Scoop - A Dramatic Look Into The Dangers Of Crime Reporting
Hansal Mehta’s ‘Scoop’ brings Jigna Vora’s book to life
“A scoop is an exclusive news story broken by a single journalist or a group of journalists working together. Good scoops will attract a great deal of attention for the journalists and newspapers involved, with most major papers urging their staff to get as many scoops as possible to add to the paper's prestige and perceived value.
“When a journalist manages to swoop in on a major story ahead of other journalists, he or she is said to have “scooped” the competition”, writes Mary McMahon. With wrong overuse and subsequent misuse, “scoop” has acquired a derogatory meaning and is not taken seriously.
‘Scoop’, Hansal Mehta’s six-part series written by Mrunmayee Lagoo Waikul and Mirat Trivedi, streaming on Netflix, is much more than a scoop in every sense. It takes off from a true-crime incident dated June 11, 2011, when Jyotimoy Dey, a leading crime reporter of Mid-Day, Mumbai, was shot dead.
The two men who shot him were later proven to have been hired by gangster Chhota Rajan. Dey was shot dead while he was returning home after meeting his mother. He died in hospital.
Though he kept a very low profile, probably because of his specialised field in investigating the underworld’s inside stories, Dey’s murder created a bombshell in the media. Several members of the Mumbai underworld were arrested soon after.
On November 25, 2011, among those believed to have been involved in the ghastly murder was one woman, a leading crime reporter in a competing paper. She was Jigna Vora, and was arrested on charges of instigating gangster Chhota Rajan to plan the killing.
It was widely reported that she had ‘links with Chhota Rajan who had ordered the killing’. It was said that Vora did not get on well with Dey who was widely known among the journalist fraternity, and also among the Mumbai police for his integrity and fearlessness in chasing dangerous stories and hitting front page stories for his paper.
Vora was arrested under MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act). She was subsequently acquitted in 2018.
Hansal Mehta, who has already given us ‘Scam 1972’ based on Harshad Mehta’s story, was inspired by Jigna Vora’s book ‘Behind Bars In Byculla: My Days In Prison’ which is the main source for the series.
The way Hansal Mehta and his technical team have brought this real story to life must be seen to be believed. But while the names of many people of the underworld are identified by their real names, such as Chhota Rajan, D, Mirchi and so on, the names of the journalists and police fraternity are fictionalised.
Every single scene cuts into the screen like an electric current. Before you can realise what hit you, you are taken into Jagruti Pathak’s heart-warming family. You meet her mother, maternal uncle and grandparents. her ten-year-old son is sent off to an expensive boarding school which he does not quite like as he misses his mother.
Jagruti is fighting a divorce case which takes her to Ahmedabad from time to time. There she quite enjoys sexual encounters with a local policeman, without any strings attached. She lives life on her own terms and her family looks the other way.
We are taken on a terror-filled trip into the Mumbai lanes and bylanes populated by gangsters, henchmen and suspicious characters. But the main stage of the drama is the Eastern Age newspaper office where Jagruti Pathak (Karisma Tanna) is deputy bureau chief.
She reports to her friendly editor Imran (Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub) who likes her and her work. He gives her a free hand in choosing her own stories for front page headlines.
Imran admires her grit and fearlessness in dealing with members of the underworld without fear or favour. This makes her mostly male colleagues jealous. They also do not like the editor’s leeway given to her for leading stories which has made her an important figure both among the underworld as well as the top brass of the police force.
Is being a ruthless and hard-hitting crime reporter dangerous for a woman? Not necessarily, because Jyotimoy Dey was a man, remember? But Jagruti Pathak does face a few #MeToo situations specially when JCP Harshavardhan Shroff (Harman Baweja) gives her ‘hints’ and gifts her a perfume telling her to wear it when they go for a date.
Pathak handles it well, but all these top cops who were awe-struck and also a bit scared of her, drop her like a hot potato when she lands in jail. In fact, what hurts her the most is the way her colleagues turn their back on her and are convinced about her involvement in Joydeb Sen’s (Prosenjeet Chatterjee) murder.
Inside the large hall of the prison, undertrials and murderers and criminals of all shapes and sizes, treat her like dirt and label her “Chhota Rajan’s keep” and question her about the paternity of her son.
These scenes are a bit repetitive though Mehta has treated the torture and abuse with variety. This abuse cuts Pathak, who had begun to think very highly of herself, to size. For the first time in her life she learns that she is not half as powerful or successful she believed she was.
Other than Karisma Tanna who makes every scene come alive with her sparkling performance, right across the volatile fluxes in Jagruti Pathak’s story, Mehta needs accolades for rescuing the non-career of one-time flop hero Harman Baweja. he is outstanding as JCP Shroff doing more than justice to his complete failure as a hero many years ago.
His performance is not only flawless but the pride he wears on his persona, especially when he tells a junior in the gym that he is perfectly fine when he knows he is dying of cancer, is brilliant. Prosenjeet Chatterjee as the slain journalist Joydeb Sen has a brief cameo but even within that limited footage, he proves what a great actor he is.
Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub as editor Imran shines in a lengthy and difficult role of being sandwiched between his job and his absolute trust in Pathak’s innocence.
He refuses to resign and asks his boss to fire him. He attends every single court hearing for Pathak’s bail. He acts with great restraint, adding years to himself as a character.
Imran tells Pathak’s replacement Pushkar (Tanmay Dhananiya) to stick to the truth. Pushkar suffers from ‘women’s success problems’, and even suspects his wife’s promotion and asks this to her face! Later, he admits that he was jealous of Pathak.
Jagruti Pathak’s home environment is perhaps the most positive part of the film. it weaves out its own story of what a “supportive” family really stands for.
Deven Bhojani as her mama is wonderful from beginning to end and the little boy who plays Pathak's son is incredibly sweet and innocent. The scene of him sneaking into the principal’s room to look through the old papers is emotionally touching.
The cutting into the parallel news office where Jagruti Pathak’s junior, the ambitious Deepa (Inayat Sood) joins after Imran puts her down for chasing headline stories featuring the scandal does not quite go with the rest of the narrative.
The single scene of domestic violence on Pathak by her ex-husband when she is breast-feeding her baby is entirely uncalled for too. It appears as if to justify Jagruti’s ‘single status’, and her one-night stands and drunken dance parties she sometimes indulges in. Why should every woman who wants to have fun and remain single have a sad backstory?
Jagruti’s family home in an old, plaster-peeling, multi-storied, middle-class building in Ghatkopar gives her the courage to fight every struggle in her life. But the way the women police drag her, I think is a bit overdone as she does not refuse to go along with them. Is this to add more drama to the scene?
The camera takes on the challenge of capturing Bombay of the period in which the story is rooted in. It flits and floats and flies between and among strobe-lit bars with loud music and dancing on, the sophisticated interiors of Jagruti’s newspaper office, which is much more glamorous than the Asian Age office was at that time.
The police station too looks much more spic and span than police stations really look. The interiors of the prison hall where Jagruti spends a slice of her stormy life she put in the book, have an impact. The cinematographer and the editor throw up a striking image of solidarity and mutual understanding.
The music is quite impactful, loud where it needs to be and low-key when it is used as a mood-centred back-up. The same goes for the merciless and jet-paced editing.
The court scenes appear a bit one-sided with the prosecution attorney not even allowed to make his concluding statements. But Jaimini Pathak as the defence attorney is wonderful and adds small doses of humour punched with satire in his arguments.
There are quite a few subtle but strong hints that Chhota Rajan was not being brought to court because of some nexus between the khaki clad top brass and the underworld. He had fled the scene but one wonders if he had been tipped off to scoot and come back when things cooled down.
From the moment of Jagruti Pathak’s arrest till her bail, not a single charge could be produced by the prosecutors to nail her as guilty. Yet, she was denied bail again and again. The prison inmates created a game with colourful bindis stuck on a wall, to bet on whether she will or will not be granted bail. One girl even asks Pathak, “Shall I give you a bindi if you want to bet?”
Imran recalls the mantra of reporting to a colleague, “If someone says it's raining and another person says it is dry, it is NOT your job to quote them both. It's your job to look out of the window and see which is the truth.” ‘Scoop’ is one of the most outstanding examples placed in a wonderful series that will haunt you for days on end.