Sonali Bendre on The Broken News, the power of social media and the noise that comes with it

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Sonali Bendre on The Broken News, the power of social media and the noise that comes with it
Sonali Bendre on The Broken News, the power of social media and the noise that comes with it


As a journalist, Sonali Bendre’s character in The Broken News, Amina Qureshi, feels personal. She is the kind of editor every starry-eyed student of journalism hopes to work with. In a world ruled by TRPs and social media numbers, Sonali Bendre’s character stands out as a reporter with a strong sense of right and wrong and an even stronger sense of responsibility for the task, nay duty assigned to her.

It is well known that nobody gets into journalism to make money – there isn’t any. Sonali’s Amina Qureshi has to face that fact, that fear of getting shut down almost every day at Awaaz Bharati, the fictional news channel she runs in The Broken News. How she and her team fight to bring important news stories to the front forms the crux of the show. This also happens to be the actor’s OTT debut and she couldn’t have chosen a better script to back. She joined by fabulous actors like Jaideep Ahlawat, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Indraneil Sengupta and Faisal Rashid.

In an exclusive interview with Filmfare, Sonali Bendre talks about the balanced approach to TV journalism in The Broken News, her relationships with journalists and how she has seen entertainment journalism evolve over the years. Excerpts…

I have worked in TV journalism and you have got it bang on.

We have tried to be as authentic as we can. And the authenticity is the fact that you can’t say right or wrong, black or white, there are just so many factors that are into play.

My first question, even before I watched the series, was going to be – what made you take the plunge? But now I kind of get it. . .

For me, the relevance of the subject was very important. I think it was so relevant when there are so many things that are being said. The Broken News is the adaptation of the BBC original, Press, which was about two newspapers. And I thought it was a great baseline to base it on, by turning it into two news channels. I just thought it was a story that needed to be told now. We just needed to understand that it is so easy to say ‘You! Us! Them! ‘ . . . Everybody is pointing fingers at everybody but there are so many factors that come into play and I love the humanity of this story. What I understood was the newsroom – while being one of the most powerful places, you can feel so powerless at times. That dichotomy was so interesting to play and to bring forward.

You are a public figure and the media and public figures often don’t see eye to eye. How was it playing someone who was on the other side of the spectrum?

As people, there are so many times when you feel that it was the right choice and later, you sit back and think: ‘oh, I shouldn’t have done that’. The process to get something right is not easy. As a celebrity, whatever you do is always in the public eye and when you get it right, that’s fine but when you get it wrong. . .
I think somewhere, for journalists, it is the same thing – if you have done something wrong, it is still out there. People can reference it and say ‘oh you said it’, but today I changed my mind and know better! Somewhere, I feel that celebrities and journalists are similar in this aspect because we come under the same amount of pressure.

Other than that, it was just good to understand the human aspect and understand the human side of it. And as a celebrity, over the years there have been a lot of difficult times, but there have been equal amounts of times when I have made dear friends who are part of the press. There are some of them – when I started as an actor and I was absolutely new, they started as rookie reporters so it is a journey that we have gone through together. I think it is the person that matters, not the profession.

Sonali Bendre

There is a part in The Broken News when Amina decides to take down a potential funder at the risk of having her news channel shut down. In your life, have you ever faced such a decision where the fear is of getting shut down but you felt you couldn’t compromise on your ethics and values?

There is a very minor ad which I had done once in my life, which was some sort of a beer thing, I think. But since then, when it comes to smoking, tobacco, and all these products, I don’t endorse them. I don’t even do political rallies or that sort of thing – this has been a very conscious decision. When you say ‘shut down’, it wasn’t anything like ‘shut down’ but for me, it was my next paycheck coming in. My rent needed to be paid and I needed the money. It was a call that I took when I needed the money, it is not a call that I have taken when I don’t need that kind of money. So yes, I would say I understand that sort of conflict. I think that holds for everybody and I am not saying it is the right or wrong way to do it but we are all faced with choices, and our choices have repercussions and we have to live with those repercussions.

One of the reasons I loved The Broken News is that it does not demonize journalists. It has a very balanced take on us. . .

The credit completely goes to our writer and our director, Vinay Waikul, I love the way he has written it. So the balance comes from there and frankly, I was so happy to do it only because it was written so well. I really liked the fact that they had not demonized journalists. You cannot demonize people because everybody is a human being and there are different reasons why people make choices. And you know what? You can’t hang someone for a choice they made when they were younger and did not know better, it is not fair because we all learn as we grow. None of us are born knowing it all, we are all learning, and every day there is something more that we are picking up, growing, and hence changing our point of view. Here, it was lovely that you could see the human side and the struggles of these characters. None of them are perfect.

Sonali Bendre

Nowadays, if a member of the press posts something which is not true, you have access to social media and you can correct or debunk it. When we were growing up, we did not have that. So how have you seen entertainment journalism change over the years?

I think the reason I like social media is that I could get my fans to hear my voice and not a version of me that was being portrayed. When I say that, it does not mean that bad things are written. But just the fact that sometimes, when something doesn’t suit the narrative, they are left out. They are not lying because there are different sides to me but they would like to only portray the side that suits your purpose. So social media coming in and being able to put that out is a boon. When you could tell a lie and create a narrative that was totally false without any repercussions. . . today it is not that simple. Does that mean that is not happening today? No, it is happening today also but today the noise is so much, I feel that today, the noise is hiding the issues. There can be two versions of the same thing. It doesn’t have to be my way or the highway sort of thing. But on the other hand, social media also creates the noise that it creates and sometimes, in that noise, it is easy for the truth to get lost.

Can a public figure, a celebrity, and a journalist be friends?

Yes, if both of them can be mature about it then yes, they can definitely be friends.


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