Once the novelty of the plot wears off, Jamtara 2 becomes just another small-town cops-and-gangs story, observes Deepa Gahlot.
The first season of Jamtara: Sabka Number Ayega (2020) was an eye-opener about a nondescript town in Jharkhand becoming the centre of a major phishing scam.
Jamtara could represent any small town in India, where poor youth manage basic education but have no employment opportunities.
In Jamtara, Sunny Mondal (Sparsh Shrivastav) has the brains and enterprise to run a scam to con people all over the country, taking advantage of their greed and ignorance of technology.
Even now, with warnings sent by banks and telecom companies, people fall for simple tricks like the threat of their account being closed or power being shut off if they don’t share ‘verification details’ and the OTP. Once they do that, their accounts are hacked and money withdrawn.
In the series, directed by Soumendra Padhi, the two leads and the main villain from Season One return, along with new characters.
But once the novelty of the plot wears off, it becomes just another small-town cops-and-gangs story, with profanity-laden dialogue, that seems have become de rigueur for serials set in the northern hinterland.
Sunny, who ran a coaching class with the ambitious Gudiya (Monica Panwar) and was daggers drawn with his brother Rocky (Anshumaan Pushkar) over his loyalty to local don-politician Brajesh Bhan (Amit Sial), had ended in hospital and Gudiya (whom he married in an alliance of convenience) in jail due to Bhan’s machinations.
Corrupt cops always looked the other way.
The two doped out sutradhars with their pithy comments and Mahabharat references reappear too, as the stakes are raised higher.
When the phishing racket made national news, a cyber crime cell, headed by Inspector Biswa (Dibyendu Bhattcharya) is set up in Jamtara. But with power out for a large part of the day, it is ineffectual.
SP Dolly Sahu (Aksha Pardasany) comes back to try and put an end to crime in Jamtara, but the boys have moved on to newer tricks, and use kids as their partners-in-crime.
When all plot devices run out (this season is written by Kanishka and Ashwin Verman, taking ahead Nishank Verma’s plot from the earlier season), an election comes up, and Bhan’s aunt Durga Devi ‘Buaji’ (Seema Pahwa) fields a reluctant Gudiya against the seasoned politician.
The first time round, there was a grudging admiration for Sunny and his cohorts, snatching with their intelligence and skill (mastery over many voices and languages) what people from their caste and class could not get by honest means.
The tree with discarded phones hanging from its branches represents the success of their criminal enterprise.
But when the fight is between bad and worse, it is difficult to root even for the marginalised.
Does the righteous goal justify the foul means to get there?
In the end, there is not much hope, but a lot more cynicism about the state of our country. Perhaps that was the idea all along.
A reporter asks a cop parading a new arrest, ‘Did you arrest an innocent boy earlier?’ and he replies morosely, ‘There are no innocent boys left in Jamtara.’
The earlier season of Jamtara gave viewers a glimpse of the nasty and hopeless side of the other India, that Netflix subscribers could not have imagined.
This was not the dancing-in-mustard-fields rural India that Bollywood had been portraying.
Subsequently, so much of this ugliness has been offloaded on OTT platforms that audiences will soon be repulsed by it.
Jamtara: Sabka Number Ayega 2 streams on Netflix.
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