It was obvious that when they announced a sequel to Scam 1992, there would be comparisons with the original as the bar set by the Harshad Mehta story was phenomenally high. And frankly, that is precisely the problem you see in Scam 2003: The Telgi Story. It maintains the visual textures, terrific casting choices, and even the predecessor’s emotional graph. But the overall storytelling doesn’t quite have the gist one would expect, considering this is pitched as a sequel.
As the title suggests, the series is about Abdul Karim Telgi. He was a fruit seller in Karnataka, and seeing his charm as a salesman, he was given a job opportunity in Mumbai. But the Mumbai life ignites dreams of Telgi to make huge money and stay away from the poor life he hated. In Scam 2003, we see the journey of this relentless man who goes after multiple forgery businesses to make quick money in a short time.
Unlike other series, there is no need to watch Scam 1992 before watching Scam 2003. Hence, if you are watching this one without watching the Pratik Gandhi starrer, I think you would find the storytelling engaging. Tushar Hiranandani, who directed Scam 2003, is trying to emulate the visual style Hansal Mehta has set with the first one, and at crucial points when Achint Thakkar’s signature music starts playing, you will get those goosebumps. What feels missing is the writing’s inability to depict the relentlessness of the central character. The filmy dialogues and conflicts had a sensible balance in the first part, but here, that balance is sort of not there, and that push to make us binge-watch the whole thing in one go is missing.
The series’ strong point is the performance of its leading man, Gagan Dev Riar. From the first scene of him selling fruits on a train, he creates an aura around that character. Riar prefers subtle variations to showcase the various emotions of the character, and he uses body language effectively to make the character look authentic. The smile and persuasive attitude he maintains in that area of the story where he has to manipulate a sincere government employee was such a charming act. Talat Aziz, as the first business partner of Abdul, was good in his character, and so was Shashank Ketkar as JK. The casting choices involving unfamiliar faces for the numerous roles in the series help the series maintain freshness, as it is difficult for us to assume what one character might do in the future.
The writing of Scam 2003 has the responsibility of making the journey of Telgi look believable to the audience. And the selection of portions they decided to invest in is a bit uneven. While Scam 1992 never skipped any phase in the life of Harshad Mehta, 2003 finds itself in a slightly difficult situation. There is a significant 7 years of Gulf life of Telgi that they just skipped through a voiceover. While Sucheta Dalal’s character was the narrator of 1992, Tushar Hiranandani’s version, which is based on Sanjay Singh’s Telgi Scam: Reporter’s ki Diary, narrates the story from Telgi’s perspective. At a time when one of the most popular shows like The Family Man decided not to make characters from non-Hindi-speaking regions speak Hindi, it was a bit baffling to see everyone in Abdul’s hometown in Karnataka speaking fluent Hindi.
Sony LIV has decided to release the series in two parts, and the second part of this series will stream in November. Maybe if you watch the whole series in one go in November, it might feel compelling holistically. Scam 2003: The Telgi Story is an engaging watch for sure. Scam 1992 was so intriguing that I remember watching all the episodes in one go and waiting impatiently for them to stream the last episode the next day evening. Gagan Dev Riar deserves applause for his terrific performance, but the series needs more energy.
Gagan Dev Riar deserves applause for his terrific performance, but the series needs more energy. Maybe if you watch the whole series in one go in November, it might feel compelling holistically.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended