• Writer's Collective

Scam 1992- The Harshad Mehta Story.

A scene from the web series that everyone is talking about.

Harshad Mehta is a jobber at the Bombay Stock exchange and sees the chaos that's there on the floor. He is new. He gets on to the bottom. His hesitant and gawky persona slowly shifts into a confident and communicative self over a few selling penny stocks sessions. He arrives at the office and tells his boss that he wants to go big with stocks. The small play is not for him.

He is smiling. The boss is thinking. And he talks about trust and other things. Harshad understands what he says with small nods, but the all knowing smile does not leave his face.

It is that smile he carries through when he goes to be a big bull broker in the same stock exchange from the small jobber that he was.

Frankly, a very new way of looking at characters on screen.

Scam 1992, The Harshad Mehta Story, is a financial thriller. In the mould of Michael Lewis stories. So, how to make it attractive on screen? Give each character a persona and thumping dialogues apart from the staging and the story by itself.

It is what Sumit Purohit and Saurav Dey do, as writers, picking this source story up from Sucheta Dalal and Debasish Basu's book on The Scam in 1992, they run with it to where the dialogue writer Vaibhav Vishal and director Hansal Mehta chisel it to create each character.

It's not only Harshad Mehta himself. It's his wife. It's his brother. It's his mates in the bourses. The bankers. The scheming securities trader Kedia. It's that Citibank executive. Those journalists, Sucheta and Debasish who try to break the story and then later try even to get Harshad's point of view.

The story is actual history, with only some names of companies changed for consumption. Here's a Rajdeep Sardesai, who's Sucheta's boss. There's a Dileep Padgaokar who the Times of India chief. There's RK Laxman walking in and out of TOI building in Churchgate.

Very authentic. Very zippy.

The story holds you by the jugular, and you can't let go. The music is like another character continually building up each scene as Harshad fights for his space or existence. And every episode ends with a raucous hit from the early 90s. Vishwatma and the likes. All very kitsch and snazzy.

The acting is way above par from anything that we have seen lately. And by almost all the actors. Pratik Gandhi leads the gang of able theatre actors as Harshad Mehta himself. His gait, poses, arrogant body language, driven eyes, and smile contribute to Harshad immensely as a character. A trained theatre actor, he infuses the character with thumping dialogues that makes the character buzz like hell. Shwetha Dhanwantary plays Sucheta with poise and no-nonsense but simple template that's arresting. Rajat Kapoor as Madhaven, the CBI investigator with such delicious attitude that his two-episode appearance stays in your mind forever. Satish Kaushik does the role of Many bhai, the reigning big bull who Harshad topples after arriving at the stock exchange. Satish plays it unlike anything else that he's done before, and it's so good that I am tempted to say that this has been his best outing in films. The other actors live their roles. K K Raina as Pherwani and Kartik Krishnan as Chandraswami rate special mentions as they are simply their characters.

Hansal Mehta has always been in the top rung of directors, but this takes him to another level altogether. I was so reminded of Soderbergh and Greengrass as I watched his work. Hansal is one director now who can work a character until he flowers on-screen with sublimated effort. It shows. What a piece of work! Maintaining the pace of the show, the intensity of the story, and yet such characterization.

Sony LIV does well to grant the stage that this series requires. The budget, the cast, the production design, and the editing work all bring about a great result.

Go, watch Scam 1992, and make your week.

- Indraneel Majumdar

Director - Hansal Mehta

Available on Sony LIV

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