Scam 1992: Well-made and well-done!

OTT Reviews

At 500 minutes of content – it had better be damn good! With 10 episodes running around 50 minutes each, Scam 1992, a SonyLiv original series, is a literally long, hard look at one of the most infamous ‘scams’ in Indian history, and probably the first to be called that, as many characters in the series refer to ‘scam’ as a brand-new addition to the Indian lexicon.

Tightly written and neatly packaged, it makes a gripping, thrilling story of Harshad Mehta, the darling-turned-foe of the Indian stock market. One wouldn’t think a dry, dull subject like finance could lend itself to high drama and suspense. But the Wolf of Wall Street proved us wrong. And now Scam 1992 does it, too. 

What: Scam 1992
Where: SonyLiv
Genre: Crime drama
Director: Hansal Mehta
Writers: Sumit Purohit, Saurav Dey, Vaibhav Vishal, Karan Vyas
Producer: Applause Entertainment

Yes, there are unfathomable financial terms and concepts, but it’s interesting how the intricacies of the Indian financial system and banking are simplified but never becomes simplistic. Sometimes, it might seem as though one needs a course to understand the financial terms and jargons, but stick with it, and soon the drama of the bourse, bulls and bears overshadows the SGLs and BRs and ready-forward transactions!

Narrated by the character of journalist Sucheta Dalal, who was instrumental in Harshad’s downfall by writing about his shenanigans, the tale begins around 1979, when an adult Harshad, dissatisfied with his life and earnings, embarks on a journey to learn as much as he can at the BSE, and decides to better his financial standing by applying it to his own business. 

He doesn’t stop at that of course; his innate intelligence and foresight help him spot hitherto hidden opportunities at the stock exchange and grow rapidly. He goes on to exploit loopholes in the Indian financial system of those years, and make enormous crores, which would later prove to be his downfall. But for a good number of years, from the late 80s to early 90s, he was hailed as the king of the stock market, the Big Bull, who could, with a thrust of his horns, elevate it to newer, unknown heights or bring it down in a crash. 

His rise from a stock market ‘jobber’ to the Big Bull, from a chawl in Ghatkopar to a 15,000-sq-ft home in Marine Drive, from no-vehicle to an imported Lexus, is phenomenal.

There is no black-and-white in this story. It’s all grey. The parallel track of Sucheta Dalal’s journey in journalism and her pursuit of the scam story moves the Harshad story forward. 

Was he a victim of the system or a crook? Did he deliberately set out to defraud and cheat people of their incomes and savings, or did he just exploit the loopholes like everyone? Was it just his misfortune to get caught? Was he a hero or a villain? The series doesn’t answer because that’s real life and human nature. 

Coming to the narrative, the casting is flawless, even though most of the actors are new and unknown. The back stories and arc of each character makes sense and when it doesn’t, you know it’s because they’re human. The smallest characters are well-written, dialogues are compelling, with no wasted words, and the screenplay is top-notch. 

Direction, well, if it’s kept one engaged for a humongous amount of time, with characters spouting financial patter and Gujarati every five minutes, Hansal Mehta must have done something right. Well, he did. Everything. 

Pratik Gandhi as Harshad Mehta, and Shreya Dhanwanthary as Sucheta Dalaal are outstanding. There are some Bollywood veterans and each one of them in their little roles shines; Anant Mahadevan as RBI governor S Venkataraman, Rajat Kapoor as CBI investigating officer K Madhavan, Hemant Kher as Ashwin Mehta, Harshad’s brother, Satish Kaushik as Manu Mundra (Black Cobra of the stock market), Chirag Vohra as Bhushan Bhatt, partner up to a time, of Harshad and Ashwin; and Faisal Rashid playing Debashis Basu (colleague and partner of Sucheta).

The only thing that might have been better is Harshad’s relationship with the rest of his family; we do see quite a bit of his relationship with his wife, but none at all of him as a father. It’s never quite clear if his wife was an accomplice or completely ignorant. A bit of intentional haziness or laziness, maybe. 

And… that’s me summarising 500 minutes of video content in around 500 words! If the question was, should you watch it, the answer is yes. You can be bullish on this one! 

(Preethy is a Mumbai-based human who struggles to keep up with the multitude of things that interest her. Writing and movies are just two of them. In her free time, she struggles with motherhood, explaining LCM, HCF, auxiliary verbs, temperate zones and more such exciting concepts to her offspring.)