In the span of two years between April 2015 and March 2017, police from 12 Indian states reportedly made 23 journeys to the Jharkhand district of Jamtara, some six hours by road from the state capital of Ranchi. They did so to investigate cybercrimes — primarily phishing, or rather vishing, a portmanteau of voice and phishing — that were emanating from one of the most underdeveloped districts, which at the height of its infamy in 2017, buoyed by the effects of demonetization, was responsible for 80 percent of them by some estimates.
Those involved had bought luxury SUVs and put up fancy bungalows next to ramshackle cottages. And with few opportunities in a poverty-stricken country, phishing became a household business in Jamtara, which was nicknamed as India’s phishing capital.
On paper, this is a truly fascinating story for several reasons. But TV shows — Jamtara is out Friday on Netflix worldwide — aren’t about trends, statistics, or the big picture. They are about people. Audiences need characters to invest in. Unfortunately, Jamtara, written by Trishant Srivastava (Nisha Aur Uske Cousins), doesn’t do a great job in that regard.
Its motley of conman, cops, and politicians are loosely sketched, with the series more interested in using them to drive the plot. It doesn’t help that that its 10 episodes — critics, including us, had access to the first six-run for less than half an hour on average. That’s nearly not enough time to develop characters, more so when you have an ensemble cast and love setting up mini-cliffhangers with each episode.
What Jamtara does have to offer is a well thought out, defined visual look. Not enough Indian shows, save for a select few in the likes of Delhi Crime, bother to delve into such aspects. But thankfully, National Award-winning director Soumendra Padhi (Budhia Singh: Born to Run) and his director of photography Kaushal Shah (Cargo) spent considerable time — Padhi claimed — crafting a look for their series, testing various film and digital cameras during pre-production and working on color grading during post-production. And it shows on screen.
Shot with anamorphic lenses and then dialed to a specific yellow hue, Jamtara elevates itself over series with much bigger budgets. At times, it comes close to a prestige drama, though the writing can’t hold a candle.