In the world of OTTs and television, where an abundance of shows are vying for our attention, it takes something truly exceptional to stand out. Hansal Mehta’s Scoop is more than another run-of-the-mill crime drama series based on real-life events. The show has all the qualities that make for good art — cultural relevance to contemporary times and issues, historical context, ability to evoke strong emotions and immaculate technicality in presentation.
The story is based on crime journalist Jigna Vora's memoir, Behind Bars in Byculla: My Days in Prison. Taking inspiration from a brilliant piece of literature, Hansal Mehta has converted it into a cathartic cinematic experience. Even though the timeline is not explicitly mentioned, we are transported into an early 2000s Mumbai through the city’s on-screen portrayal, references to Chhota Rajan and Dawood, and tiny details like the usage of QWERTY Blackberry phones, which were in vogue back in the day. However, even though the series is portraying the often unseen facets of Indian journalism, the workings of the police force, and the dark underbelly of Mumbai’s criminal enterprise, the issues the show touches upon are universal.
People are what they read. That is the power of journalism. It has the ability to forge and control narratives, create truths out of untruths and influence public opinion. Living in the world’s largest democracy, we are aware of the power of the press and how it can make or break anyone. Scoop hits the hammer on the nail through its approach to a universal discourse — the role of journalism in a consumerist society. While it's true that no publishing house can exist without earnings, how far does one go to mint money? Journalism was born out of the noble idea to deliver truth to people in their living rooms. Have we, as journalists, completely forgotten the pursuit of truth in the pursuit of generating revenue for our publishing house? Is sensationalism the new brand of journalism? These are some of the pertinent questions that Scoop is raising.
Even though the series is based on the inner workings of the Indian media industry, its approach toward the theme of ambition can be applicable across all professions. In late-stage capitalism, collectivism has been replaced by individualism and cooperation with competition. The series masterfully portrays how people are busy climbing this never-ending ladder called ambition and leaving behind destruction in its wake. Without veering into spoilers, we see in the show how blind ambition propels a junior journalist to backstab her mentor just to get a “scoop” on page one. In this world, ethics and respect have taken a backseat.
Imran Siddiqui, a character from the series 'Scoop'
Another important contemporary issue that is immaculately portrayed on-screen is the repercussions of media trials. In today’s day and age people have sworn off “innocent until proven guilty”. Especially, if you are a woman, even before you have been convicted of any crimes, fake allegations, mudslinging, and character assassinations are the bread and butter of social media. When we cinematically experience the consequences of a media trial on the show’s protagonist, as an Indian audience, we are immediately reminded of the real-life Rhea Chakraborty fiasco and the irreparable damage it has done to her career and reputation.
Scoop’s treatment of gender is compelling. Even in the sub-plots, we see the discrimination a woman faces in her workplace. “She got promoted so she must’ve been sleeping with the boss” is a line we’ve all heard in our daily lives as well. The show’s apt response to it is “Nobody ever says this when a man gets promoted.” In other words, society’s thinking is if a man climbs the career ladder, it must’ve been his merit, but if it’s a woman it must be her lady parts. Most professions are deemed as realms of men and a woman must work twice as hard, in the face of rampant sexism and bullying, just to prove her worth.
Another facet of the show that is bound to impress upon its viewers is how Mehta's skillful storytelling intertwines multiple narratives, introducing us to characters who defy the conventional hero-villain archetype. In this landscape, where shades of gray dominate, Scoop fearlessly challenges the notion of clearly defined protagonists and antagonists, offering a nuanced portrayal of complex individuals. When the book of law, due process and by extension, the judicial system gets compromised, the lines separating right from wrong often get blurred.
The six-episode television series ends on a pertinent note that shifts the focus from just the assassinated or wrongfully jailed journalists in the show to the larger Indian context. It highlights how since the year 2000, 102 Indian journalists have been assassinated, jailed or reported missing. The list includes some of the greatest faces in modern Indian journalism such as Gauri Lankesh, Rajdeo Rajan, Santosh Yadav, Siddique Kappan, Rakesh Nirbhik, Rupesh Kumar Singh, and more.
While Scoop shines in various aspects, it is not without its flaws. The extended cameo of Shikha Talsania as the Godwoman feels underdeveloped, interrupting the flow of the narrative. Additionally, certain jail sequences could have been trimmed to maintain a more consistent pace. The treatment and transition of the show’s spoken languages from English to Hindi to Gujarati could have been more nuanced and contextual. However, these minor aberrations do not detract significantly from the overall impact of the series.
In a television landscape saturated with predictable plotlines and formulaic storytelling, Scoop stands out as a refreshing and enthralling series. It is a must-watch, showcasing the potent combination of storytelling prowess and a critical examination of the world we live in. The first season of the six-episode series proved to be a tremendous success but it remains to be seen if it can continue with the narrative capturing the reality of the world of investigative journalism, law and punishment or if it is subverted by the same aspect that it is critiquing — sensationalism.
You can watch the trailer below.
Watch the full series here.
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