Director: Tushar Hiranandani
Cast: Gagan Dev Riar, Sameer Dharmadhikari, Bhavna Balsaver, Mukesh Tiwari, Sana Amin Sheikh, Bharat Jadhav, Shaad Randhawa, Shashank Ketkar
Where: Streaming now on Sony LIV
Rating: 3 stars
Deciphering the murkiness behind a common man’s quest for power and how his insatiable greed can single-handedly bring a country to its knees, showrunner Hansal Mehta and director Tushar Hiranandani present the tale of Abdul Karim Telgi, the notorious mastermind behind the Telgi scam, which involved counterfeiting stamp papers, the scale of which amounted to Rs. 30000 crores, in Scam 2003: The Telgi Story.
Before we delve into the merits of the series, it is imperative to provide a brief synopsis of who Telgi was and what was his journey about. Once a fruit vendor, who hailed from Belgaum, Karnataka, Telgi moved to Saudi Arabia for better prospects before moving back to Mumbai, where he helped daily wage labourers secure better opportunities by forging their paperwork. He eventually found humongous wealth in counterfeiting stamp papers, which led him to masterminding one of the biggest financial scams that the country has ever witnessed.
Inspired from Sanjay Singh’s fictional account Telgi Scam: Reporter Ki Diary, Scam 2003 unfolds as a five-part series in what is deemed as Volume 1. Yes, a Volume 2 is will eventually follow. Featuring music producer Achint Thakkar’s iconic Scam Theme, that gained immense popularity on social media following the release of Scam 1992, the series begins with Telgi likely to blurt out an influential name who aided in him carrying out the scam, as he undergoes a crucial narcotics test. But as the audio blurs during the confession, we are taken back in time to trace the backstory of Abdul’s origins, his trials with life and the cards he had to deal with.
Theatre favourite Gagan Dev Riar is once again such a pleasant discovery by Mehta and casting director Mukesh Chhabra. The man disappears into effectively emoting Telgi and we really hope this series helps filmmakers dwell into the actor’s potential further.
But coming to the merits of the series, unfortunately, its pacing is what can go against it. This is a lavish and rather indulgent narrative and while we get that the makers want to build their characters’ world, much of the story’s intent, written by Kiran Yadnyopavit, Kedar Patankar and Karan Vyas, gets lost in transit.
Although the series of events and the differing central characters are enough for viewers to tell both Scam 1992 and 2003 apart, somewhere the makers seem to be trying very hard to cash in on the popular sentiment that the earlier show boasted of. It’s almost as if they’ve concluded that the success of the Pratik Gandhi-starrer will translate into viewership for the new show. Although I may have to add that Scam 2003 does not have enough memorable one-liners to recollect unlike its predecessor where makers had to eventually release individual scenes on social media to engage with fans.
On the brighter side, Scam 2003 does stick true to the events that transpired and more importantly does not glorify or justify the unforgiveable actions of its protagonist. While the earlier show attempted to humanise Harshad Mehta, no such liberties are shown towards Telgi as his actions were clearly deplorable. But Riar is so convincing and frankly, spellbinding with his act, you watch in utter disbelief as the man succumbs to his greed and becomes invincible.
For the actor alone, Scam 2003 is a fairly recommended watch. Just keep the more popular prequel and your love for it aside.