The new Netflix series Jamtara – Sabka Number Ayega is extremely binge-able. Creators Trishant Srivastava and Nishank Verma and director Soumendra Padhi stick close to the milieu of a modest agrarian small town experiencing unprecedented prosperity through ill-gotten means.
The creators place tick marks against the standard and expected characters – the bad guy with the good heart, the villain pulling the strings, the newbie policeman with a lot to prove, and the corrupt local cop. You will meet each one over the 10 episodes of the first season.
A cast of predominantly raw actors embraces these characters, however tropish they might be. Sunny Mondal (Sparsh Shrivastav), his older cousin Rocky (Anshuman Pushkar), and their gang of school dropout friends run a highly lucrative phishing scam in Jamtara in Jharkhand. The gang admires Sunny, the brains behind the operation. Their deceit, thievery and street-smarts keep them flush with funds. The kids are bad news, but not evil.
This get-rich-quick scheme also leads to a shift in the power lines within the community, which forces brothers to choose sides, families to make tough compromises and friends to question priorities.
Sunny also runs a coaching class along with Gudiya (Monika Panwar), who has her own game plan. It’s business as usual, with the occasional fracas, until the media gets wind of the phishing racket. No longer able to ignore this ongoing cyber crime, the authorities assign Dolly Sahu (Aksha Pardasany) as the Superintendent of Police, but she faces resistance from the corrupt police officers. The local cyber-crime division sits idle because, the officer in charge informs Sahu, the information technology laws are so weak that none of the arrests stick.
Even under Dolly’s watch, the investigation and police work remain sloppy. The real foil to the phishing gang and police is local predatory politician and goon Brajesh Bhan (Amit Sial). He too wants a share of the spoils and stays one step ahead of the law even as his machinations shatter the community. In another track, the local rag’s editor is pushing a reporter to use his access to the phishing gang to break a big story.
Two perennially intoxicated narrators who draw parallels between the Mahabharata and the evolving situation in Jamtara add a touch of black humour.
Soumendra Padhi portrays upward mobility through fancy motorbikes, a stand-alone bungalow grander than the neighbouring houses, the value of English-speaking wives and the compromises made for caste in order to vault class. Based on true events, the fiction series touches on the impact of aspiration, greed, wealth and power while assigning agency to its primary women characters, SP Sahu and Gudiya. Shrivastava, Pushkar and Panwar anchor the show with impressive performances.
The characterisation and dynamics of Jamtara land somewhere in the realm of the Anurag Kashyap meets Tigmanshu Dhulia universe. Padhi overcomes the superficial aspects and repetitiveness of the script and the leaning on familiar devices by directing with a distinct style. He crafts crisp episodes (averaging 25 minutes each) with dramatic hooks and mounting tension that urges you to click on “Next episode”.