Some Ramblings - Nightcrawler (2014) by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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The car zipped through the tunnel snaking its way through the crawling traffic at a speed far greater than the posted limits, putting not just its inmates in the path of certain doom, but everyone else's whose only mistake was to cross paths with the black limousine. As if this wasn't adventuresome enough, it was chased by a bunch of equally fast moving bikes driven by photographers with a certain death wish, who expertly try to balance the bike, snap their cameras while in motion, and all this while trying to avoid collision with other moving vehicles. It took only a few minutes to turn this scene of excitement into a moment of great tragedy when the car rammed into one of the pillars of the tunnel while trying to swerve around a vehicle, instantly killing the driver and one of its passengers. What followed after however defied any explanation of the dark side of human psyche. As police reports later confirmed in the day, Diana was in her last gasps trying desperately to get out of the mangled car as the paparazzi circled around the scene of carnage clicking away without so much as extending a helping hand. That it would not had mattered anyway because she would had lost her life before any help made its way into the tunnel was beside the fact to the grotesqueness of the image of people trying to get rich at the expense of someone's life, quite literally. The whole world howled, the paparazzi were arrested and the regular tabloids who routinely plunged to new depths in publishing standards wilted under the mounting public pressure and refused to purchase and publish the pictures of the dying moments of the people's princess. What was truly sickening wasn't the fact that the actions of photographers that day directly caused the death of Diana with their aggressive measures of cornering her any which way possible. What was indeed shocking was that such a culture exists in the first place, an entire ecosystem that thrives on people's insatiable appetite of watching celebrities at their worst best, a delivery system that would pay top dollar to get their hands on the images of those unguarded moments and finally the boots on the ground, the paparazzi, whose operating principle steadfastly remains, the worse, the better.

'Nightcrawler' is a peep into the persona of one such subclass of reporters who push, shove and con their way into capturing the first images of human misery (preferably death over destruction). The old adage of news business 'if it bleeds, it leads' is given a new twist here questioning whether it even matters if the bleeding part is due to news that was made or made up. If electronic (and print) media routinely puts a price on getting its sensational footage of the day served up fresh and fast, it is only natural that a new breed of reporters rise up to the task, taking the extra step past the regular ambulance chasing, police frequencies scanning, and try to create the news, instead of the old fashioned way of patiently waiting for the news to happen, so as to capture the raw images first hand in all its high definition glory. Before the high brow society turns its nose up on these grave robbers and carcass collectors, it serves well to remind itself that programs and channels that specialize in such sensationalism consistently top the ratings and other viewership charts, which calls to fore the question, whether it is the producers or the consumers who are driving the content. 'Nightcrawler' is not a satire on the depravity of the content starved round the clock news networks, in fact it is a straight up reflection on the current state of affairs, where the never ending need to stay on the top of the charts day after day after day push the organizations to find creative ways of spicing up the content with sleaze, slander, shock or sensation. With widespread availability of latest gadgetry, where an ordinary citizen could equip himself with the same set of tools as the police and other emergency services, all it takes is a little commitment and perseverance on the part of the regular folk to usurp the role of first responders and get the footage they want as the emergency unfolds. More so in the current climate where all the business operations, and that includes news, are chopped up into strategic pieces and outsourced, only to be coalesced at some point and presented as a whole, the chasm between news gathering and news reporting is wide enough to drown all the legitimacy and credibility of the new business.

Jake Gyllenhaal gives a career worthy performance as a news stringer - a freelancer specializing in the morbid and gory, who sells his footage to the highest bidder in the news business - with just the right amount of drive and deviance. Parallels can be drawn to De Niro's Travis Bickle character in 'Taxi Driver', in that both these characters are loners, socially awkward, nocturnal creatures who cruise the desolate streets in the night, looking for causes to peg their perversions on. If for Bickle the cause comes in the form of rescuing a teenage prostitute from the clutches of her pimp (and the evil world), Gyllenhaal's character is much more focussed and organized as to legitimize his lunacy and validate his identity by aiming to rise through the ranks of the equally depraved news business. 'Nightcrawler' is sharp, precise and exact, with not an ounce of extraneousness and unnecessariness to the proceedings. It sparkles in the hands of an able writer and a meticulous editor, much like the sensational news stories that leave people clamoring for more.

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