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'Scoop' Web Series Review: That Dey...

Updated on: 02 June,2023 10:25 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Mayank Shekhar |

At its heart, 'Scoop' is about the nexus of politics, crime, business, and news media — particularly in a way that they converge in a city like Mumbai

'Scoop' Web Series Review: That Dey...

A still from 'Scoop'

Web series: SCOOP
Platform: Netflix
Cast: Karishma Tanna, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub
Creators: Hansal Mehta, Mrunmayee Lagoo
Rating: 4/ 5

Really, there’s a thin line between a super scoop, and something that subsequently makes everyone cringe, “Oops!” This depends wholly on how cross-checked/researched the facts are in a journalistic story — without rushing into hearsay, half-truths, in order to mix sufficient masala, or simply meet a deadline! 
The same can be said for fiction, based on a true story. Facts elevate it. Credibility equally counts for everything.

The series, 'Scoop', by Hansal Mehta — jointly sharing creator-credit, or by-line, as it were, with Mrunmayee Lagoo — is about the murder of Mumbai’s seasoned journalist, J Dey (1955-2011).

He was shot dead by contract killers in the posh Hiranandani Gardens in Powai, around a square, that is now named after Dey himself (a first, perhaps, for a city scribe).

This assassination scene is quietly, yet dramatically, shot in Scoop. When he passed on, Dey used to be the crime & investigations editor at Mid-day. Which is the publication you’re reading this in.

Goes without saying, this series means a lot to my colleagues. Many other characters are inspired by people I’ve worked/interacted with. If you sense any bias, therefore, it must merely be excused as expected.

Still, Dey — fictionalised as Jaideb Sen (Prosenjit Chatterjee; Bengal’s stalwart, and OTT’s latest find) — appears for barely a few minutes over a six-part series. There is a sensitive, long-shot, wholly under a soft background score — of doctors announcing his death, at the end of first episode.

The show is entirely centred on Jigna Vora — named Jagruti Pathak (Karishma Tanna, in phenomenal form) — who used to be Dey’s competitor in the crime beat, at Asian Age (called Eastern Age here).

Vora was charged with abetting Dey’s murder — by allegedly passing on his personal details to the underworld don, Chhota Rajan; who, in turn, ordered the hit. 
She was lodged for several months in prison. The evidence against her, according to this series, was screamingly circumstantial, hence speculative. What had really happened? That’s Scoop for you — from a particular angle/POV/peg, if you will.

The detailing that follows, never descending to obvious melodrama, is a far cry from, say, the picture, Page 3 (2005), that similarly surveyed Mumbai tabloid journalism, also with the mid-day newsroom for an obvious nod.

If anything, this is a fine follow-up to Hansal Mehta’s own, Scam 1992 (Sony LIV) — that, likewise, lenses print reporters on the field (working in tag-teams of two), and looks at the Gujarati middle class (sizeable portion of Mumbai), through their homes. Scam (2020), of course, was essentially a biopic of stock-broker Harshad Mehta.

The first thing you noticed about that stellar series — which is progressively getting common on the OTT scene — are relatively lesser-known, multiple actors, matching the best roles, creating an unusual chemistry, that audiences had been deprived of, with ‘saas-bahus’ on network television, and hero-centric mainstream cinema, forever.

It’s the same with Scoop. Take Harman Baweja, for example. Around the time this series is set, Baweja was being foisted as a replacement for Hrithik Roshan for a Bollywood superstar. He altogether disappeared from the screen thereafter. With him as a cop heading the Mumbai Police crime branch, modelled on Himanshu Roy — you can tell how we may have lost a great actor instead!

You similarly observe handpicked performers, even for walk-on parts, down to the rando reading the news on TV — that’s the YouTube sensation, Danish Sait, no less. Together, this tight ensemble — Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub (as the newspaper editor) onwards — brilliantly brings out a world believably alive.

At its heart, 'Scoop' is about the nexus of politics, crime, business, and news media — particularly in a way that they converge in a city like Mumbai. The lowly-paid journalist, in the middle of all this, sometimes looks like Icarus, before the powerful sun. Because that’s the job, isn’t it?

And yet, if they’re not distant/careful enough, it could finish them off completely. There is no such thing as a free tip-off. The fine balance between lone-wolf and mouthpiece is hard to maintain.

The protagonist, Jagruti Pathak, is a star crime-reporter. Which, chiefly entails, access to top cops; and surely the relevant criminals, too. Being in an English language newspaper (over regional/Hindi press in Mumbai), substantially helps. This is strangely true, whether you cover politics or pop-culture.

Being a woman doesn’t help — if you have to constantly fight off sexual rumours to explain professional success. Her rise depends on stringing sources, leads, landing exclusives. Page One is the daily, holy grail. What if the tables turn? She finds herself getting eaten by the same headline-hunters she would once compete against!

The humiliation is complete. She was, after all, booked for organised crime. In the same way that so many journalists have been tried for terrorism, for reporting news. It is relevant analogies and insights like these that lift Scoop from simply a story of Dey’s death.

Also Read: 'The Boogeyman' movie review: Generic and old-fashioned ‘not-so-scary’ movie

A lot like the subjects he covered, Dey himself was a mysterious kinda figure. By 2010 or so, I’d read his crime columns, wondering if the Bombay underworld (seemingly long-dead), was only in his head. This is, of course, before his tragic, frightening demise.

Scoop offers an alternate theory to his murder. It’s based on Vora’s book, Behind Bars in Byculla — on the price of her time in jail. It’s more a deep-dive into the crime (reporting) scene, than Orange is the new Black!

Can’t wait for my colleagues to watch this first-rate series, so we can animatedly discuss it at the Press Club — now, that’s the bar we can afford. It’s not as posh as in this show. Neither are the suited scribes!

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