube.
Rating - ****1/2 (4.5/5)