Scoop Review: A hard-hitting commentary on media sensationalism

What happens when the fourth estate begins to crumble?

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  • Director: Hansal Mehta
  • Starring: Karishma Tanna, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Harman Baweja
  • Rating: 4/5

By Lekha Menon

Published: Tue 6 Jun 2023, 12:05 PM

Last updated: Tue 6 Jun 2023, 2:56 PM

‘What was once called the fourth pillar of democracy is just a rubble’.

The above is one of the many aphorisms in Netflix’s latest binge-fest Scoop, where characters lament the state of journalism in a world compromised by the cosy nexus between compromised politicians, criminals, unscrupulous officials, dithering cops, opportunistic publishers and well… scoop-hungry journalists. Truth, as we know, often becomes a casualty at the altar of a shocking Page 1. And, in this particular case, the headline-chaser becomes the headline.

None of this is surprising or new. In fact, Scoop liberally sprinkles its screenplay with a generous dose of media-bashing and sensationalism, a charge it levels at the profession itself. Yet, director Hansal Mehta has used the premise – about the shocking murder of a journalist and wrongful incarceration of another – to make a sharp commentary on the condition of the fourth estate, the judicial system and society.

As has been well-documented, Scoop is based on Mumbai journalist Jigna Vora’s 2019 memoir Behind Bars in Byculla: My Days in Prison. Jigna, a top crime reporter, was charged with playing a role in the daylight murder of celebrated investigative journalist J. Dey in 2011. What follows is a descent into hell in prison and a long, lonely struggle to clear her name.

It is perhaps difficult to objectively review Scoop as a journalist since too many truths hit too close to home. On social media and in Whatsapp chats, scribes have been busy playing guessing games on the real-life people the characters are based on. It’s easy if you are aware of the crime journalists-editors-cops network in Mumbai. But Hansal, being the proverbial ‘outsider’, chooses to take an objective macro view of the profession while focusing on the micro details of his protagonist.

It helps that the screenplay is based on the book, so the POV is Jigna Vora’s or Jagruti Pathak's, as she has been christened in the show. This may give rise to questions about objectivity, especially with regards to the intentions some characters are attributed with. However, what can’t be challenged is the gross injustice meted out by the media to one of their own, who ended up becoming a victim of the very system she was an integral part of.

Credit should also go to the director and writer Mrunmayee Lagoo for building Jagruti’s world with such authenticity. The frenetic newsroom conversations seem real (the detailing in a scene set in the editor’s cabin with a white board listing news and features of the day, is particularly impressive!) while the depiction of Jagruti’s middle-class Gujarati home, the Press Club chats, the bleak prison halls, etc are spot on.

Scoop also benefits greatly from its performers. Karishma Tanna is an absolute revelation in the lead role while Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub’s turn as a strong, responsible editor shows why he’s one of the best actors we have today. Deven Bhojani as her empathetic relative is wonderful as is Harman Baweja, who essays the role of a cop with shades of grey.

Of course, some scenes could have been curtailed, the series could have been one episode short and there were too many names being thrown about, making it confusing for those who are not aware of the facts of the real case.

However, these are minor quibbles in what is essentially one of the best series to come out on OTT this year. The end credits hit hard, which has two elements. One, where Jigna Vora shares her thoughts on her ordeal. And two, a montage of journalists who have been murdered or arrested for doing their job.

It makes you realise why there is an urgent need for the pillar, currently a rubble, to be reconstructed again.


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