'Jessica' movie killed the media spirit

By Sandesh Prabhudesai
22 January 2011 20:36 IST

“No one killed Jessica” is a good inspiring movie. It shows what THE PEOPLE can do if alert citizens and pro-active media come together. But, sadly, what is shown is not a complete story. In fact, the movie ‘kills’ the united spirit of the media.

It is based on a true story, as we all know. Jessica Lall, a model working as a part-time bar girl, was killed by a minister’s young son – Manu Sharma, on 29 April 1999, in front of hundreds of people. In spite of this, he was released scot free in 2006, thanks to the political clout his father carried to ‘manage’ the witnesses in the court case.

Times of India headline, on that day, was the most catchy and disturbing. ‘No one killed Jessica’.

The whole world of media was disturbed. Print as well as TV. ‘Tehelka’, especially, investigated into it with a sting operation. The TV media, Star TV if I am not mistaken, aired the sting. There was a furore. Normally, the media tries to score over each other, sometimes by even countering the investigative stories.

But the sensible media of India – both print and TV – got together. They jointly took it up. Provoked the people. There was an uproar. Candle march. Protests. Condemnation.

As a result, the court reopened the case. Everybody, who had compromised, was exposed. The witnesses came forward fearlessly and told the truth ultimately. Manu Sharma was sentenced with life imprisonment.

It was an inspiring moment for every citizen of the country. Obviously, a film on Jessica story was a natural outshoot of it.

But, unfortunately, the movie has messed it up. It has unnecessarily highlighted one NDTV, projecting it as a torch bearer of the whole media movement.

The film, right in the beginning, shows two slides. One – that it is based on a true story but has added fiction to it. Two – it salutes the whole media and says that one media organisation is shown, as a representative of the whole media.

But in that case, the movie should have shown one fictitious name of the TV channel, not the real one - the NDTV. This is definitely not a ‘true story’.

Secondly, is it the only TV media that took up the issue? Definitely not. In fact, more than TV, it was the print media that made a consistent follow up of the issue, right from the time Jessica was killed till Manu Sharma walked out free.

Even the movie shows the way newspapers brought headline reports of the court verdict, acquitting Manu Sharma. These newspaper reports ultimately woke up the TV media. But their conscious and alert role is finished in just one shot – the headlines, including ToI headline – No one killed Jessica.

Then Meera of NDTV (Rani Mukherjee) takes up the issue. She resembles NDTV’s Barkha Dutt, who is also shown on the war front during Kargil war. In reality, I doubt whether Barkha Dutt alone had taken up the issue publicly, the way movie projects it.

At the end of the movie, the film shows one more slide, thanking ‘Tehelka’ for its investigative journalism in Jessica case. But there is absolutely no mention of Tehelka investigation in the whole movie, except at one place one person is shown reading Tehelka. In that sense, the movie is definitely not a true story.

Of course I have no right to say how director Rajkumar Gupta should write his screenplay. As said in its first slide, it’s a true story combined with fiction. But, as a journalist, I am pained with the grave injustice made to the spirit of media that was displayed with practical and united action to expose the ‘power conspiracy’ behind the court verdict.

The general public is not a fool. The public is also not a coward. But they have no voice. We, the media, are their voice. When we voice out fearlessly,  the silent wise people start gathering behind you. Not for cheap publicity, but to support the genuine cause.

It has happened several times in socio-political history of India. Media has been the strongest weapon even before democracy was established in India – during British days. It became a weapon even when the media was silenced during the Emergency by then prime minister Indira Gandhi. The blank editorials spoke more than what the words could say...

The weapon showed its power when Union Carbide gas leak killed thousand innocents. The print media showed its weaponry power even when the TV media brokered with Nira Radia recently.

In Goa too, the media has combined with the people during its Liberation struggle against the Portuguese. Without the media (especially ‘Rashtramat’), we would have not been able to retain independent identity of Goa. It would have been part of Maharashtra today.

In 1989, Goan media spearheaded the people’s movement to oust Dayanand Narvekar as the speaker in an alleged molestation case. The recent case is the agitation of the media-public combine against destructive Regional Plan 2001, which was finally scrapped and Goa saved from destruction.

This is the strength of our democracy. India, and even the smallest part of India, gets saved or progresses when media and the people come together. At one time, it was the print media. Today, it is the print, TV and the Internet media.

Yes, Jessica’s killer was finally sent to the jail with media initiative combined with People’s support. Not just one TV channel or not just the TV media. The whole media. In fact, print media did the whole groundwork and then TV media took it ahead.

People responded. It was just impossible if people had not responded. They responded not to the TV campaign alone. They responded to the combined effort of the whole media.

Thanks to Rajkumar Gupta, who positively projected the role of the media. However, he should have not killed the ‘united spirit’ of media. In that sense, Jessica movie has definitely killed the media – the alert and united media of India.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Sandesh Prabhudesai

Sandesh Prabhudesai is a journalist, presently the Editor of goanews.com, Goa's oldest exclusive news website since 1996. He has earlier worked as the Editor-in-Chief of Prudent & Goa365, Goa's TV channels and Editor of Sunaparant, besides working as a reporter for Goan and national dailies & weeklies in English and Marathi since 1987. He also reports for the BBC. He is also actively involved in literary and cultural activities. After retirement from day-to-day journalism in 2020, he is into Re-Search Journalism (पुनर्सोद पत्रकारिता), focusing on analytical articles, Video programs & Books.

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Previous Comments

Dear Sandesh

maybe, the media once did have a united spirit or at least were united when they believed in a common cause...slowly but surely commerce has dictated how and what the media should or should not say and I'm sure if we were to read the fine print, the film that you mention must have been"partly sponsored" by the news agency its has chosen to project....the medis, may I add has also committed 'harakiri' when it comes to credibility. These are hard and painful times for sincere and committed journalism, which I do believe will survive and emerge once it introspects and cleanses its soul.

I am not endorsing the film and niether am I commenting on its content as I have not seen it as my daughter who saw it, said that the film was like watching NDTV for 3 hours at a stretch!!! I am only responding to your take on the united spirit of the media......I am glad that someone still believes in it.......

- Anita Haladi, Caranzalem, Goa | 01 st February 2011 14:20


yes sandesh bhai i agree with what you said that it has showed just NDTV as the one channel fighting for Jessica and Tehelka and star tv's struggle is ignored. But the truth is the movie is quite inspiring and awakenig. Atleast made methink in another way. Just thought if Jessica can get justice after 10 years because of media pressure why cant we do same with Mahanand's victims and also Nadia? are we goin to say "No one killed Nadia" one day?? definately not! hope we do something for them! nice write up!

- tanvi, ponda | 28 th January 2011 21:26


Good Analysis

your analysis tempted me to watch movie i will watch movie and will give my further comment on this article

- sanjay Dessai, Curchorem Goa | 23 rd January 2011 07:45


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