Sunday, May 19

Scam 2003: The Telgi Story Review – Gagan Dev Riar Shines as Abdul Karim Telgi

Scam 2003: The Telgi Story Review – Gagan Dev Riar Shines as Abdul Karim Telgi


Scam 2003 Review: Gagan Dev Riar delivers a terrific performance as Telgi, embodying the character with determinedly ordinary body language’ a face like millions in the crowd, a bush-shirt bulging over a protruding stomach. Beneath this unassuming facade lies a razor-sharp mind, constantly scheming and strategizing on how to get ahead.

Rags-to-riches stories, especially when propelled by the sheer street-smartness and ‘jugaadoo’ resourcefulness of protagonists who remain likable and relatable even when engaging in questionable activities, always captivate our attention. Nobody aspires to be a steady, dull drone when they can soar, but only a few possess the audacity and the good fortune to go all the way.

 

Scam 2003: The Telgi Story - Gagan Dev Riar Shines as Abdul Karim Telgi
Scam 2003: The Telgi Story – Gagan Dev Riar Shines as Abdul Karim Telgi

 

‘Scam 1992’ brought us the Harshad Mehta story, directed by Hansal Mehta, and the 2020 series still stands tall among the best Indian web series. Now, it’s time for stamp-paper counterfeiter Abdul Karim Telgi’s tale in ‘Scam 2003,’ based on Sanjay Singh’s book ‘Telgi Scam: Reporter’s Ki Diary.’ The series is directed by Tushar Hiranandani and show-run by Hansal Mehta.

Telgi was eventually apprehended and met his demise in jail, but his audacious schemes that yielded unimaginable returns exposed the flaws in the ‘system’ governing us—a system that often excludes the common man from the realms of power and wealth. Both Mehta and Telgi started from humble beginnings and achieved everything, even if only for a brief moment. This is why there is still so much fascination and sympathy for these swindlers, even years after their demise.

While comparisons may be unfair, this new series is bound to be measured against the first one. ‘Scam 1992’ was an acute and insightful portrayal of pre-liberalization India and how the Big Bull skillfully exploited vulnerabilities on his exhilarating journey to the pinnacle of the stock market. Pratik Gandhi, as Harshad Mehta, brought vibrancy to the role, and the entire series was incredibly entertaining.

Stamp papers are certainly not as exciting as actual currency, which the charismatic Harshad Mehta was using to manipulate and buy out, nor is the mastermind behind the stamp-paper scam, a fruit-seller from Karnataka whose ambition knows no bounds. And that’s the challenge facing the makers: how do you make this one as entertaining as the previous one when both the main protagonist and his cohorts—an unending series of complicit cops and corrupt politicians, who were eager to dip their avaricious hands into Telgi’s illicit wealth—are as tawdry as the crime they are committing?

Gagan Dev Riar, in the role of Telgi, is terrific. His body language exudes ordinariness—a face like millions in the crowd, a bush-shirt bulging over a protruding stomach—which conceals a razor-sharp mind perpetually strategizing on how to get ahead. “Paisa kamaana nahin hai, banaana hai” (I don’t want to earn money, but create it), he tells everyone around him. Even as an early friend and collaborator abandons him, the rest of his family, including a loving wife, daughter, brother, and mother, continue to have faith in him, keeping him insulated.

By the second episode (five are out, and five more are expected in a few weeks), patches of dullness become apparent. Not all the obstacles Telgi faces sustain interest: how many times can we watch a politician opening their mouth too wide? However, Telgi’s ability to outwit an ultra-honest manager of the government-owned Nashik factory responsible for printing stamp papers is an exception.

More often than not, his companions, as well as the series itself, rely on him to liven things up. And he dutifully does so. Gagan Dev Riar portrays Telgi with a deliciously downturned mouth when things aren’t going his way and shining eyes when they are, keeping our focus on him.

 

Also Read: Kushi Movie Review: Vijay Deverakonda and Samantha Ruth Prabhu Deliver Stellar Performances in Film

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