In conversation with Jamtara director and cast: This Netflix show has come out at the right time
Actors Sparsh Shrivastava, Monika Panwar, Anshumann Pushkar, Amit Sial, and director Soumendra Padhi while talking about their debut Netflix show, Jamtara: Sabka Number Aayega
‘Banks never ask for your OTP’, ‘Don’t disclose your ATM card number/PIN/CVV/OTP/Online User ID and Password to anyone’... messages like these from banks might be in your inbox even right now. If you think not divulging such information is basic knowledge and find such warnings to be silly, the new Netflix show Jamtara will tell you otherwise. Thousands of cybercrimes are committed in our country, and a small village in Jharkhand called Jamtara has a huge share in it. In this conversation Cinema Express, the director and the lead actors of Jamtara: Sabka Number Aayega speak to us about the show that is based on real-life incidents from an impoverished village. Director Soumendra Padhi says the show was inspired by a newspaper article about how school dropouts from Jamtara conned urban degree holders.
“A lot of credit must go to the writers Trishant Srivastava and Nishank Verma. They are the ones who visited Jamtara and did the research. Even the female cop character Dolly is based on a real-life character. The show is as close to reality as it can get,” Soumendra Padhi says.
The director’s feature film, Budhia Singh: Born To Run, won the National Award for Best Children's Film (2016) and when asked about his shift to the OTT format, he says, “Medium is not a matter of concern. It’s about the story. Netflix is in more than 190 countries and is in 26 foreign languages. You can’t get a wider reach than that. We considered making it into a film, but it wouldn’t have been as layered as it is now.”
Amit Sial is the only well-known face in Jamtara’s cast, an actor who has done films like Bombariya and Raid. He plays a politician/gangster Brajesh Bhaan in the show. When asked about the difference he wanted to bring to his gangster, Amit says, “The idea was not to make him unique but be honest with the man he was. Being a gangster is seen as a stepping stone to enter politics but the difference with Brajesh is that more than being a gangster, he is carrying a legacy.”
Sparsh Shrivatsava, who plays Sunny, the lead of Jamtara, talks of the preparation he underwent. “I started to record people to learn how they speak and observed their body language. We had a workshop before the shooting, which helped break the ice with other actors and bring out the best among us.” Anshuman, who plays a character called Rocky, says, “It’s a director’s medium… you have to mould yourself by understanding what’s in the director’s mind. Rocky’s character is fragile and when his brain stops working, his gun comes out.”
There’s a notion that with platforms like Netflix, any actor with talent would be able to find work, and Monika Panwar, who plays Gudiya Singh, the centerpiece of Jamtara, agrees. “If you are skillful and have what it takes to express yourself, you will have work. Any actor would want to do layered characters and that’s exactly what these platforms provide. This is magic.”
Soumendra doesn’t think cybercrimes are taken as seriously as they should be in India. “It is a global problem. In a country like India, it is underrepresented by the media because there is no bloodshed. Here, even if ten people die, it does not make it to the news, given our population. This cybercrime problem is serious and has spread to places beyond Jamtara, like cancer.”
Amit believes that the victims should share some of the blame too. “They are able to con you only when you show greed and fall for their bait. They are taking advantage of human nature.” Anshuman quickly throws in some statistics, “If you analyse the data. In 2011, 9,600 cybercrime cases were filed. In 2012, it went up only to 11,500. But by 2017, over 47,000 cases have been filed. And we are only talking about the registered cases.” Sparsh has the last word: "So, our show has come out at the right time."