Hansal stamp on Telgi scam : The Tribune India

Hansal stamp on Telgi scam

Hansal stamp on Telgi scam

Gagan Dev Riar (centre), who plays Abdul Karim Telgi, pulls off the rough edges with a flourish and that is truly commendable.

Film: Scam 2003: The Telgi Story

Director: Tushar Hiranandani

Cast: Gagan Dev Riar, Mukesh Tiwari, Sana Amin Sheikh, Bharat Jadhav, Shaad Randhawa, Shashank Ketkar, Nikhil Ratnaparkhi, Sameer Dharmadhikari and Bharat Dabholkar

Nonika Singh

Anatomy of greed, the downside of unbridled ambition or a peep into a sharp albeit crooked mind? “Life mein aage badhna hai to thoda daring toh karna padega na, darling.” The dialogue that is repeated several times in Hansal Mehta’s latest financial thriller is almost the cornerstone of its lead protagonist/antagonist’s life. “Yeh meri aur mere khwaabon ki kahaani hai,” says the pivotal character, conman Abdul Karim Telgi, well in the beginning. Whether his name rings a bell or not, the series will hold on to you like glue just as the ‘Scam’ franchise’s predecessor, ‘Scam 1992’, did.

Showrunner Hansal Mehta and director Tushar Hiranandani take you deep into his world of manipulations and subversion of law. How he pulled off the stamp paper scam forms the crux of the narrative that follows almost a linear graph. Step by step, we are drawn into the mechanics of his illegal plan of action. From a fruit-seller to the mastermind of the Rs 30,000-crore fraud, his rise is dovetailed as systematically as the man who made it possible.

Indeed, some drama does seem a trifle exaggerated. Making something as dour as the story of a fake stamp paper enticing isn’t easy and the dash of masala is in order here. But the makers deserve credit for decoding the technicalities of the scam for the layman without compromising on the specifics. Actor Gagan Dev Riar even pulls off the rough edges with a flourish and that is truly commendable. His face is a sea of emotions and goes way beyond the navrasas. If at one moment he is a smart Alec salesman, at another, he is a caring husband and father; above all, he is this corruptible force who knows that every man has a price. To put it simply, Riar is a revelation.

For some time now, we have been saying how writing is the king on OTT. This series, based on Sanjay Singh’s book ‘Telgi: Ek Reporter Ki Diary’, and adapted by writers Karan Vyas and Kiran Yadnyopavit, proves how the sparkle of writing can enhance storytelling. Only Riar proves how actors are the true masters and drivers of this new medium. Not a single emotion of Riar seems fake — be it his audacious attempt to bribe a man at the Nasik Printing Press or his inflated ego trip at the dance bar, we see his strengths and foibles.

Yes, like all of Hansal’s characters, this one is believable and relatable; you don’t abhor him at all. Certainly, you see him for what he is: a man who will brook nothing on his way to the top, someone who takes pride in “Mujhe paisa kamaana nahin, banana hai”. And mint money he did, just like he minted those fake stamp papers.

On the flip side, however, the series is so busy building up the arc of Telgi that it doesn’t pay as much attention to the other characters. Sure, Talat Aziz, playing his father-in-law, stands on a firm footing. All the other actors, be it Shashank Ketkar, Bharat Dabholkar and Sameer Dharmadhikari, also belong to the milieu that has been crafted with the authenticity quotient intact. If Telgi was consumed by the obsession to rise and rise, the series seems a bit too preoccupied with staying close to its anti-hero. The fact that much of the narrative is in first person also reveals that the makers are not antipathetic towards its lead.

As only five episodes have dropped so far, you begin to fathom what must have led to his downfall. For, it wasn’t simply ‘kanoon ke lambe haath’. After all, he had almost all the upholders of law, from the police to politicians and government officers, well within his grasp. Will the rest of the five episodes streaming on SonyLiv make a hero out of him or serve as a telling cautionary tale?

It’s more than evident that Telgi was not the only one who benefited from the behemoth he envisioned and created. The rot runs deep and that is why men like Telgi are born, survive and even die. Perhaps we all know that. Only, Mehta’s second addition to the ‘Scam’ franchise presents it as a fascinating blend of fact and fiction, turning around what is in public domain into a thrilling and compelling fare. We are waiting with anticipation for Telgi’s hubris to turn into his nemesis.