In a scene from the second season of Jamtara, an about-to-wed bride is warned by a couple of friends about the dangerous prospect of marrying a man who makes his living by phishing. To their surprise, the bride discloses that phishing is actually how the two met. “Phir bas baat band hi nahi hua. 5 guna paisa wapas diya inhone”, she says. This scene, illustrates the bizarre setting of this series that has since its formative scene, punched well above its weight. Jamtara is obviously based in the phishing centre of Jamtara, but the first season ably transformed it into the story of two, dogged, at times, cocky underdogs Sunny and Rocky. Season two resumes, where the first left off, but while the show loses some of its novelty and quirkiness, this time round, it does retain its unsparing conviction.
Season two begins with Sunny (Sparsh Shrivastav) recovering from the bullet injury he sustained in the climax of the last season. His friend Rocky (Anshumaan Pushkar) continues his dalliance with a dear enemy. Gudiya, played by the effective Monika Panwar is reeling from the aftermath of the last season, and chooses to monetize, in some sense her own suffering. The three are working against Brajesh Bhaan, played by the irresistible Amit Sial. Sial has made small-work of ruddy, difficult characters based in the hinterland, and here he is in top form again, getting meaner and murkier by the minute. He is simply a joy to watch in this sprawling narrative that though it introduces new characters is still driven by the currency of the old. Dibyendu Bhattacharya returns as Biswa, a local cop, out of touch with both modernity and speed.
Jamtara’s first season was a success primarily for its ability to weld the idea of a hyperlocal net of phishing scams, irretrievably connected with the local politics and economy. In season 2, this idea is kind of pushed to the brink, and becomes after a point, its own Achilles heel. Does no one do anything in Jamtara? is a question you’ll probably ask yourself throughout the show. It’s the kind of perplexing narrative choice that is never quite reasoned or justified, and is instead just thrust upon us. The first season’s strength was to be able to build the stories of Sunny, Rocky, Brajesh etc with the phishing being incidental. In this second season, the phishing is resurrected with a vengeance, but not convincingly. A new character scams a couple of men on a dating app, but it feels far too simple. In another sequence, Sunny, now struggling to scam people via phone calls, claims to invent a new scam, which actually isn’t a million miles away from the original.
There are some key innovations. The inclusion of Jamtara’s children as part of the phishing gang, the invocation of local politics as an echo of the corruption that powers everything are all good segues but they don’t necessarily resonate with fresh impetus. What however continues to work for this show is just how understated, it feels, despite the violence and crime on screen. The language is coarse, but the theatricality rarely is. There is possibly too much use of a brooding background score as well. There is a lovely moment in one episode where a man arrives from work tired and tries to quickly make a reel/video for social media. It’s a fascinating insight into small-town life, the desperation of the underprivileged and their quest for expression.
Jamtara is never as loud as its cousin from the heartlands – Mirzapur– but it is far more intuitive, and mature. The characters here aren’t worldly wise, but act, more instinctively, without the firecracker tendency to announce themselves first. There are no heroes and villains, so to speak, just a town full of men, women and children, well beyond redemption. Phishing is a way of life, and although the show can at times overstress just how systematised all of this is, it does put the series in unique territory. There is conviction here, and the way the storytellers stick to their guns throughout is evidence of authenticity.
As for the performances, Jamtara has excavated a whole league of stars that would have possibly never surfaced if not for OTT. It’s the kind of show that exemplifies why OTT platforms are a breath of fresh air. Nothing, however, beats experience and here too Bhattacharya and Sial tower over everyone else. Sial must be getting bored of sleepwalking some of these roles but he is magnetic, as much as he is vile. Bhattacharya isn’t playing a soft-talking cop for the first time, but his elegance, his literariness so to speak, cuts through the noisiest of scenes and sequences. All said, Jamtara isn’t a patch over its first season, because its new devices don’t fit well and the novelty of this unique, but familiar mode of criminal activity. It is still pacey, entertaining and for some of the performances, hard to miss.
Jamtara season 2 is streaming on Netflix
Manik Sharma writes on art and culture, cinema, books, and everything in between.
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