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Subhash  K Jha Picks  His Favourite  Webseries Of 2023



Scam 2003: The Telgi Story, Volume 2

Subhash  K Jha Picks  His Favourite  Webseries Of 2023

  1. Kohrra(Netflix): I wouldn’t want to insult Kohraa by calling  it “entertaining” . As  directed  by Randeep Jha, Kohraa tried for something far  more profound, and almost gets there. The characters  are  all desperately  in search of some meaning to life beyond the  wretchedness that shrouds their  existence.The  wonderfully  scripted whodunit(Gunjit Chopra, Sudip Sharma, Diggi Sisodia) opens as  police procedural with two police officer Balbir(Suvinder Vicky) and Garundi(Barun Sobti), one  worldweary the  other getting there, investigating  the brutal murder  of  an NRI Paul Dhillon(Vishal Handa) in rural  Punjab.From this kickoff point, the  narrative gathers momentum weaving in and out of fractured  relationships   until we see  the befogged world of Kohrra in all its chaotic clarity.That the series is in Punjabi is just in the nature of things.
  2. Trial By Fire(Netflix):  This is  not a series. It is  a piece  of history regurgitated  into  a meticulously  re-designed  eyewitness account of  what happened on  13 June 1997 when Delhi’s  Uphaar cinema went up in flames extinguishing the joy and wellbeing of several families who lost their near and dear ones  in the  tragedy.This brave and  unflinching series recreates  the  long and endless legal battle of  a couple  Shekhar and Neelam  Krishnamoorthy who lost both  children in  the  Uphaar cinema fire  while watching  J P Dutta’s Border.The battle is  long . But the couple’s patience, especially Neelam’s , is  unlimited. This is  the story  of resilience determination and obstinacy , so real  so tangible  you can feel the  pain of the couple every step along their painful battle.It won’t be wrong to say the couple fought their own war as fiercely as  the soldiers seen  in  Border.Rajshri Deshpande and  Abhay Deol are  pitch-perfect. The series creates  a credible ambience around the  couple.
  3. Scam 2003(SonyLiv):  Applause  Entertainment’s Scam 2003: Telgi Story, like Applause’s  Scam 1992 where Harshad Mehta  bribed his way to  a stockmarket crashdown, brings the real story alive through authentic locations  and  performances . For me  Scam 2003, The Telgi Story is the  ultimate do-it-yourself  kit on corruption. The stamp paper scam got bigger each time Telgi’s  greed  multiplied and took  monstrous mis-steps. The show scores resounding  success in showing  the rise of  an ordinary cheat of the pickpocket calibre into  a national-level scamster.Telgi’s selfconfidence ,often misplaced, is confidently brought  out by Gagan Dev Riar. He  is  the man in the torn chappals in a  tearing hurry.There is  also a violent side to the man, which no one   can understand. No amount of wealth can  compensate  for the loss of the innocence  when  you set  off to be rich overnight. Telgi is  no Macbeth.  But the blood on the hands is  interchangeable. Confident writing and  a nose for  the stench of corruption in places where the olfactory nerves  don’t usually work, place this series at the top of the heap.
  4. Scoop(Netflix):  Hansal Mehta’s  Scoop is simultaneously an expose on unethical practices in media  exposes and  also a savage expose on how ambitious women are treated in predominantly male-dominated  professions. Crime  reporting  is most assuredly a mail domain, and  certainly no  place for  a single mother.This, Jagruti Pathak( the name given to  crime reporter Jigna Vora  who was  accused in the murder of fellow crime reporter  J Dey)  found out the hard way. The nearly-flawless flow of  the  drama is undiluted  by  unnecessary  diversion. Even at  almost  eight hours, Scoop is  a whoop. It sweeps you along Jagruti’s  unbelievable story.
  5. Jubilee(Prime Video): Altogether  the ten  episodes offer  vivid sharp stinging  glimpses  into the golden era  of  Hindi cinema when  superstars were made and unmade by  powerful studio owners. There  are  hints of the Russians  and Americans  taking hold of the Hindi  film industry. These, I suspect, are  the  writers’ equivalent of the underworld’s presence in  the  movie  industry.The  mix and  match  between what  was and what could have been  is fairly  unerring  in Jubilee.For all  its flaws(unnecessary darkening of  the characters) Jubilee is  …well… a jubilee hit.
  6. Farzi(Prime  Video):  Farzi, directed by  the infinitely resourceful  Family Man duo Raj and  DK , is  a series  about deception, self  or otherwise. Sunny (Shahid Kapoor) and his bestie Firoz(Bhuvan Arora) feel they will  get  away with their counterfeiting act  and that  they are  , finally, on to something big. Michael(Vijay Sethupathi) is  on the trail of a counterfeit  currency  racket. So is Megha(Raashni Khanna). Both keep  bumping into the criminals at fancy restaurants  and  other places. Farzi has  some very interesting plot twists . It is  mounted  impressively, with the settings  and locations  exuding  the musk of misguided materialism.
  7. Kafas(SonyLIV): The unspeakable truth  about children being vulnerable outside their homes, even at  a relatively safe workplace like  a film set, haunts this  deftly-told story which opens up its  plot points like  an   onion. Kafas which means trapped, is the kind of  scarcely-seen  series which  grips you from the word go. It clasps its tentacles around your neck squeezing the  breath out of you.Calling it entertaining would be hugely problematic: you can’t  be entertained by a 15-year child being  sexually abused by a Bollywood superstar. Director  Sahil Sangha treats the sensitive material with utmost care. My compliments  to  the entire team  for  making an ugly circumstance  so palatable  without tempering with  the power- centre  of the theme.
  8. Dahaad(Prime Video): Dahaad  puts  the roar back into the  OTT  viewing  experience. It is astutely written(by  Reema Kagti, Ritesh Shah, Zoya Akhtar) taking sharp U-turns  in the narrative when you least expect them. The peppery plot is  filled with men who are either misogynists or cowards  or both but constanly inflicting emotional  and physical pain on the woman around them. Reema Kagti and Ruchika Oberoi  direct the  spry material with a relentlessly unwavering  glance at  a society that  knowingly or unknowingly gives  rise to a closet-monster like Anand. It is an exhausting but exhilarating series that creates  ruminative ripples across its storytelling skyline.
  9. The  Night Manager(Disney+Hotstar):  It  is immaterial whether  you are familiar with John Le Carre’s  espionage  novel or not.  As a stand-alone piece of  kitschy art The Night Manager  works  just fine. The writers Sridhar Raghavan and  Sandeep Modi  make just the right switches  and  shifts  of  mood and location from the  original to the remake  , rendering the remake  so distinct that even those who enjoyed the  original would love the desi avatar  of  The Night Manager.
  10. The Railway Men(Netflix):  The Railway Men is  respectful and sincere in depicting the “untold tragedy”. My primary quibble with the presentation is it shrieking breastbeating tone.Some restrain could have gone a long way. Debutant director Shiv Rawail chooses to go the whole hog. The writing, while pinning the basic facts of the  catastrophe in the background, unleashes a ferocious melodrama  in the foreground. The  excessive zeal to get a dismaying squeal out of the audience notwithstanding, The Railway Men has a lot to admire. The four main heroes Rati Pandey(R Madhavan),Iftikhar Siddiqui(K K Menon), Imaad Riaz(Babil Khan) and Balwant Yadav(Divyenndu Sharma) are rounded well- played characters, but suffer from varying degrees of filmy heroism,especially  Divyenndu’s Balwant who  like  Dharmendra in Pratiggya starts  off as in imposter  but ends up as  a reluctant hero in the tragedy.
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