Scam 2003: The Telgi Story(Vol 2 of 2)
Thank God It Is Friday but what a week it has been at the MAMI film festival! I have had an absolute ball watching and reviewing films from across the globe, while also balancing it out with the usual content that was released over the previous weekend. And as I approach the final weekend of MAMI with happy tears, I did have some room to sneak in the latest content which is out this weekend. With that, I have finished watching the second Volume of Scam 2003 which is now streaming on SonyLiv. The previous set of episodes were out a couple of months ago, and I was curious on how this ‘Scam’ would end. Yes, I am not a fan of a show being split midway into two parts given that as a viewer, there is an instant disconnect and it takes you a while to settle into the drama all over again. I hope the OTT platforms make note of this(yes, Hotstar is at it again with the third season of Aarya). So then, does the concluding part of Scam 2003 manage to impress, let’s find out.
Story & Screenplay
The second volume of Scam 2003 picks off from the same point where the first volume had ended, and while the first volume was essentially a buildup of the rise of Abdul Karim Telgi, the man behind a gigantic stamp paper scam running into crores and crores of Rupees, the second volume is focused towards his eventual downfall and the events leading up to his death(this ain’t a spoiler given that it is based on a true event). And the story here is quite compelling, especially with a bit of a cat and mouse game that is underway. The screenplay standing at 5 episodes ranging from 30 odd to 40 odd minutes was a brisk watch which in turn made me wonder on why a prestigious platform like SonyLiv would then divide a single season into two parts. But the proceedings are supremely compelling although a little patchy and rushed towards the end.
The drama opens with the limelight set of the protagonist following his act at a dance bar before branching into fringe events that are used almost as a catalyst in the larger context. In other words, the events transpiring around the same timeline had a massive impact in the fall of the protagonist which is nicely highlighted here. The writers introduce a new set of characters to slowly raise the stakes in the game but the internal equations between the characters keep shifting based on their vested interests. After a point, it is clear that there are multiple stakeholders to the scam where everyone is involved, and the protagonist just has to please the officials in cash or kind. Why am I not shocked? In between, the personal life of the protagonist is nicely touched upon which forms the emotional core of the drama, which also acts as a payback towards the end.
The proceedings are interesting and engrossing particularly when honesty enters the arena in the form of a couple of characters who would stop at nothing to lay their hands on the kingpin. Yet, the prevalent politics of the time did add a compelling layer to the narrative with a little cat and mouse game underway. I did feel though that this entire episode could have been concluded in under 8 episodes, or perhaps the final act could have been a little more fleshed out. The setup was such that it did drew you in the narrative, but the simplistic conclusion at the end just left me a little unsatisfied. But, I can give a little leeway if I were to watch the overall picture, and the journey itself seemed fascinating to the core, while being an eye opener on how Scams can transpire by simply tweaking the system rules.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are sharp and some of the one-liners are brilliantly penned wherein the lines make a solid impact. The BGM is good but how I missed the blaring flair of Achint Thakkar whose main theme of Scam 1992 is retained in the opening credits. The cinematography is wonderful capturing the vibe of the drama and the multiple cities which it is set in, wonderfully well. The yellow chrome filter is also symbolic that the drama is set in the past which was a clever way of integrating the timeline. The editing is crisp and sharp that always allows the drama to be eventful. Director Tushar Hiranandani does a wonderful job in creating moments in this seemingly convoluted drama. His craft lay in the non-hurried pacing of the drama that helped the viewers to gauge the individual while not coating him with a single paint. The direction was pretty good here.
The performances are emaculate with a stunning ensemble cast who excels in this department and full marks to the casting director Mukesh Chhabra here for backing some great talent on the show. Rahul Dev Shetty as Arvind is impressive. Bharat Dhabolkar as Jadhav, Komal Chhabra as DGP Priya and Shaad Randhawa as Sheikh have their moments to shine. Abhinay Bansod as Salim is well restrained. Saadhika Syal as Zia(adult version) has a stunning screen presence and makes an impact despite a limited screen time. Kirandeep Kaur as Parwin is fiery and does a swell job. Veterans like Kiran Karmarkar, Nandu Madhav and Bharat Jadhav make their presence felt. Aman Verma as CP Jagdish is dependable in a good job done.
Dinesh Lal Yadav aka Niruhua as Inspector Jaisingh is sincere and earnest. Mukesh Tiwari as Suryapratap is outstanding and he was an absolute joy to watch. Sana Amin Sheikh as Nafisa is wonderful to watch and she has such expressive eyes that she uses to emote. There was a good amount of restraint and poise in her act and she is incredible to watch.
Gagan Dev Riar as Telgi has an uncanny resemblance to him. His body language and mannerisms are so perfect that I could not have imagined anyone else in this role. He is playful yet assertive and far too unassuming in a towering act of the highest order. But the emotional streak in his performance is something to watch out for in the concluding act. His performance is surely right up there in the top performances of the year 2023!
The second and concluding volume of Scam 2003 is a compelling conclusion boasting of stunning performance that makes for a solid watch. While it would be unfair to compare it to Scam 1992 which is perhaps the best show ever produced in India(and Scam 2003 will always remain short of that), this one holds its own in many ways as well. Available on SonyLiv.