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Jamtara director Soumendra Padhi: "Season 2 is much more layered and much more researched"

Soumendra Padhi on the research for 'Jamtara', casting, and what's different about the sleeper hit show on voice phishing and cybercrime in Season 2 which drops on September 23, 2022.

September 17, 2022 / 03:29 PM IST
The storyline of 'Jamtara' is based on research, and most of the characters have a basis in reality. (Image: Netflix/Screen grab)

The storyline of 'Jamtara' is based on research, and most of the characters have a basis in reality. (Image: Netflix/Screen grab)

Filmmaker Soumendra Padhi believes in taking his time with his projects, quite unlike the speedy protagonist of his debut feature Budhia Singh: Born to Run (2016), a biopic about a child marathon runner, which also starred Manoj Bajpayee.

His follow-up directorial came in 2020 as a Netflix series called Jamtara: Sabka Number Ayega. Set in the district of Jamtara in Jharkhand, the sleeper hit deep-dived into the fascinating and dark world of cybercrime and voice phishing. The second season of the crime drama series, which follows characters Sunny, Rocky, Gudiya and Brajesh Bhaan, among others, is all set to release on September 23, 2022.

Here is what the director had to say about where Jamtara and the story of online scamming goes now.

How much of the phishing and scam related storyline is based on fact and how much is fiction?

Our research and interaction with Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad police suggested that different people who had gotten scammed in different parts of the country at different points in time had one thing in common – the origin of the scam traced back to Jamtara. So all the scams you see in the show are real and did happen to people at different times. Our storyline is based on research and most of the characters you see have a basis in reality, or are inspired by real characters, such as IPS officer Dolly Sahu (played by Aksha Pardasany), the politicians and the different scammers.

After the success of season one, what was the thought in developing the story for a second season? There seems to be a lot more emphasis on politics and revenge this time around.

Yes, season two is much more layered and much more researched. The first season was more of an introduction to the world of scammers and their lives, whereas the new season gives a much deeper explanation of where the sim cards come from, where the money gets transferred, etc. There is so much more detail.

Secondly, in any society you cannot take politics out of the equation. In a story like Jamtara, which is deeply rooted in reality, you cannot ignore politics. This season is also much more character-driven, than plot-driven. It’s the characters’ choice to get into politics, and we just followed their story.

Our research suggested that in the world of scammers, after having made so much money, all they crave for is more power and money cannot always buy that power which comes through a democratic process. So these scammers are getting into politics. The scammers largely belong to a section of society that for very long was suppressed and ignored based on caste, social background, etc.

One of the strengths of the show is the casting. Can you share some details of the casting process and any new additions to season 2?

One of the best things that happened with our show, and full credit to Viacom and Netflix which can accommodate and market such new talent and give full freedom for casting. All the actors are from different parts of the country. There was no pressure at any point to cast a certain person for a certain role. Some of the actors are FTII (Film and Television Institute of India), NSD (National School of Drama), some have passed out of theatre in Madhya Pradesh, Kolkata, Jharkhand. I am so thankful for the freedom to cast and full credit to the producers for giving us that creative freedom.

Another strength is the lived-in feel, the authentic milieu. What can you share about the locations, filming and your directorial process?

When I read the pilot for the first season, I had not been to that world but only heard of it. None from my team actually – neither my cinematographer or producer designer – had any connection whatsoever with Jharkhand. We went to Jharkhand with cameras and did a recce for a week or 10 days. We took the road from Ranchi to Jamtara, Dhanbad, all the places we had seen. We were aware of what we are trying to create. You are as good as your team. Wherever we could go, we shot those portions. Wherever we couldn’t go, we recreated that for our creative purpose. That’s how it stayed true. Taking new actors and a new location gives you a mystical feel. When a scammer calls from that world, it seems mysterious.

Where is that mobile tree, and how did you come up with the idea of a tree with phones hanging off it?

One of the most defining images of season two is that mobile tree. Such trees exist in Jamtara where, after making a certain number of calls, people do go and tie up their mobiles so that the number is untraceable, because you can also be traced through the IMEI number in your phone. There are many such trees in Jamtara, but we showed just one to make it more defining, more imposing and intimidating.

(Image: Netflix/Screen grab) (Image: Netflix/Screen grab)

What inspired the characters of Munna and Bacha, and their fascination with the Mahabharata?

They are the creations of writer Trishant Srivastava. Because we were introducing a new place to the world, he believed these two characters will make the world more interesting. In future, characters may be killed or dying but you can do without them - Munna and Bacha. Others will come to play the big game, take the big risks and face the consequences, but I don’t think it will happen with these two. They will survive to tell future stories of Jamtara.

Mahabharata because Trishant felt it's a popular mythological event or influence that you don’t need to go to school to learn about, unlike learning about the Mahatma or other leaders. These boys do not go to school but they would have heard the story of the Mahabharata from their families. It was nice to correlate these two events and to explore how relevant the story and its lessons are in the current generation/scenario also.

What else are you working on? Would you be open to a third season?

It would be great to do season 3 but the response to season 2 will determine that. We believe we have a great story and that people will have a great time watching it, just as we had making it. I am working on a full-length feature which will be announced soon. This is a great time for storytellers. Five years ago one could not have imagined the amazing stories being offered on a weekly basis. These are great times for producers, writers, directors, anyone in the business.
Udita Jhunjhunwala is an independent film critic, lifestyle writer, author and festival curator. She can be found on Twitter @UditaJ and Instagram @Udita_J
first published: Sep 17, 2022 03:25 pm