Review: SonyLIV’s latest web television series based on the 1992 Indian stock market scam committed by stockbroker Harshad Mehta in 1992.
Cast: Pratik Gandhi, Sharib Hashmi, Hemant Kher, Nikhil Dwivedi, Shreya Dhanwanthary
Director: Hansal Mehta
Why is it always RK Laxman’s ‘Common Man’ and never a woman?
Dogged finance journalist Sucheta Dalal asks the venerated cartoonist himself in the corridors of The Times Of India.
“Because a woman can never be common,” he answers smartly and walks away.
With that and much more, Hansal Mehta (aided by son and co-director Jai Mehta) gives you a merry ride down the power corridors of Bombay of the 90s. Hansal breaks the complex story of Harshad Mehta, the Big Bull of the Bombay Stock Exchange, into 10 riveting episodes. Not an easy task given the complicated background of the stock and money market, incomprehensible to most but made understandable and watchable.
After Shahid and Aligarh, two biographies that Hansal helmed with aplomb, he comes off almost like an insider in his retelling of the Harshad Mehta scam that rocked the market and wrought changes in the laws that govern the money sector.
One of the many factors that make the stock exchange, the money market, RBI, CBI, politics and crime come together so cohesively is that Mehta relies not on a galaxy of glittering stars but on an array of genuine artistes to tell the story of this Gujju family.
Based on a book on the big scam of the Big Bull by journalists Sucheta Dalal and Debashis Basu, Hansal plonks the pioneering journalist herself as the narrator.
With Sucheta (so perfectly played by Shreya Dhanwanthary) tracking Harshad Mehta, his rise as the Big Bull, his shift to the money market, his enmity with the many bears (Satish Kaushik, Nikhil Dwivedi, Shadaab Khan to name a few who contribute so effectively from the sidelines) and the bureaucrats who take him on (Ananth Mahadevan as RBI Governor, Viveck Vaswani as SBI Chairman, KK Raina as NHB Chairman, Lalit Parimoo as CBI Director and Rajat Kapoor as his deputy, all aptly cast) smoothly slip into her narration.
Talented theatre artiste Pravin Gandhi is so wholesomely Gujarati that Harshad Mehta comes alive in all his colours. Brother Ashwin (Jay Upadhyay) who unfailingly cautions but unstintingly supports Harshad and Bhushan Bhatt (Chirag Vohra), his right arm but never his partner, make the Gujju setting comfortably settle down without caricaturised accents of the community. Misplaced ambitions, the chase for big money, the energising adrenaline of the market and the swagger to play the system fearlessly change the lifestyle of the Mehta brothers. Harshad gets a kick out of outbidding rival Ajay Kedia to bag a coveted Lexus and is pleased to be labeled the Bachchan of the Bombay Stock Exchange but the essential family man stays anchored. To his no-alcohol, no-smoking, no-womanising joint family that’s happy and harmonious.
Alongside the old Fiat giving way to the Lexus, the chawl growing into a 15,000 sq ft home, the rise and the fall of the Sensex and personal fortunes, Hansal also has his characters grey gradually and Harshad’s mood glide from devilishly daring and determined to fading away as a tired, cornered criminal. From the perky ‘Risk hai toh ishk hai’ to the depressing ‘Worry is the sure way to your pyre’ the whole gamut is played.
Like a refresher course, the suitcase and Swamiji politics of the 90s (when Harshad famously, but ultimately feebly, attempted to implicate Prime Minister Narsimha Rao) is revisited, leaving the viewer bullish.
If there is one grouse, it’s the SonyLiv platform which must polish its interface. For instance, sub-titles have to be refreshed for every episode or every time there’s a pause or rewind. Time to turn nattier and more user-friendly, SonyLiv.
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