The trial in the alleged sexual scandal of Tarun Tejpal is yet to start but a Bollywood film could soon revive memories of the case involving the veteran journalist and founder-editor of Tehelka.
Though the director, Shailendra Pandey, asserts the movie has no resemblance to Tejpal, Tehelka or the alleged case of sexual harassment, the film JD — it expands as Journalism Defined — actually revolves around a powerful editor tainted by charges of sexual harassment.
When work on JD started, it was thought that the movie would be about J Dey, the Mumbai-based investigative reporter who was gunned down by the underworld. But now, it emerges that the film is actually structured around Tejpal, a writer and former editor of what was India’s finest investigative news magazine.
Pandey still argues that it is not. “I neither know Tejpal, nor anyone involved in the case,” he said in a brief interview.
He did not mention that he had once worked as a cameraperson in Tehelka and was eventually promoted as the chief cameraman of the weekly.
The protagonist of the movie is Jai Dwivedi, a role essayed by actor Lalit Bisht, who starts his career from 'Prabhat Kranti' newspaper in Lucknow and eventually travels to Delhi to work for various publications before launching a feisty news magazine, 'Journalism Defined'.
The editor JD and the magazine, JD, are as synonymous as Tejpal and Tehelka. The movie shows how the editor was once a firebrand, honest writer who would hit out at corruption without fear, fight court battles, go without food, with his staff going without salaries but united for a cause.
“But then success goes to his head, he becomes powerful and starts compromising at virtually every step. Top investigations are dropped, cash earned and greed takes over everything,” claims Pandey, before repeating, “But this is not about Tehelka, it’s about a corrupt editor’s life. He (JD) was not corrupt when he started, the system corrupted him. He had to play ball because he could not work out of the system.”
The movie shows the editor working very closely with a female colleague, Arhiba Noor (essayed by Vedita Pratap Singh), who supports JD and his cause, especially during the crisis-ridden days after a sexual harassment charge is leveled against him by a female colleague. The hint at Tejpal’s former colleague, Shoma Chaudhury, is very apparent.
The movie has all the ingredients of a typical Bollywood potboiler. It has the editor and his sting-camera journalism that sank a top politician (aren't we talking about Bangaru Laxman here?) and his flashy pool parties with colleagues during site outs, a common feature at Tehelka.
Interestingly, the movie uses many real life people as actors. Politician Amar Singh is actually a neta in the film trying to find for himself, a larger role in Indian politics; retired Justice PD Kode, who delivered the historic verdict in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case and convicted actor Sanjay Dutt in the Arms Act case, is a judge; and journalists Sharat Pradhan, Subhas Shirke, Ratnamani Lal and Sunanda Dixit play editors and scribes. Tanu Sharma — the former IndiaTV anchor who shot into the news for alleging that she was mentally harassed by her seniors at the channel — is the anchor in the film, who breaks the news of JD being charged with sexual harassment.
The interesting twist in the movie is that it shows JD being charged with sexual harassment because he wanted to expose a top politician. Who is that politician? Pandey says it is for the viewers to draw their own conclusions.
The director said he will not comment on the future of the editor. “The judgment,” claims Pandey, “is the biggest climax of the film.”