Rip-off 1992 captures the complicated but fascinating journey of Harshad Mehta


Mona

A financial scam, a fraudster’s rise and fall, an ambition that became the ultimate fall — call Scam 1992 by any of these, but it is a fascinating journey set in the world of stock market. Now, who isn’t familiar with Harshad Mehta but is he that big a hero or a villain that a common man could be pulled to watch his life story pan out? Well, due credit to the National Award-winning filmmaker Hansal Mehta, to make it so.

A journey that starts from a space-crunched Gujarati household in Mumbai, takes one on a 360-degree roller coaster ride to a 15,000 sq-feet house in Maximum City. They say start from basics. Harshad Mehta duly did that but did rising in ranks teach him enough of the trade?

This one series on SonyLIV is an investment of time — 10 episodes about 50 minutes each. Pardon the repetition, of a story one knows…but in dextrous hands of Mehta (Hansal), it’s not just a broker’s journey, but story of a man, who was a son, brother, husband and father, and lived each role to its hilt.

The first hour into the film establishes the premise. Sports analogies goad in the basics – jobbers, bull, bear, largely Bombay Stock Exchange and the world around it. One grows fond of the protagonist — the one who establishes himself to be the Amitabh Bachchan of the market, taking pride in his moniker ‘Big Bull’. But like every hero, this one suffers from hamartia too; here it is a phrase – ‘Risk hai to ishq hai’. It’s his ‘daring’ that grows on you episode by episode. The crash of the market, his empire, loss of name, the newsrooms, noise through the corridors of Parliament and the comeback — all pans out among the beautiful shots of Mumbai with glimpses of Delhi weaved in.

It’s the casting that deserves due credit — Pratik Gandhi (titular role), Hemant Kher (Ashwin Mehta), Chirag Vohra (Bhushan Bhatt ) — the triumvirate of this saga; Shreya Dhanwanthary (Sucheta Dalal), Rajat Kapoor (upright CBI officer), Ananth Mahadevan (the RBI Governor) nail their characters. The background score takes this montage to another level. From Ilu Ilu in investigations to a bhajan making it to the credit line, there’s quite a range, but its background score that builds the chase. While the series does get lackadaisical at times, the constant shuffling between the dates and counter moves by the Kapil Dev of share market keep one with the story. Seeing The Common Man R. K. Laxman; the lawyer of the rich and famous Ram Jethmalani and the two Prime Ministers’ flashes pique one’s interest.

Based on journalist Sucheta Dalal and Debashish Basu’s book The Scam: Who Won, Who Lost,Who Got Away rings true even in the contemporary era. Questioning, criticising our economic system, banks’ functioning, role of CBI and how its image changes from that of law-bearer to the one pulling strings in the political corridors — sound familiar. By the end of it, justice may remain an elusive dream, what doesn’t is Hansal Mehta’s treatment. A fascinating journey into life of not just Harshad Mehta but a new world as one walks out with core stock market terms, India’s turn to liberalisation and most significantly leaving one with issues to reflect, and there lies the real strength of Hansal Mehta’s craft!



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