“You will find variations in journalism & some of it has gone to its zilch” – Gul

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It is a natural gift of the human psyche to be able to terrify itself and by qualification learn how to terrify others in order to control them through manipulation by fear. The new barons are those from the Press and the Media….and of course, director Ram Gopal Varma. Read on. Their control over the minds of the populace is greater now than at any other time in the earth’s history. Media communication is the latest power in the history of suppression and like all suppressive devices it appears to offer that which it deprives you of; freedom of speech and interchange of information. Today, the power of the media moguls has grown in tandem with the increasing innovation and effect of communication technologies. Today, the Media barons built an industry of immense wealth and power and refined their persuasive methods to a fine technological pitch. Today a well-oiled intelligence gathering machine of global proportions is run by a ‘new aristocracy’ which has established the industry as a multi-national controller of the minds of ordinary people. To make matters more interesting and intriguing, Ramu’s Rann is all set to enhance the media’s position and produce an unseen oligarchy of immense power. The film, which deals with the media, politics and industrialist nexus is all set to release on January 29 with a battle-cry of one-upmanship. For starters, Gul Panag, who will be seen in Rann opposite Riteish Deshmukh, voices her opinion on the film, the political nexus, journalism and the question to which we all are looking an answer to: Will we ever know the truth?

Has journalism gone to its zilch now?
Not just journalists, but most of us have preconceived notions. They are fine, as long as you’re in the business of reporting facts and making opinions. When your job is to report facts and only facts, and leave the people to form their own opinions, if you come from a point of view where you already have a preconceived notion, then you can imagine how much objectivity there’s going to be in that kind of reporting. As a nation, we are a very prejudice lot, judgemental; we live in a society which believes in poking their nose in other peoples business. But the question is: Where do our reporters come from? The answer is: From the same society. So yes, you will find variations in journalism and some of it has gone to its zilch.

But our readers are to be blamed too. Right? They prefer Page 3 girls over credible columnists
That’s how it is. That’s how the people are formed and are evolved. But the same people do read Vir Sanhvi and Shekar Gupta columns, the two most credible writers we have. But the fact is, whether you like it or not, we do flip the entertainment pages first. They are more interesting. Which is why, if there was an amalgamation of entertainment that actually tries to make a difference, we’d have achieved our objective. But we don’t let that happen. People come with a preconceived notion that just because we come from the entertainment world, we have no interest in anything else. As an eye grabbing section of the society, from the CEO’s to the doctors and lawyers, everybody opens the entertainment pages. If only there was a little bit of effort put in by the fourth estate, in trying to see what these people really want to do and stop painting them with the same brush of disdain and condescending thoughts that they look at them with, there might be some good that comes out of it.

Coming back to the film, how convincing does Rann look?
I don’t know. The beauty of all Ram Gopal Varma films is that the action is always happening outside the film. That’s his style of cinema. He talks about something and then something happens outside. In the film, you’ll just see the before and the after. That is indeed for an extremely evolved audience. You’re not spoon feeding the audience with what’s going on, which is great. Rann is Ram Gopal Varma’s attempt to highlight the nexus that does exist between the politicians, media house and the industrialists. Top political parties have interests in the media houses, allegedly, which is quite visible by the fact that they don’t really cross a particular barrier when it comes to reporting about the politicians. In reference to industrialists, so many of them own a large stake in publishing houses, electronic channels. Thus biased news looks convincing to all of us.

So in an all male dominated section of films, media, politics and industrialists, how significant is Rann for you?
Not so significant. I mean, you cannot super-impose a woman in a film like Rann, except for the fact that Suchitra Krishnamurthy who works in a news channel in the film. But it’s not about significance. It’s about my gut instinct and when I heard the story, this was the film I wanted to be a part of. I’ve always admired Ram Gopal Varma. The more time I spend with a director like him, the more I understand how intelligent he is. Rann is not a story of domestic lives. It’s a story about people’s work place.

Do you think politics inspires the media?
Yes. 80% are our news stories are linked to what’s happening in Delhi, after all, that is the power centre of this country. And that is something that each one of us is involved in. That’s a single time thread that involves every single Indian because we elect these people, we put them in power and they are our servants. So yes, politicians are public servants and we need to keep track of what they’re doing. If we don’t know what’s happening in our country, we are failing as a democracy.

And how safe is our India now?
As safe or as unsafe as it was before. It is not possible to protect against terrorism when the perpetrators of terror are ready to kill themselves. It’s just not possible. We can only contain the damage that they inflict.

You spend a fortune, buy a page and the news is yours. All we need is more customers, right?
Well, that’s pretty much what it is. A lot of leading newspapers sell their space. But that’s business.

Music takes a front seat in any of RGV’s films
Yes, he does have a very good ear for music. I think music in a film like Rann brings out the feeling of nationalism and patriotism. It does evoke a very strong emotion, which is why I really liked the banned song: ‘Jana Gana Rann’. What’s interesting is the fact that we all relate to what’s going on.

You’re a writer yourself. Why don’t you voice your opinion through your writing?
For me, it’s really when I feel like writing, I write. Not otherwise. Honestly, I don’t enjoy the pressure of deadlines. That’s why my blog comes to rescue. I wrote 600 words on my blog from the airport just because I felt strongly about something.

You’ve got such a gorgeous smile and look beautiful that you can surely anchor any news channel.
Thank you. But I think there is always room to be heard if you’re lucid in your own thoughts. Most people don’t know what they’re talking about which is why they don’t make sense. It’s also the way you speak that’s critical. I’ve been to places where extremely eloquent people have spoken but they are just so boring to listen to but what they are saying is so interesting but not how they’re saying it.

Will we ever know the truth?
I’m reading a very interesting book at the moment called 1984 by George Orwell. It’s about a system where truth is obliterated. Even the past has been altered to suit the present. There was this move to alter history text books to favour Hinduism. So there has always been an attempt to super-impose what you think is favourable to you.

Not from Gul Panag’s point of view, will Rann work for a citizen of India?
Today, films are actually a function of economics. You make a film at a certain budget. No matter what people said about Agyaat, it worked because of the shoe string budget it was made on. Technically, the film worked. You make a Blue and it doesn’t work. Rann is not made on a tight budget, it’s not an extravagant film, it’s not gone over its allotted days of shoot and it got packed up before the actual time of pack up. Eventually, there is a market for a film like Rann but it may not be the entire country. As long as the budget is tight and the right people watch the film, the film will work.

As long as Ram Gopal Varma is there, controversy is bound to happen
Controversy is as much media created as supported by the person in the centre of a controversy. If you refuse to comment on a situation and are not easing it out, you’re increasing the controversy.

Define Ram Gopal Varma in one word
I can say intelligent but that’ll be too simple. I’d say, very discerning. He is not a guy you can make small talk with.

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