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While We Watched – A Tale Of Dismantling Democracy In Modi’s India 

“While We Watched” presents a lamenting cry and fight by NDTV reporter Ravish Kumar in Modi's India! The movie shows us an India where free press and freedom of expression have just become a thing of the past – limited to pen and paper, through the lens of a journalist.

The dismantling of democracy in the modern years has fuelled the rise of one of the most gripping movies based on the decline of India’s broadcast media. Yes, you have guessed it right! We are here today to talk about the gem directed by Vinay Shukla, ”While We Watched’‘. The film is on the NDTV veteran news reporter Ravish Kumar. Ravish has already received huge praise and applause. With more than 04 awards and 02 nominations, the movie is an all-time hit! The first world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival was received with a great round of applause by the audience, which boasts of its own charisma in the cine industry. 

Earlier in 2022, the mainstream news station, NDTV was tactically acquired by the country’s billionaire, Gautam Adani, a close acquaintance of Modi, which has spurred doubts among the people about the country’s crackdown on democracy and freedom of speech and expression. Following this grim situation, Senior news journalist at the New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV), Ravish Kumar resigned from his decades of a professional career and now runs his own YouTube channel with the name ‘Ravish Kumar Official‘. Vinay Shukla through his new documentary has weaved the story of Ravish Kumar in a sensible way to showcase the grim situation of the Indian media in PM Modi’s reign! 

While We Watched – A Tale Of Dismantling Democracy In Modi's India

The movie “While We Watched “ takes us to the world of the Senior News Reporter at NDTV, Ravish Kumar as he struggles in his day-to-day life to raise his voice against the rising influence of the right-wing media on Indian soil. 

The movie begins with the protagonist, the most talked about journalist in the Indian media industry, Ravish Kumar, walking into an abandoned floor with its walls and ceilings being demolished. The movie furthers a bit and we see an exhausted Kumar walking across the room with a flashlight in his hand, and a painful silence on his face! This scene from the beginning unleashes before us the pathetic situation of the Indian press media, where Ravish Kumar remains the only journalist trying to save his India from the political monsters. The flashlight in his hand signifies nothing but his utter perseverance and determination to protect his own motherland from the vicious clutches of the political heads who view the opposition as “anti-nationalists”. 

“While We Watched” gains momentum through halfway into the film when Kumar’s search for truth and voicing against the so-called “patriots of the country” makes it impossible for the NDTV to stand on stable. Due to Kumar’s unapologetic voice against the right-wing media rises, we see that the Government tries to pull it down by censoring its broadcasts. Kumar, along with his colleagues can also be seen receiving death threats on a daily basis, which now manifests itself in the form of the channel losing viewers. What follows shakes the news channel from within. Several journalists and reporters leave NDTV in search of “greener pastures” which has now made NDTV even more weak. With a skeleton crew and budget cuts, Kumar finds it difficult to speak against the odds! Even his superiors advise him to take a step back and follow the paths of the other Indian news media channels – praising those in power to avoid constant crises and potential threats. 

Shukla has carefully framed Kumar as a lone figure, who is determined to expose corruption, but is also half convinced about the outcomes as the people seem happy to live life under the Modi Government. Although he seems enough confident on camera, with a stern expression on his face, and his voice raised against crime and criminals, we can often see a different side of him which is tired of all his daily struggles and constant failures at his work, that seems a natural gesture of any human being.

While We Watched – A Tale Of Dismantling Democracy In Modi's India

The movie furthers a bit, and we can see scenes from the 2019 elections and the Pulwama attack on Kashmir. While the patriots of India were busy launching attacks on other neighbouring countries, with other news channels thrilled enough to call it their “ultimate victory“, there was one figure who kept on fighting against the Government – who is now trying to escape internal problems in his own country in the name of “materialistic gains”. 

The film concludes with Kumar winning a prestigious journalism award which was publicised internationally. In the last scene, we see Kumar returning to his workplace and continuing with his daily professional goals, despite the challenges. 

While We Watched is a closer examination of the grim status of journalism in India. The film carefully portrays the blurring world of press and information. But, this movie doesn’t really put much focus on politics, rather it paints our view with the daily life struggles of being a “True Journalist“! As said by our protagonist, “Not all battles are fought for victory. Some are fought simply to tell the world that someone was there on the battlefield.

While the movie was successful to showcase the struggles faced by Ravish Kumar in both his professional and personal life, Shukla could not do justice to Kumar’s wife and daughter. The movie only tells us a little about Navaya – that she works at a university and does everything in her capacity to help her partner, but does not provide us with detailed information on Ravish Kumar’s partner. 

Awards And Nominations – While We Watched

While We Watched – A Tale Of Dismantling Democracy In Modi's India 

The Vinay Shukla movie, “While We Watched” has received several awards and nominations on the world stage. The year 2022 was a successful year for Shukla as his new project on Ravish Kumar, “While We Watched “ won the prestigious “Amplify Voices Award” at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. In the same year, the movie also made a record for itself by winning the Busan Cinephile Award at the 27th Busan International Film Festival. Further, the movie has also won the YLE Award for Best International Documentary at the Helsinki Documentary Film Festival, and the Sabeen Mahmud Award for Courage in Filmmaking at the Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival. The movie was also nominated several times, such as for the 2023 Activist Documentary Award, Cinema for Peace Award, and Beyond The Screen Competition Award at the DocAviv Film Festival. 

Ratings And Reviews 

Amidst the big-budgeted movies and big production houses now gravitating towards commercial films, parallel films such as “While We Watched“ feels like a breath of fresh air! While it is true that this movie has nothing fancy to it, what makes it stand out in the crowd is its simple storytelling and excellent direction. 

The movie has received an approval rating of 100% on the Rotten Tomatoes website, with an average rating of 10/10. 

  1. Directed by – Vinay Shukla
  2. Written by – Reshma Ramachandran, Amaan Shaikh, Vinay Shukla, Abhinav Tyagi
  3. Produced by – Luke W. Moody, Khushboo Ranka, Vinay Shukla
  4. Starring– Ravish Kumar, Sushil Bahuguna, Deepak Chaubey, Sushil Mohapatra, Swarolipi Sengupta, Saurabh Shukla
  5. Cinematography – Amaan Shaikh, Vinay Shukla
  6. Edited by – Abhinav Tyagi
  7. Music by – Joaquin Garcia
  8. Production Companies – BRITDOC Films , LONO Studio
  9. Release date – 11 September 2022 (TIFF)
  10. Running time – 94 minutes
  11. Languages – English, Hindi

Our rating – 9.5/10. 

The movie has not yet launched officially in India. 

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