Jamtara - Show time with Mitrajit Bhattacharya

For every disastrous big-budget Netflix India original last year, they had also delivered a surprise gem. Jamtara- Sabka Number Ayega, is amongst the best original series to have hit the streaming platforms in 2020. No identifiable face (barring Amit Sial, who is already a big star on OTT), the novelty of the story/ concept and honesty of portrayal seem to have worked wonders for this well written series. By now, I guess the verdict is clear: On OTT, big stars don’t necessarily work as the focus is always on the characters and stars tend to take away the attention away from the characters. Also, due to long screen time of each lead character, stars who are not necessarily good actors, fall short leading to unrealistic portrayals.

Having spent the first sixteen years of my life in Chittaranjan (the locomotive township on the border of West Bengal), I am familiar with the terrain of the adjoining town/ district of Jamtara (then in Bihar, now in Jharkhand). So, each frame brings back memory of my childhood. But I will try and keep the review unbiased.

Jamtara exposes the deep but unholy nexus between politics, police and press,in semi urban Jharkhand. The ten episodes of the series meanders beautifully like river Ajay (the local river that flows through the heart of Jamtara) telling us something we’ve always known – law is an intrinsic part of every crime, big or small, and news is not about what has happened but caters to public wants.

Billed as a true crime story – a genre hugely popular for Netflix globally, Jamtara is a rustic crime drama about how a lucrative ‘phishing’ business run by school dropouts (chauthi fails) grabs the attention of a politician, law enforcement agency and media. The series is lyrically written, there is a poetic layer to every crime committed and the young goons develop an uncanny bond with the audience. You can’t but relate to Narcos, just replace small towns of Mexico with that of Bihar/ Jharkhand and the nature of crime from drugs to phishing.

The story begins when the group of young boys impersonate bank officials and trick people off huge sums of money by getting them to share their card numbers and OTPs. The masterminds Rocky and Sunny are cousins. While Rocky aspires to be a politician, Sunny, the key plotter and the doer of these dubious transactions, wants to be the richest man of Jamtara. However, the plot thickens when politics gets added in the mix.

Local politician Brajesh Bhan (Amit Sial) demands his share of the pie when he gets a whiff of the flourishing business and easy money. Enters the new SP Jamtara, the young and sharp Dolly Sahu (Aksha Pardasany), determined to stop the phishing racket. Brajesh makes an offer to the boys to join hands with him and in return, promises to provide them protection from the police. But, Sunny (Sparsh Shrivastav has other plans to expand his operations in Jamtara with Gudiya (Monika Panwar), reason enough to cause a rift with Rocky (Anshumaan Pushkar, we see him later in a lead role in Grahan on Disney Hotstar).

While acting is unexpectedly raw and overall top notch, the real stars of the show are national award-winning director Soumendra Padhi (Budhia Singh: Born to Run) and DOP Kaushal Shah. The duo delivers for the series a visual look, that’s raw and needs both ‘time’ and ‘craft’ to achieve.

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