Scam 2003 - Season 2: Telgi’s fall makes a story worth completing, if not bingeing
Rot in the system, and the complete range of Telgi’s skills make for a well-rounded closure to this tale of unwavering corruption and greed.
Starring: Gagan Dev Riar, Sana Amin Sheikh, Nandu Madhav, Bharat Dabholkar, Bhavana Balsawar, Shaad Randhawa, and Shashank Ketkar among others
The second season of Scam 2003 - The Telgi Story has kept up with the anticipation around the follow up to the first season of this series, Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story (2020), with a stellar performance by its protagonist, Gagan Dev Riar; and an exploration into the greed and corruption permeating India’s power corridors.
The latest season is based on the financial crimes of stamp-paper counterfeiter Abdul Karim Telgi on a nationwide scale. While the story begins to resemble the actual events around Telgi’s arrest, it has a lot of detail highlighting the same premise.
Telgi’s nearly unstoppable rise hits serious roadblocks, his personal life takes a nosedive, and his survival and manipulation skills are pushed to the limits in the latest season of Scam 2003.
In the series, Telgi (Dev Riar) opens a Pandora's box of unlimited greed when he decides to flaunt tonnes of cash on a bar dancer in the final episode of the first part.
Writers Karan Vyas, Kedar Patankar, and Kiran Yadnyopavit, have created a neat middle to this ten-part series when his night of debauchery and egotistic display of wealth ends with a wakeup call.
Despite his unlimited wealth, generous bribery, and palm greasing, speaking up against a politician’s absurd demand costs Telgi. He eventually lands up in a jail in Karnataka when a truck carrying his duplicate stamp papers gets caught. This kickstarts a game of passing the buck as politicians in both Karnataka and Maharashtra try to keep him locked up in their state to ensure his silence.
In the meantime, his wife Nafisa (Sana Amin Sheikh), broken-hearted, leaves him and takes their daughter with her. While political manoeuvring and arm twisting continue, Telgi manages to return to Mumbai and get bail. He then rubs a determined and honest investigative officer Rathod (Mukesh Tiwari) of the CTI (faux CBI), who cracks the first big flaw in his masterplan.
While the second part maintains the tone and visual treatment of the first five episodes, it builds to a stark difference in Telgi’s state of mind. His penchant for greasing palms to open doors and break all laws, and his negotiation skills don’t take him far enough to beat opportunistic political wheeling dealing.
He doesn’t quite know how to take on an honest police officer, so his response is crass–a reflection of his arrogance at having changed his predestined station in life.
Riar carries off Telgi’s role effortlessly, blending in his intelligence and crudity seamlessly in a true to life character.
As far as performances go, the show is packed with experienced TV actors in short roles as politicians or policemen–Aman Verma, Irawati Harshe, and Bharat Dabholkar, to name a few.
Besides Tiwari, watch out for a naturalistic performance by Dinesh Lal Yadav as a policeman who has a point to prove and political masters to manage.
As the plot thickens, the levels of political corruption rise to a level where the involvement of the top brass becomes difficult to hide. Telgi is slowly building up to becoming the ideal scapegoat, even as he has a plan in place. The investigation into a financial crime, which lacks typical guns and chases, is peppered with dramatic dialogues from the protagonist that reflect his intelligence.
Scam 2003 offers a naturalistic take on the Mumbai of Telgi’s times by creating an ambience of sin and unhinged enjoyment by those in cohorts with a smart criminal. But by packing in a lot of detail about the efforts that politicians and police made in the two states to hide their involvement, it tends to drag.
Perhaps stretching out the story, based on the book ‘Telgi Scam: Ek Reporter Ki Diary’ by Sanjay Singh, to ten episodes, makes it feel repetitive.
Telgi’s moral dilemma features in a hallucination of a past regret that he has, never going beyond this moment of guilt. Any exploration of his inner conflict or questions has been left out, focusing on his ability to carry on with a huge financial scam while facing multiple crises.
Knowing what it took to manipulate a country’s financial machinery so thoroughly makes for interesting viewing for anyone. Scam 2003 is a story worth completing, if not bingeing.
Edited by Megha Reddy