Indian television has always struggled with content, especially when it comes to daily shows. This has been the principle reason it was imperative to wait for Sony’s Reporters to cross the 50 episode mark to review it. The content has been engrossing and the pace, delightful right from the beginning but the real challenge was to sustain both of these over a period of time. The show proved it was indeed possible as it completed half century last week on a high note. Not only has the pace been maintained but the content has been consistently evolving. The script and screenplay seem tightly knitted together with no scope for any squeezing- in of a redundant scene whatsoever. And like the icing on the cake, the story is being presented in layers, with one layer opening to reveal another. The advantage of keeping the content that rich is that the audience keeps coming back for more.
At the core of the script is a love story : Ananya Kashyap, a head strong girl who works for a news channel called KKN is young and raw, untouched by the mediocrity of a compromised life. She insists on letting her heart steer her life, even if it gets her into trouble most of the time. Neither ambitious nor organized, she still manages to find the best stories because of her pure passion for journalism.
Ananya’s life takes an interesting turn when Kabir Sharma, a senior journalist she has hero worshipped for 8 years, joins the channel as the new Editor in Chief.But Kabir is not exactly easy to worship from this proximity. He is ruthless, ambitious and autocratic. While Ananya believes in following ethics by the book, he believes in using all methods available to get a story with a potential for breaking news. With his experience, power, and suave looks, he makes Ananya feel like a schoolgirl and admonishes her quite frequently for her uncalculated reactions and disregard for rules. There is an unmistakable harlequin mills & boons twinge to this difficult romance: A powerful attractive hero, desired by everyone but tough to tame & an innocent righteous girl, falling for the wrong guy in spite of herself.
This core story is cushioned with layers of intelligent scripting. The concept of “truth” hovers constantly over the content. Little by little, through subtle hints, it is revealed that Kabir has always had a complex relationship with the “Truth” and a lot is left at that. Ananya is after the “truth” as well, in the everyday stories she covers, as well as in the story of her father, who disappeared eight years ago after a scandal he was wrongly implicated in. How important is the Truth for media professionals or humans in general?
KKN’s office politics provides a delightful glimpse into corporate world tactics and Reporters does a perfect job of keeping it real as well as entertaining. Kabir is hired by Khalid, the channel boss because of his uncanny ability to bring ratings. But all geniuses have their quirks and he rubs almost everyone in the office the wrong way with his autocratic and impolite behavior. Khalid is ready to overlook everything but the other employees are torn between admiring him and hating him. KKN has an interesting employee bank: each of them has an inadvertent role to play towards the core story. The channel owner’s daughter, Malvika is the pseudo boss perceivably insecure, perhaps because she holds the position by birth and not by talent. Manav, the senior most journalist of KKN, is bitter, insecure and jealous because Kabir has taken a position rightfully his. Ronnie, in charge of edits and telecast, is Ananya’s best friend. He is the proverbial good guy who is in unconditional love with her best friend. Richa, another reporter and news reader, is practical headed while Trisha, the weather girl, likes to keep it light by concentrating on her looks, attire and harmless gossip. The office works on two levels: Ronnie, Trisha, Richa and Sunny , being closest to Ananya, form the circle of employees while Kabir, Manav, Malvika and Khalid form the management circle, infested with politics. Khalid, the channel boss is a shrewd business man and concerns himself majorly with the ratings, but his sarcastic observations and dry humour often brings a much wanted element of mischief into the show.
The cast of Reporters have done perfect justice to the characters they are playing. Rajiv Khandelwal as Kabir brings a unique sex appeal to his character akin to vintage wine. The sexy maturity accentuates the age difference between the leads in a most electrifying way. The lines under the pensive eyes gives great authenticity to the character of this mysterious boss haunted with a past, who is jaded by life to a certain extent, and seems to be keeping it together only because of his thirst for the truth. The various facets of Kabir Sharma: The arrogant boss ,the tender father figure to kids and the vulnerable guy in love, Rajiv Khandelwal aces them all with remarkable ease.
Kritika Kamra makes Ananya, utterly delectable due to the spontaneity she brings to the character. Her dialogue delivery gives equal amount of spunk and innocence to this Delhi girl out to own the world , even though largely unequipped to do so. Highly impractical but extremely intelligent, Ananya Kashyap is only stoppable when Kabir Sharma crosses her path and luckily for us, he does that a lot. Kritika plays the awed fan girl to Kabir with as much finesse as the defiant reporter who does not hesitate to disobey his orders if they don’t make sense to her. Thanks to her expressive face, the confusion and sadness that comes with falling in love with a difficult person, is translated seamlessly from the script to the screen.
The tension when stark opposites attract, brings a definite spark to such love stories and Reporters creates quite some spark every time the leads share the screen. Every time Kabir insults Ananya, viewers can sense something building up inside her. This build-up is gradual and hints towards an explosive end to her silence. Like all other employees at KKN, she is torn between admiring him and hating him. And as he is the only reporter who had written about his father being innocent eight years ago, she hangs on to this admiration with all her might, despite everything. Kabir dislikes her unorthodox approach and her fierce independence but recognizes her talent instantly. This tension, delightfully palpable, finally bursts on screen when KKN hosts a party to celebrate the No 1 spot where Ananya high on alcohol, insults him by releasing all the pent up rage inside her.
This party ends the autocratic phase in KKN and Kabir decides to adopt a diplomatic way of getting things done his way. This works very well for him as he manages to accompany Ananya ( much to her chagrin) to a super explosive interview with a reclusive terrorist rebel. It is only when they get kidnapped by these rebels, their relationship reaches a notch up. Ananya is bowled over all over again by this new Kabir who is sensitive enough to console her, wise enough to caution her and brave enough to stand up for her. When they escape and come back, the impression of the 2 days spent in close proximity, refuses to leave both of them. Ananya realizes she might have fallen in love with him. But as in all love stories, ego and misunderstandings pull them apart and as we speak, all is not going well at the KKN office.
While content and cast have unequivocally made Reporters a show worth watching, the crisp execution cannot be ignored. Ananya’s emotional bond with her family is one of the most interesting example of creativity with a difference. The mother-daughter bond is delightfully unpretentious: one of the extremely rare times Indian TV has got it just right. They are extremely close yet there is space that is respected. It is great to see how Ananya’s mother would rather worry about what to pack for her lunch rather than getting her married. Isn’t that a welcome break from the dozen shows which insist on pushing “the paraya dhan” theory down our throats? Mrs. Kashyap doesn’t fret about the time Ananya comes back home as long as she is informed, nor does she goes on a guilt trip because her daughter works to sustain the family. Now this is a story which just lets a woman be. Neither glorifies nor downplays her sex. This kind of evolution of content is needed in the context of rapidly changing Indian middle class.
Equally excellent execution shows through in emotional scenes. When Ananya gets to know that her father is dead, she does not break down. Visibly shocked, she tells Kabir to leave her alone. She goes on to reveal this to her mother with unflinching honesty and together as a family they deal with it. The grief comes out stronger because it is contained. That’s another fresh break from shows which insist on going overboard with glycerine in hopes of buying some screen time without quality content. Even when Ananya breaks down in captivity, Kabir asks her to keep it together in measured words. He is sensitive but precise. In the same way when Ronnie is rejected by Ananya, his eyes glisten with hurt, but he goes on about his work. Measured reactions make this show real and relatable.
As I said earlier, Reporters also scores for keeping KKN’s office politics real. There is a right mix of tension, conspiracy and humor which makes this workplace interesting. An example is a scene where Khalid gets a cake in office to celebrate the No 1 slot. Not a lot is said but everyone’s fear and insecurity is displayed in that one scene. Manav insists on Ananya cutting the cake to irk Kabir to which Kabir replies by calling all the junior staff to cut it. Manav feeds the cake to Ananya and Kabir to Richa. Malvika, who seems to be vying for attention from Kabir, feeds it to him while Manav, from whom she has broken up, watches with disdain. Ananya is ignored by Kabir and the politics between Team Manav & Team Kabir is carefully noticed by the sardonic Khalid who wants to use it keeping a power balance in office.
While enmities are natural, and some have more negative shades than others, every employee of KKN is essentially good at heart. Manav Gupta, is working hard to get Kabir out and keeps trying to instigate the staff against him. Although he is constantly conspiring against his editor in chief, the portrayal bends more towards an insecure kid who is not capable of anything more than childish mischief and sometimes even borderlines on even being adorable. Perhaps it is this insecurity in common that keeps pulling Malvika back to Manav even though they break up as soon as Kabir enters the scene. Kabir Sharma, on the other hand, keeps Malvika entertained as he is the boss’s daughter. Here is a man who knows what effect he has on women and blatantly uses it for his own good. Despite all these twisted equations, it is beautiful how the entire office comes together when Ananya and Kabir are kidnapped. The human side of the otherwise conniving competitors comes afore and makes the characters more relatable. This show stresses on the fact that circumstances are bigger villains than humans.
The costumes are well done as well. Ananya’s unique hair-do and one dangling earring , give her a unique style and an instant appeal. Kabir dresses as impeccably in casuals as in formals. The background music stays in background and does not ever overwhelm a scene. The crucial scenes are accentuated with suitable music themes but never distract you from actual action.
The writers of Reporters have done a commendable job with sequential causality. One scene prepares for the other scene or causes the other scene that comes after it, instead of events simply arranged in time sequence. Even after 50 episodes high on content, a lot of questions remain unanswered, undoubtedly to keep the viewers glued. What is Kabir Sharma’s past that he is running from? What is story behind his divorce and his relationship with Anurag? Who is Tarini? Why does he flinch when his brother asks him if he still drinks? Much like Ananya, who gets a questionnaire made to decode the mysterious Kabir as soon as he arrives in office, I am ready with one of my own, in for the long run for this one on Sony TV.