At a time when journalism is under a cloud, it is good to see an earnest, fools-rush-in kind of reporter as the protagonist in Lost, directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, whose best known film is the pro-consent Pink (2016).

The ZEE5 release is a film in search of a cause, throwing into the mix political and police corruption, caste, journalistic ethics, a Maoist agenda, street theatre and marital friction. The only all-purpose villain who does not make an appearance is a real estate developer. The film looks like it was truncated from a web series, losing out on character definition, development and crucial plot links.

Carrying on the tradition of idealistic journalists in Hindi movies (with New Delhi Times being the gold standard), Kolkata-based Vidhi (Yami Gautam Dhar) works for a news portal. She is first seen at a police station. Namita (Honeyy Jaiin), accompanied by her husband Aman (Akshay Kapoor), is also there to report the disappearance of her brother, Ishaan (Tushar Pandey).

It is not clear what kind of reporter Vidhi is, but she grabs on to the story like her job depended on it. The missing guy is labelled a Maoist by the cops. In a blink, his TV anchor girlfriend Ankita (Pia Bajpiee) has moved into a swanky apartment gifted by the politician Ranjan (Rahul Khanna) and given an electoral ticket.

Rahul Khanna in Lost (2023). Courtesy Namah Pictures/ZEE5.

The plot covers seven months during which time Ankita wins the elections. Meanwhile, Vidhi is still plodding over the story, digging into the bylanes of Kolkata (meticulously shot by Avik Mukhopadhyay), trying to trace Maoist leader Rana (Kaushik Sen), confronting cops and the suave Varman, giving the viewer no clue as to exactly what she is investigating and why. Her editor Kunal (Suman Mukhopadhyay) must be the most patient man on earth.

Meanwhile, two clownish henchmen follow her around, try to intimidate her grandfather (Pankaj Kapur), and send her threatening notes the old way – words cut from magazines glued to paper. For just a few minutes, Vidhi is scared enough to cover her head and wear sunglasses. With all her naive bluster, Vidhi is not even aware that she is protected by the privilege offered by her wealthy parents and the grandfather, who is a former professor with enviable access to the corridors of power.

In between her pursuit of the story, which she insists is about missing people, when there is murder and other evil going on around her, are the pleasant scenes of Vidhi and her grandfather and the very civil quarrels with her estranged husband (Neel Bhoopalaman), who wonders why a Dalit turning to Maoism is such a big deal. Ishan, who is in the eye of the storm, remains a hazy figure, even though Vidhi has determined that he is a helpless waif, who needs rescuing.

The weakest character in Shyamal Sengupta’s script is Ranja. You are expected to believe he is evil, because all politicians on screen are generically rotten, but he is not actually seen as involved in anything too wicked. There are too many whys and hows left dangling in the air.

Yami Gautam Dhar does what she can with her sketchy role and resists the temptation to play Vidhi with glowering intensity. Pankaj Kapur expectedly excels in his hackneyed grandfather role. Other actors, particularly Rahul Khanna, and Bengali artist Sohag Sen as Ishan’s mother (described as a “wounded angel” by Vidhi) are wasted in roles that offer them nothing much to do.

Lost (2023).