The tendency to release a show’s season in two parts rather than at a single shot can work both ways. We might stick round to see how the story unfolds but if the first batch isn’t engaging, may just give up.
Scam 2003 – The Telgi Story: Vol 2 ensures that patience is rewarded. If the five episodes that were premiered on Sony LIV in September suggested that the stamp paper scam mastermind was still buffering, he comes fully into view in the concluding instalments.
The final five-episode run explores the fallout of a rare misstep by Telgi (Gagan Dev Riar): blowing up lakhs of rupees at a dance bar. The escapade sends ripples through the circle of politicians, government officials and police officers who have been fattening themselves on Telgi’s largesse. Gimme more, they say, promoting a weary smile from the seasoned finagler.
Telgi is so rich and so powerful that he can underwrite several banks, he reminds an associate. His services are required when a Kannada movie star (modelled on Rajkumar) is kidnapped by a Veerapan-like sandalwood smuggler. But Telgi, who never lends money without fixing a usurious rate, finds that the good times aren’t meant to last. An investigative team, led by Suryapratap (Mukesh Tiwari), begins putting together the evidence that will finally send Telgi to prison.
The screenplay, by Kiran Yadnopavit, Kedar Patankar and Karan Vyas, is based on Sanjay Singh’s non-fiction book Telgi – A Reporter’s Diary as well as news reports. Showrunner Hansal Mehta directs the final episode, with the other chapters steered by Tushar Hiranandani.
Volume 2 fruitfully explores the systemic rot that produces characters like Telgi. Events unfold in the same jaunty manner like the first half-season, as if to say that the only way to acknowledge such massive levels of corruption is with a helpless grin.
If money never sleeps, neither does graft: Telgi continues to grease palms, pull favours and manipulate the legal process to his benefit. His smirk – the result of knowing that nearly everybody can be bought – does eventually shrink, but only just.
There is a hint that the extent of Telgi’s skimming is exaggerated to prevent him from getting bail. Whatever the true scope of the scam, it’s simply too huge to be blamed on a single man, Suryapratap realises. Some of his insights come from Telgi.
What is justice, and for whom, Telgi asks Suryapratap before talking about the fake nobility of poverty. Wily until the last and well-versed with the ways of the world, Telgi becomes the show’s unlikely source of morality.
The attempt to apportion blame for Telgi’s antics to a system that is rotten to the core humanises the fraudster. Some of this effect is entirely the work of Ganga Dev Riar, who superbly plays an upstart as likeable as he is monstrous.
A fine ensemble cast carries out the attempt to sentence Telgi as well as exonerate him of some of the more serious allegations. Among the noteworthy actors are Nandu Madhav as one of Telgi’s early beneficiaries, Mukesh Tiwari, and Irawati Harshe as a Pune police officer who makes Telgi a deal he cannot refuse.
Taken as a whole, the 10-episode show makes more sense than its initial truncated run. Perhaps the best way to release a limited series is at one go, especially when the better bits are kept for the end.