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Indian documentary ‘While We Watched’ wins Peabody Award

The documentary had received rave reviews from all around the world when it was released for public broadcast in 2023

Indian documentary ‘While We Watched’ wins Peabody Award
[Source photo: IMDb]

While We Watched, an Indian film about a newsroom in crisis, received the best documentary prize at the 84th Peabody Awards. The ceremony will be held next month at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles. 

Vinay Shukla, director of the acclaimed documentary An Insignificant Man, based on the Indian politician and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, brought While We Watched to national audiences on POV, America’s longest-running documentary series. 

The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2022 where it won the Amplify Voices Award and its Asia premiere at the Busan International Film Festival where it won the Cinephile Award. 

Out of the 41 nominees across documentary, news, public service, and radio/podcast categories for stories released in 2023, the film, based on the life of the acclaimed senior journalist and former NDTV anchor Ravish Kumar, stood out as a compelling contender for the prestigious award. 

Shukla announced the win in a social media post on Instagram.

“I dedicate this award to Jess Search, whom I miss terribly, and to my uncle Sarvesh Shukla, who smiles at me every time I see him,” said Shukla.


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A post shared by Vinay Shukla (@shukla__vinay)

The documentary, filmed with an intimate handheld style, had received rave reviews from all around the world when it was released for public broadcast in 2023, with the British comedian and talk show host John Oliver even dubbing it as one of the most important films of the year. 

When asked about the journey of the film, an elated Shukla told Press Insider that it has been nothing short of incredible.

“I am really grateful to the audiences who have stood by the film and championed it,” he said.

Since 2022, the film has traveled far beyond its initial premiere. Screenings at prestigious festivals like the Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image (MAMI) and the Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) garnered audience acclaim from all across the country.

The film ran in New York for six weeks, where Oliver interviewed both Shukla and Kumar on the opening night after having seen the film twice, and also ran for eight weeks in the UK. For some viewers, the film was a revelation, exposing them to realities they never knew existed.

For two years, Shukla had embedded himself with Ravish Kumar, following his every move, capturing the journalist’s relentless fight for truth. Exhaustion hung heavy over the NDTV newsroom as misinformation thrived, ratings became the sole metric for television news, and celebratory cake cuttings marked a constant stream of employee departures. 

“We spent over two years collecting the moments that make it to the film, and the access to Ravish (Kumar) was built over a long period of time. I’m very aware that this kind of access is unprecedented, and grateful to Ravish, to NDTV, and his colleagues, as not many films like these have ever been made,” said Shukla.

The film also documents the barrage of daily death threats Kumar received on his mobile phone. Surrounded by an atmosphere of clashing opinions fueled by tall and charismatic media figures and blatant bias, the film lays bare the critical role of independent journalism and the precarious state of democracy. 

According to Shukla, the consumption of non-fiction content in the country has increased manifold since the past few years owing to social media where people are sharing vlogs and insights into their daily lives on a regular basis. With a rise in consumption of news and reality television, the appetite for consumption of non-fiction content has only increased.

“With the current lot of non-fiction films that are doing well internationally, it is only telling of the credibility and the craft that is there to our work. There is a huge demand for that work, and the filmmakers and films are good. All we need to figure out now is the distribution of those films, and we are all working on it,” Shukla added.

Through the film, Kumar, navigating a series of challenges at work and home, acknowledged a crucial truth in his pursuit: “Not all battles are fought for victory. Some are fought simply to tell the world that someone was there on the battlefield.”

The film will be streaming on streaming platform Mubi from May 24. 


Shireen Khan is a Senior Correspondent at Press Insider. She covers lifestyle, culture, and health. More

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