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Hansal Mehta chose Karishma Tanna over others because she was ‘hungry’, didn’t come with ‘intellectual baggage’


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After his internet-breaking scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story, filmmaker Hansal Mehta is back with another series, this time on Netflix. Based on Jigna Vora’s book Behind Bars in Byculla, Scoop follows the story of intrepid crime reporter Jagriti Vora (played by Karishma Tanna). After the murder of a fellow journalist by the Chhota Rajan gang in 2011, Jagruti’s murder investigation soon finds her arrested and falsely accused of the crime. The hotshot reporter who often found his stories on the front page finds himself the victim of an ugly media trial. Hansal says, “Reporter report ho jaata hai.” (Also Read | Scoop trailer: Karishma Tanna plays a crime reporter who herself becomes the story in Hansal Mehta’s gripping drama)

Karishma Tanna in a scene from the Netflix series Scoop.
Karishma Tanna in a scene from the Netflix series Scoop.

Co-produced and written by Mrinmoyee Lagoo, Scoop uses Jagruti’s story to explore the morally ambiguous world of crime journalism, corruption and coverups. Ahead of the show’s release, producers Hansal Mehta and Mrunmay Lagoo, and lead Karishma Tanna spoke to me about the series, the unexpected casting of Harman Baweja and the sorry state of journalism.

Edited excerpts:

Let me start with the obvious question – what about Jigna Vora’s book did you think would make a great series?

Earthenware: It is a very compelling story of a woman in a field that is not tailor-made to look at women. We were also very excited to be in the newsroom. I don’t think we’ve really been in a newsroom with this kind of caliber in anything we’ve seen on the Indian screen. So we decided to go beyond the book to see not only what happened in prison, but what happened before and take you into a print newsroom that feels like a different era entirely. And what other format really lets you dive deep into something like this and do it justice? So we thought it should be a series.

Scoop also has a very curious structure. It is not purely an investigative thriller about the underworld and it is not purely a journalistic story. It’s a bit of both, but it’s also a biopic with the story of Jagruti and what happens to her. Was it hard to crack a structure that balanced all those elements in six episodes?

Earthenware: It sounds really complicated when you say it now. But when you’re really working on it, your whole focus is on telling an engaging story. Be it balancing Jagruti’s family life with an investigative angle, or finding out who is taking the plot forward when she is in jail. All these kinds of concerns are what made the show what it is. We never started with “want to do a biopic” or “want to do an investigative series”. just as we were walking along

Hansal: The second decision we made was to tell the story in a linear way instead of going back and forth in time and complicating time travel. I found his character more compelling than the book itself. After Harshad Mehta, this is the second character that really interested me. And what an interesting coincidence – both are Gujaratis. He also started in Ghatkopar and that too is located in Ghatkopar. That, and it was interesting to dive deep into the world of Awakening. What exactly do you want in a newspaper? You just want a byline at all costs, and this is the price you pay for that byline. And I loved the idea of ​​the reporter becoming the reported.

Karishma for you, this is one of those roles where you are playing every aspect of this person’s life. Jagruti, mother of rogue journalist and her harrowing experience of being falsely accused and jailed. Was there a specific moment either when you were reading the script or when you were on set where you thought “Okay I get it. I know who she is now”?

Yeah, when I was reading the script, one thing I really liked about him was his restlessness and impatience which I also had. I talk fast and stutter because my mind is racing faster than I can talk. The character required a really fast energy because you’re in the newsroom and that world is very fast-paced. And even on the shoot, if I fumbled, Hansal sir said, “If you are overlapping or talking about someone else, please keep going, don’t stop. That’s what I want in the scene because in real life That’s how people talk.

Hansal: It’s a nightmare for a sound designer (laughs). They always complain that “I can overlap them in the final sound design” and I said, “No, it will never look or feel natural”.

Hansal, I have to ask about the casting of Harman Baweja. It’s such an unlikely piece of casting and he’s so good on the show. how did that happen?

Hansal: (Laughs) That was Mukesh Chhabra and my idea. Thankfully even platforms like Netflix give me a free hand in terms of casting and it works. I enjoy casting as much as I do shooting and the process of surprising myself. Charisma was just that. There were a lot of accomplished actors in the room who had auditioned for Jagriti’s part, but I found Karishma hungrier than them and that’s what I wanted for Jagriti. I didn’t want intellectual stuff.

There were a lot of accomplished actors in the room who had auditioned for Jagriti’s part, but I found Karishma hungrier than them and that’s what I wanted for Jagriti.

With Harman, he had virtually given up acting. He is actually producing now and we were working on a film together at the same time we were casting Scoop and we were struggling with JCP Shroff’s character because so many actors had declined. And suddenly I messaged Mukesh and said “What do you think about Harman?”. He said, “I think he would be great but will he do it?”. I actually got to work on Harman as his previous acting stint had left him in a bit of a slump and he has since shifted his focus to producing which he is doing successfully now. When he finally relented, he came without any luggage. He had nothing to prove. The second that happens, the actor in you blossoms. I really enjoy that process of an actor not worrying about how they come out.

Were you even glad you were making a show about journalism set in 2011? It felt like a simpler time when newspapers mattered, front pages mattered, and the beast of social media and online reporting wasn’t the mess it is today. I think if it was set in 2023 it would have been very difficult to tell this story?

Hansal: At that time we were on the cusp of change. The landscape was already changing. Some demons were released only after a few years. Since the Kandahar hijacking, you’ve seen the landscape change and news become reality TV. And then 9/11 and 26/11 – all of those things affected the way we watch the news. It became a medium to generate engagement and business that we explore on the show – the constant battle of what’s newsworthy, what’s ethical, and what sells. It’s not a fight anymore. Now it is understood that morality does not matter.

You have a great line in the show when the reporters are in a hospital trying to photograph a dead body, and someone yells at them and says “show some respect”, and the reporter says, “Sir, if If we show respect then people change the channel”.

Hansal: Absolutely. This is a very telling moment. It’s an important line, but I didn’t want to underline it or emphasize it in the show. This is stated in a very matter of fact manner. This is their reality.

An awakening becomes the result of that reality and an ugly media trial. But he is also part of a system that attacks him. Do you consider him a good journalist?

Miracle: I think she was very ambitious and there is nothing wrong with that. She had dreams and she was very talented. And if something like this happens in that mess then it is very unfortunate.

Hansal: I think he crossed the line too. But you never know when you’re crossing the line. You don’t know what collateral damage is until you become collateral damage, you justify it to yourself.

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