Hansal Mehta, Scam 2003 poster
Early on in our chat with Hansal Mehta, it's certain that the director is protective about the Scam franchise, but not possessive. After all, he handed over the directing reins of the show that made him a household name to another filmmaker as Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta story moved to Scam 2003: The Telgi Story. "The show needed a fresh pair of eyes. Scam remains my baby, but now it also has a new parent," begins Mehta, who serves as the showrunner of SonyLIV's latest offering, while Tushar Hiranandani is the director. Starring Gagan Dev Riar as Abdul Karim Telgi, who committed the 2003 scam paper fraud, the series dropped five episodes last week.
Even as Mehta is focused on delivering rest of the season, he is happy that the audience looks impressed with the show so far. The director says he was certain that Hiranandani would bring a distinct commercial value to the franchise. "Because of his experience in commercial cinema, there's an element of entertainment that he brings in, which I wanted in Scam 2003, because Telgi is a different beast from Harshad Mehta," says Mehta, adding that following this experience, he is keen to build multiple collaborations with other directors on shows. "Long form storytelling needs wider collaborations. I enjoy mentoring the format, guiding the process. As a showrunner, you have a larger responsibility to a show. Like, Scam has given us so much love, it changed so many lives so, the bigger responsibility was to keep that spirit alive," he says.
Another crucial task at hand for Mehta and his team was to find their Telgi. Courtesy the benchmark set by Pratik Gandhi as Harshad Mehta in Scam 1992, people wanted to see if the makers would recreate the magic with Scam 2003. Going by the unanimous appreciation from audience and critics that Riar's performance is receiving, it seems the Mehta has passed with flying colours. As he showers praise at his lead actor, the filmmaker asserts that any comparison between Gandhi and Riar would be unfair.
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"I feel blessed that I am able to give platform to actors like Gagan because he is such a phenomenal talent. It was a difficult part to play. There's no scope to look conventionally attractive in the show. He has got a pot belly, is constantly awkward, pulling his pants up. He is not suave or well dressed. None of these things are there. Yet, he has a riveting presence. Gagan is too seasoned an actor to ever take that pressure of comparisons with Pratik. Not only are their characters different, but is also their approach. It's unfair to compare them. I would say the common thing between them is they are fantastic actors," Mehta says.
While he celebrates the early success of the season, the Scam journey is far from over, the creator-director reveals. "We are discussing ideas right now for the third season," he says. Will he return to the director's chair this time? "I hope I do. It will be nice to return to the chair for the third season," he smiles.