It’s true: I’m absolutely smitten with Netflix‘s “Jamtara – Sabka Number Ayega.” The original ten-part series / hidden gem released in January, and right away I was hooked into the wild world of phishing scams.
If you’re like me, you’ve most likely been on the receiving end of numerous (and irritating) spam emails & SMSes with spoofed URLs, and automated calls claiming everything from how you owe money to the IRS and if you don’t cough up it up you’re going to jail, or in order to secure your random win to that Sandals Resorts Caribbean vacation, you simply have to call back the provided number “consultation free.” But have you ever wondered how these scammers get away with their lucrative phishing operations?
Award-winning director Soumendra Padhi (his 2016 directorial debut “Budhia Singh – Born to Run” featured Manoj Bajpayee), writers Trishant Srivastava and Nishank Verma, and cinematographer Kaushal Shah bless us with the opportunity to witness the highs and lows of the other end of the phishing spectrum – how these young, local scammers function while dealing with a greedy politician and a fed-up superintendent of police.
Here are five reasons why you need to binge “Jamtara – Sabka Number Ayega” immediately:
“At least give me your number.” “Where’d you get my number?”
Remember the days when ‘SPAM RISK’ wasn’t calling and we’d actually pick up the phone to then have one of these many ironic conversations followed by an exchange of profanities for refusing to provide information?
Sure, the few ‘woke’ people throughout Jamtara will have you breathing easy but watching the majority of educated, higher-class victims – who are easily manipulated by sultry voices/accents and incentives – give up their security details to the uneducated, rural-based (but sharp-witted) youth posing as bank officials will leave you fascinated and have you blocking unrecognizable numbers like your life depends on it (I mean, it does but if you aren’t doing so already, do it, fam).
And newsflash: Your credit card wasn’t actually blocked, you didn’t win that five-day holiday package to Goa or even that laal colored Maruti car.
“Jamtara has become famous.”
If you didn’t know, know you know. Written by Trishant Srivastava and Nishank Verma, the story of Jamtara is disclaimed upon viewing as “based on true events.”
According to a 2017 article from The Hindu, Jharkhand’s Jamtara district quickly emerged as a cyber-crime hub in the country and with the struggle to find employment, youth who traveled outside the district to find work picked up skills that aided them in making quick cash. So, not only are we getting our dose of entertainment but an informative cinematic adaptation that transcends the realities of Jamtara’s phishing scams. It’s a two for one special.
“We are the gods of Jamtara. We appear wherever we wish.”
Binging “Jamtara – Sabka Number Ayega” may result in a satisfied and refreshed soul upon encountering a few familiar (and not so familiar) faces. Each character seems like a god in their own profession and nature throughout the series but justice wouldn’t have been done to their respective characters without each actor delivering outstanding performances.
You’ve got cousins Sunny (Sparsh Shrivastav) and Rocky Mondal (Anshumaan Pushkar) battling for Jamtara’s cyber-crime god. Despite their success, their brotherly bond and phishing plans are jeopardized because of their differing ambitions. Of course, these operations aren’t possible without their beloved cyber-crime prophets’ crew: Bachhu (Aatm Prakash Mishra), Shahbaaz (Kartavya Kabra), Ponto (Sarfaraz Ali Mirza), and our intoxicated narrators Baccha (Harshit Gupta) and Munna (Rohit Kp), who utilize dark humor and the characters and tales from the Mahabharata to parallel the evolving situations within their world.
Aspiring journalist Anas Ahmad (Aasif Khan, “Mirzapur”) is caught between his friendship with these con artists & conjuring up an exposé, while local English teacher Gudiya Singh (Monika Panwar, “Super 30”) challenges the gender roles of phishing. Though she isn’t interested in the scheme at first, once she marries Sunny the two manage to compromise, rake in cash and expand the business.
Then there’s Brajesh Bhaan (Amit Sial, “Inside Edge”), the corrupted politician who not only wants a cut of the earnings but will literally show up to your house uninvited and eat your food. The audacity! While he’s god-like in Rocky’s eyes, Jamtara’s new SP, Dolly Sahu (Aksha Pardasany, “Devdas”) isn’t amused by any of his antics.
Keen on cracking the local phishing scheme (and exposing Bhaan for the dirtbag he is), SP Sahu works alongside Inspector Biswa Paathak (Dibyendu Bhattacharya, “Sacred Games”) and the cyber-crime branch’s techy officer – who decides to take advantage of a shopping sale in the midst of the phishing crisis – Saurav Sharma (Udit Arora, “The Zoya Factor”). Easy on the eyes, he’s got a lot to prove and considering his epiphany, I’d let him explain triangulation to me any day.
“The lion is not feared unless he hunts down other animals.”
Being exposed to the gritty India we aren’t always used to seeing in Indian cinema? Yes, please!
As the subject of phishing is underrepresented in the media, especially the Indian film industry, the established realm within Jamtara is a perfection combination of crime and thriller as we observe the community’s power shift during the cyber-crime crisis (specifically 2015 – it’s the year on Gudiya’s classroom chalkboard) while indulging in the dialogue, dramatic hooks, and mounting tensions. At the core, money, reputation/status and stability thrive and characters are forced to eat or be eaten in order to survive.
“What do you know about phishing?”
What do we know about phishing? What don’t we know? What do we need to know moving forward in this fictional world and our reality? How is the cell phone reception in rural India top-notch when I struggle to get bars in New York City?
When Saurav-ji tests SP Sahu’s phishing knowledge, it feels like he’s challenging us too. We’re motivated to entertain our misconceptions, questions, notions, and intrigue for the crime because let’s face it: if there’s one thing “Jamtara – Sabka Number Ayega” will teach you it’s that phishing is an art, and if you aren’t crafty, you can’t roll with the gang.
“Ghoomer,” R. Balki’s latest directorial venture, had its world premiere at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2023 (IFFM), earlier this month, and the moment was nothing short of memorable. Lead actors Abhishek Bachchan, Saiyami Kher, and Angad Bedi, were present to unveil their labor of love to the world, and all three were left speechless at the reaction of the global audience; the film received a standing ovation on opening night, leaving the team extremely emotional — a feeling that Bachchan tells Brown Girl is one he cannot put into words.
“Ghoomer,” tells the story of Anina (played by Kher), an exceptional cricket player who loses her right hand in an accident. Downtrodden and with no will to live, Anina finds a mentor and coach in Padam Singh Sodhi (played by Bachchan), an insensitive and brash failed cricketer who helps her turn her life and career around; Anina also has the unwavering support of her husband, Jeet (played by Bedi). Sodhi teaches Anina unorthodox techniques to make her mark on the cricket ground once again. Enter, ghoomer, a new style of bowling.
Balki checks all the boxes with this feature — his protagonist is a female athlete, the film is his way of giving back to cricket (a new form of delivery), and he highlights the idea that nothing is impossible for paraplegic athletes. The heart of Balki’s film is in the right place — Kher mentions that the film is meant to be more of an inspirational movie and less of a sports-based movie. One can only imagine the impact that a film like this would have on an audience that’s hungry for meaningful cinema.
And, to chat more about “Ghoomer,” Brown Girl Magazine sat down with the stars of the show. Bachchan, Bedi, and Kher came together to talk about their inspiring characters, the filming journey, and how their film aspires to change the landscape of cricket and paraplegic athletes in the country. It was all that, with a side of samosas.
Take a look!
The featured image is courtesy of Sterling Global.
It’s always a flamboyant affair of colour, emotions and grandeur when Karan Johar directs a film, and his latest blockbuster “Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani” is as K Jo as it gets. After recently being recognised at the British House of Parliament for 25 years as a filmmaker, Johar is back to doing what he does best — bringing together families and star-crossed lovers, but this time with a modern touch. He makes a decent attempt at showcasing progressive ideals and feminist issues while taking us on this family-friendly ride.
“Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani” is a larger-than-life film revolving around the love story of a boisterous Rocky (Ranveer Singh) from a wealthy Delhi family, and Rani (Alia Bhatt), a sharp journalist from a progressive Bengali household. And of course, despite belonging to completely different backgrounds and lives, our protagonists, in true Bollywood fashion, fall hopelessly in love through a string of slow-motion gazes, warm embraces and some truly breath-taking song sequences in Kashmir’s snowy mountains. They are then forced to face their opposing families which brings along the family drama in the second half of the film.
The plot is not the film’s strongest point — there’s no real surprise about what’s going to happen next, and yet the film doesn’t fail to keep audiences engaged and pack an emotional punch. This is down to its strong acting, witty dialogues and K Jo’s classic, beautiful cinematography.
Ranveer Singh sinks into the skin of his character with ease – not only does he make the hall burst into laughter with the help of perfectly-timed gags but he pulls off those dreamy gazes ,expected in K Jo’s heroes, to evoke that typical, fuzzy-feeling kind of Bollywood romance. Alia Bhatt’s intelligent and undefeated character is no less a pleasure to watch on screen — not only does she look breath-taking in every shot but her feminist dialogues earn claps and cheers from the audience as she brings a progressive touch to this family drama.
Albeit, while Bhatt’s dialogues do their best to steer this film to the reformist drama it hopes to be, some of Singh’s gags and monologues on cancel culture bring out bumps in the road. The film could have done better to reinforce its points on feminism and racism without using the groups it tries to support as the butt of jokes.
There is also a case to be made about how long these Punjabi and Bengali stereotypes can go on with often gawkish displays of Ranveer’s ‘dilwala-from-Delhi’ character among the overly-polished English from Rani’s Bengali family. But it is with the expertise of the supporting cast, that the film is able to get away with it. Jaya Bachchan in particular is as classy as ever on screen; the stern Dadi Ji holds her ground between the two lovers, while Dada Ji Dharmendra, and Thakuma Shabana Azmi, tug at our heartstrings showing that love truly is for all ages.
Saving the best to last, it is the film’s cinematography that makes the strongest case for audiences to flock to the cinema. The soul-stirring songs steal the show with their extravagant sets and powerful dance performances that treat the audiences to the much-awaited cinematic experience of a K Jo film. While audiences may already be familiar with the viral songs, “What Jhumka?” and “Tum Kya Mile“, it was the family-defying fight for love in “Dhindhora Baje Re” that really gave me goosebumps.
Overall, the film does exactly what it says on the tin and is a family entertainer with something for everyone. It will make you laugh, cry, and cringe at times, but nothing leaves you feeling as romantic as some old school Bollywood with a mix of new school humour, in true K Jo form.
It’s never a dull moment with your girl gang; some shots and conversations about sex, right? If you agree, you’re in for a treat with Karan Boolani’s directorial venture, “Thank You For Coming,” which had its world premiere at the 48th annual Toronto International Film Festival. This coming-of-age story unapologetically begs the answer to a very important question: Why should women be left high and dry in bed?
Kanika Kapoor (Bhumi Pednekar) is a successful, 32-year-old, Delhi food blogger who makes a huge revelation on her 30th birthday: She’s never experienced an orgasm. This dirty little secret (no pun intended!) has now become detrimental to her self-esteem. She feels so down and out that she even accepts the proposal of a very boring suitor, Jeevan-ji (Pradhuman Singh Mall).
But, it’s not like she hasn’t tried. Kanika’s been a monogamist since her teenage years, starting with puppy love in high school — unfortunately, their sexual endeavors coined her as “thandi” (cold) by her first boyfriend — all the way to dating in her adulthood. But, regardless of how great any relationship was, nobody had her achieve the big O. All until the night of her engagement with Jeevan, when the drunk bride-to-be leaves the party for her hotel room and gets into bed. What follows is her very first orgasm. Ghungroo, finally, tute gaye! But, with whom?
The morning after, an initially-satisfied Kanika works herself into a frenzy of confusion and frustration as she makes her way through the list of potential men who could’ve been in her room the night before.
Was it one of her exes? She’d simply invited them to come to wish her well.
Was it her fiance?
Or, God forbid, was it actually the rabdi-wala (ice cream man)?
Boolani takes a straight-forward and on-the-nose approach to drive the point home. There are no cutting corners, no mincing words, and no hovering over “taboo topics.” The dialogue is raunchy, the characters are horny, and no one is apologetic. It’s important for a film like “Thank You For Coming” to be so in-your-face because the subject of women achieving orgasms can’t really be presented in any other way. Anything more conservative in the narrative would feel like the makers are being mindful of addressing something prohibited. And there is no room for taboos here.
But, there is room for a more open conversation on the reasons why many women feel the need to suppress their sexual needs in bed; how generally, women have been brought up to be the more desirable gender and hence not cross certain boundaries that would make them appear too brash. The fight for the right of female pleasure would have been a little more effective if the modesty around the topic was addressed. But, that doesn’t mean that the point is remiss.
The plot moves swiftly along, never lulling too long over everything that seems to be going wrong in Kanika’s life. “Thank You For Coming” is full of all the right tropes that belong in a comedic, masala film, too; the direction very seamlessly takes classic fixings like the abhorrent admirer (enter Jeevan-ji) and effectively plugs them into this contemporary feature that will remain perpetually relevant.
And now, let’s come to the star of the show: the well-rounded characters.
Producer Rhea Kapoor has mastered the formula of a good chick flick and her casting is the magic touch. She’s got a knack for bringing together the right actors — cue, “Veere Di Wedding.” So, just when we think that it doesn’t get better than the veere, Kapoor surprises us with a refreshing trio — they’re modern, they’re rebellious, and they say it like it is. Thank you, Dolly Singh (Pallavi Khanna) and Shibani Bedi (Tina Das) for being the yin to Kanika’s yang — and for the bag full of sex toys your homegirl oh-so needed!
To complete Kanika’s story, we have her single mother, Miss. Kapoor, brilliantly portrayed by Natasha Rastogi. She is the face of a headstrong and self-assured matriarch and a symbol of the modern-day Indian woman. Rastogi’s character exemplifies the fact that with access to education, and a stable career, women do not need to mold their lives around men.
I love the fact that Miss. Kapoor is almost villainized by her own mother (played by Dolly Ahluwalia) in the film because she had a child out of wedlock in her yesteryears, she chooses to remain single, and she brings her boyfriends around the house to hang out with. But, there’s a point to be made here. The fact that Kanika’s mother is being antagonized just highlights that she is challenging the norms and pushing the envelope for what is socially acceptable for women. Miss. Kapoor definitely deserves an honorable mention.
Pednekar’s unexpected yet impeccable comic timing is the highlight of the entire film. Everything from being a damsel in sexual distress to a woman who unabashedly chases self-pleasure, Pednekar puts on a genuinely entertaining act for the audience. From being portrayed as a high-schooler to the 32-year-old, independent woman, Pednekar is fit for each role. Her naivety as a teen wins you over, as does her gusto as a full-blown adult with a broken ankle and some very messy relationships. This also speaks volumes about the versatility of her looks.
And, of course, Pednekar is not new to films that address social topics, but “Thank You For Coming” challenges her to balance Kanika’s droll with the responsibility of delivering a very important message to the viewers. Mission accomplished, Ms. Pednekar!
“Thank You For Coming” is a through-and-through entertainer. Everything from the casting — a huge shout out to the rest of the supporting cast including Anil Kapoor, Shehnaaz Gill, Karan Kundra, Kusha Kapila, Gautmik, and Sushant Divkigar, without whom this roller coaster would have lacked the thrills — to the homey locations and even the glitz and glamor in the song sequences, they’re all perfect pieces to help drive home a powerful message: Smash patriarchy!