Jamtara web series review: An engaging beginning with a tapering tail
A rooted show about cyber crimes in India with many brilliant ideas that are not used to their full potential
A bunch of teens from a remote village are talking over the phone with people in cities like Delhi. One chap, pretending to be a bank officer, tells a woman that her debit card has been blocked but he can help her fix it. In another call, a guy tells the person on the other end that he has won a gift voucher. We are shown bits of many such conversations which mostly end with these minors managing to get the card details of their respective victims. Jamtara: Sabka Number Aayega, the new Indian Netflix Original, directed by National Award-winning director Soumendra Padhi, is about phishing scams that have started to plague the country. A disclaimer says that this show is inspired by real events that happened in Jamtara, a small village in Jharkhand.
Director: Soumendra Padhi
Cast: Sparsh Shrivastav, Amit Sial, Monika Panwar, Anshuman Pushkar
We are then introduced to the hero Sunny (Sparsh Shrivastav), who extracts the card details of a naive government school teacher, as the latter is teaching children a proverb: “Why regret now when the bird has already ruined the crops?” But unlike other guys, Sunny mimics a woman’s voice and calls himself Swathi. By the end of the call, you understand that Sunny, as his name suggests, is bright. He is, in fact, the mastermind of all these fraudsters of Jamatra. He even runs a coaching center with his love interest Gudiya Singh (Monika Panwar) as a front for his phishing scams.
The pilot of Jamtara is tightly-written and disseminates information seamlessly, hooking us from the word go. In the very first episode, the youngsters are caught by the police and produced before the court due to the callousness of Sunny’s elder cousin, Rocky (Anshuman Pushkar) — here, the name suggests that this character is cocky. Jamtara doesn’t have a court to deal with cybercrimes. The judge is unaware of the nature of the crime and clueless about what the judgment should be. His incompetence comes out as anger, which he takes out on the police inspector. All these details are brought out in an episode that is just about 30 minutes. That’s what makes Jamtara a gripping watch.
It is tempting to call Jamtara an original idea, but it is reminiscent of many other works about drug cartels. Just that the drug here is data. A small-town journalist being friends with the gang makes you think about the Brazilian masterpiece City Of God and the trailer strangely reminded me of Person Of Interest. Yet, these are just vague familiarites and take nothing away from Jamtara, which is rooted in the village and its problems. Many of our rural works conveniently skip or omit the caste politics that are an integral part of villages (and cities too). On the other hand, films that deal with caste issues have them as their focus. It is refreshing to see, in Jamtara, that caste politics runs as an undercurrent to a different core subject.
Jamtara also boasts of convincing performances by its young and new cast. Except for Amit Sial, all the other lead actors are new faces and that works hugely in favour of this show. Amit’s Brajesh Bhan, on paper, is just another stereotypical gangster-turned-politician but the actor makes him unique. And at times, he is actually menacing. Sparsh and Monika have a complicated relationship that is brought out with the right amount of subtlety. In the beginning, the couple rules over everyone else because of their wit, but as things fall apart, their guards come off, and how! Anshuman is another brilliant performer. His Rocky is all brawn and little brain and he knows that too. Soumendra Padhi couldn't have asked for better actors and it is evident that everything he has envisioned for the show has been fleshed out by this competent cast.
However, the show fizzles out towards the end. The writing becomes wayward, the storylines lose their definitions, contrivances seep in, and the show takes a generic route. One can easily note the dwindling quality of writing when comparing the pilot to the finale. Both are cliffhangers. While the first episode kickstarts something unique, the finale ends on a contrived and tested twist. Also, the first few episodes give a semblance of a larger thing at play but that soon fades away and we were left with the usual cat-and-mouse chase. Maybe Season 2 has some redemption to the waning trajectory and will set things right.