With Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story streaming on SonyLIV, the director of the 10-episode series, Hansal Mehta joined for an informal tete-a-tete with entertainment journalist Devansh Patel on Thursday.
Talking about the success of the show, Mehta explained that it was a result of great writing and an understanding of the time in which the show was set in. “This show has been set in a time when India was on the cusp of change. When liberalisation, which we take for granted today, was not the case. We were just getting out of the license raj and the babu phase the country was going through,” he said.
Mehta called Scam 1992 a cautionary tale. He said that though India has been liberalised, the system and political situation in the country has allowed such scams to take place in the process of apprehending individuals. He also said that the situation regarding scams has not changed but only became more sophisticated and complex.
The director also revealed that he got along well with Pratik Gandhi who played Harshad Mehta. He revealed that the two of them, both hailing from Surat, shared similar cultural views. “When we went on shoot, I felt like I had been shooting with him for the past 100 days,” he said.
According to Mehta, Gandhi’s portrayal of Harshad Mehta is the result of an actor’s magic who is not insecure. “He did not really care about his fans expecting him to be a particular kind of actor. He was playing Harshad and that is who he became even though the two of them have a very little physical resemblance. A character is about how you internalise it and how you bring out the spirit that is on paper,” he said.
Comparing his passion with that of journalist Sucheta Dalal’s, whose book served as an inspiration to the show, Mehta said that while Dalal was passionate about the veracity of truth, he was passionate about making a human story out of her book. “She represents a time when journalism was about verification, documents and about having a story that shines a light on the truth,” Mehta added that Scam 1992 is a tribute to the handful of braves (journalists) who are doing their jobs in the real world like Dalal.
Mehta also confessed that he wishes to get permission from the show producers to release the script to the public. “Reading that screenplay and seeing the ultimate product – from page to screen – it will tell you a lot about the entire process of making this show,” he said. He also added that film students should have access to scripts and people should be allowed to edit them and give their interpretations on a public digital platform.
Mehta also revealed that he wanted to make a film out of the book when he read it many years ago. Mehta said that he never judged his characters.”For me, this is not a show about a conman. It is a study of human nature which includes values, ambition, aspiration, and ultimately greed. It is about human greed and also the system that drives you to succumb to greed.”
Meanwhile, Mehta revealed that he completed his upcoming movie Chhalaang, starring Rajkummar Rao, before he started to make the show. Talking more about the film, Mehta said, “Chhalaang is our attempt to make something light and breezy. Rajkummar and I have done so many films that have all been very intense. We also wanted to do something that is sort of mainstream and lighthearted. It was time to make a film that was for the entire family. It was time to make a film where Rajkummar doesn’t die in the end.”