To be honest, when we hear or read about scams, there’s very little that we manage to retain. We remember a couple of names that constantly make headlines and the money involved. That’s why you must watch the Sony Liv original Scam 1992 - The Harshad Mehta Story. This 10-episode series has been directed by Hansal Mehta and traces the meteoric rise and consequent fall of the infamous stockbroker Harshad Mehta.
This riveting show puts a lot of things in perspective. It’s so well- made that it feels like you’re witnessing a scam unravel in real-time. However, at its core, it’s also the story of a boy from a lower middle-class Gujarati family who became the the mastermind of a financial scandal that rocked India in 1992.
The show is based on the book The Scam: Who Won, who Lost, who Got Away by Sucehta Dalal and Debashis Basu.
"Sucheta Dalal is the journalist who had investigated and broken the story about the scam in 1992."
A lot of us casually use the word ‘scam’ to describe anything even remotely suspicious or dubious. That’s likely to change after you watch this show. It draws you in and shocks you while exposing you to the intricacies of a scam in progress. Harshad Mehta’s rags-to-riches-to-ruin story has been fleshed out excellently.
"Hansal has such a firm grip over the proceedings that while watching the series, you’re transported back to the period when the scam unfolded, powered by the unchecked ambition and aspirations of one man."
The extent and magnitude of the actual scam was such that it baffles journalists even today. Veteran journalist Sanjay Pugalia, Editorial Director at The Quint, was covering the scam for a newspaper back then. He recalls, "It was such an intriguing, multi-layered scam that even the media grappled for months on what to call it. Should we call it a securities scam? Bank scam? Stock market scam? In every which way, the scam defied human imagination."
The show begins with a whistleblower sounding off a newspaper journalist about major irregularities in the bank he works in. The journalist is none other than Sucheta Dalal, played by the very convincing Shreya Dhanwanthary. This opening sets the mood for what’s going to follow and we’re then taken into Harshad’s life story.
The period is the 80s. Harshad and his family live in a cramped house in a Ghatkopar chawl, but that doesn’t stop him from dreaming big. After trying his hand at several odd jobs, Harshad Mehta (played by a terrific Pratik Gandhi) starts work as a jobber at the Bombay Stock Exchange.
This is the pre-electronic era and the BSE works on the outcry system. Traders used signs and gestures to convey their decisions amid much jostling and noise. As a jobber, Harshad’s job was to buy and sell securities based on the decisions of the traders. But this wasn’t just work for him. This is where he picked up the tricks of the trade. This is where his (doomed-to-be) love affair with the stock market began. Here was a man who’s unafraid to take risks.
"His shrewdness and astuteness belied his humble ‘Gujarati boy’ appearance. He slowly learned how to manipulate the system, a quality that would to his eventual and much-publicised downfall."
We then follow Harshad through several ups and downs. His fortune changes. The chawl gives way to a huge flat, that in turn makes way for a penthouse. Through all this, he also suffers personal and professional setbacks, but nothing, absolutely nothing comes in the way of his king-size desires. Harshad comes to be called BSE ka Bachchan and his popularity is at par with any star actor and sportsperson. He exploits loopholes in the banking system to his advantage and takes on the might of seasoned stock market titan Manu Mundra (played by Satish Kaushik). It almost seems that there’s no stopping him.
His journey is in complete contrast with that of Sucheta’s. She’s a sincere financial journalist charting her own path in a highly sexist world. As viewers, we are witness to her growth too. Both their stories play out in parallel till they intersect, and this is a very smart move on the part of the makers - two individuals who are brought together by a twist of fate. Sucheta investigates a story around irregularities in the banking system, and eventually ends up exposing a scam, the kingpin of which is Harshad Mehta.
"As much as you’re trying to make sense of Harshad’s dizzying rise, you’re rooting for Sucheta, and the credit for this goes to both the actors."
Both Pratik and Shreya consummately essay their respective parts. The rest of the cast including Satish Kaushik, Anant Mahadevan, KK Raina and Rajat Kapoor is stellar too.
Scam 1992 The Harshad Mehta Story is deliciously engaging right across all 10 episodes. You will be compelled to hit the ‘Next’ button each time you finish watching an episode because you want to know what’s going to happen next. In that sense, it’s almost like a thriller. Major props to the design team of the show for wonderfully bringing Mumbai of the 80s and 90s alive on our screens.
"All in all, Scam 1992 The Harshad Mehta Story is a brilliant show about the unraveling of one of India’s biggest financial scams."
After watching it, we’re sure that you won’t be able to use the word ‘scam’ loosely ever, and that’s why it’s also a very relevant show. It is streaming on Sony Liv.
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