Directed by Tushar Hiranandani, Sony LIV's Scam 2003: The Telgi Story is based on the life of Abdul Karim Telgi, who schemed a fake stamp paper scam worth billions of rupees.
Icarus flew too close to the sun, and so did Abdul Karim Telgi. Who is Telgi? Telgi was the mastermind behind the Stamp Paper Counterfeiting scam worth Rs 30,000 crores. Telgi, along with politicians, bureaucrats, police officers, and many others, created his “system,” wherein he generated and assimilated billions of fake stamp papers with real ones, thus hurting the government and the public. Although based on a real-life story, the plot seems predictable. It starts from rags to riches and ends with a scandalous downfall. But how did Telgi rise, and why? That’s what Sony LIV's Scam 2003: The Telgi Story takes you through.
While the series delves deeply into Telgi's how, it focuses very little on his why. Part I of the series, comprising five episodes, elaborates, sometimes unnecessarily, on how Telgi pulled this scam. The first two episodes seem intriguing as we get to know Telgi and his world. But the series soon feels dragged as it takes too long to arrive at milestones in Telgi’s story. A lot could have been edited. We know poverty was the precursor of Telgi becoming a fraud. Still, his psyche and motivations remain unexplored in the series, which causes some distance between the protagonist and the audience.
However, you cannot help but be mesmerised by the protagonist owing to Gagan Dev Riar’s brilliant portrayal of Telgi. Even though an anti-hero, he makes you smile every time he wins. This is perhaps Riar’s career-defining performance. He breathes soul into the character. He knows when to act loud and when to act subtle. Sometimes, it’s as if Riar plays games with us, speaking with us through his eyes and smile, telling us only what he wants us to know. Riar’s apt body language and dialogue delivery coupled with the sometimes-exaggerated but mostly fit dialogues form the crux of the series.
Another impressive performance comes from Hemang Vyas as Telgi’s first partner, Kaushal Zaveri. In fact, all supporting characters have been cast perfectly. However, the characters of the corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, and police officers seem stereotypical every now and then. And while Telgi seems stereotyped as an overconfident scamster, he hasn’t been stereotyped as a Muslim, which is a respite. All the crew seems to have given their best yet the show feels like a drag owing to its inadequate editing.
Based on the preview of Scam 2003 Part II (comprising of the other 5 episodes), it looks like Riar is about to take us on an impressive ride again. Hopefully, it won’t be needlessly lengthy.
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