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Vinay Shukla and Ravish Kumar on the Relevance of ‘While We Watched’ in Today’s Media Landscape

Vinay Shukla‘s Peabody Award-winning documentary “While We Watched” has finally been released in India and is now streaming on MUBI. The documentary offers an intimate look into the life of Ravish Kumar, a Ramon Magsaysay Award-winning journalist, and examines the state of broadcast news in India today. In an exclusive interview, Shukla and Kumar discuss the making of the documentary, its critical portrayal of modern journalism, and its current relevance.

Shukla revealed that the focus on Kumar’s loneliness in the documentary stemmed from his own feelings of isolation and marginalization in a rapidly changing society. He saw a reflection of his own struggles in Kumar’s experiences. “When I started making films 15 years ago, everything seemed possible. By 2019-20, I felt increasingly lonely and marginalized,” Shukla shared. Seeing Kumar grapple with similar feelings while maintaining his journalistic integrity inspired Shukla to document this aspect of Kumar’s life.

Ravish Kumar A Journalist’s Solitude

Kumar noted that the documentary’s portrayal of his loneliness was unexpected but accurate. He explained that while he is surrounded by people during broadcasts, much of his life is spent in solitude. “The filmmaker has seen me for who I am, not how I’m perceived,” Kumar reflected. He emphasized that journalism is often a lonely profession, requiring intense focus and dedication despite being constantly in the public eye.

Courage in Journalism

Shukla credited Kumar with the courage to speak truth to power, a central theme of the documentary. He aimed to depict Kumar’s unwavering resolve in the face of increasing challenges. “What I was trying to tell was the story of individual resolve. In times like those, what is your North star?” Shukla asked, highlighting the importance of maintaining journalistic integrity amid political and social upheaval.

Current State of Journalism

Kumar discussed the deteriorating infrastructure of journalism, expressing concern over the increasing commercialization and politicization of news. “The infrastructure of journalism has ended. That’s more of a concern for me,” Kumar stated. He emphasized the need for structural reforms to preserve the integrity of the profession.

Relevance of ‘While We Watched’

Shukla and Kumar believe the documentary is highly relevant in today’s media landscape. The film’s release coincides with the ongoing Lok Sabha Elections and global conflicts, highlighting the urgent need for unbiased and courageous journalism. “News is a major public information system today, and it’s essential to find out what’s wrong with it and how we can make it better,” Shukla asserted.

Kumar remains hopeful about the future of journalism but acknowledges the challenges ahead. He believes that honest and courageous journalism can still thrive, even in the face of adversity. “There are many more journalists who still go out and report in the elections today,” he noted, encouraging aspiring journalists to maintain their integrity and dedication to the truth.

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