Art & Entertainment

Hansal Mehta: ‘Scam’ And ‘Scoop’ Are Two Of The Most Outstanding Pieces Of Writing

A romantic drama and a musical are some of the genres that director Hansal Mehta wants to explore next, but the filmmaker, who has for now trained his lens on contemporary issues, says he keeps feeling "there's very little time".

Hansal Mehta

A romantic drama and a musical are some of the genres that director Hansal Mehta wants to explore next, but the filmmaker, who has for now trained his lens on contemporary issues, says he keeps feeling "there's very little time".

After the success of "Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story", Mehta is returning to the series format with "Scoop", his exploration of the media industry, inspired by the true story of journalist Jigna Vora.

The filmmaker, known for intense dramas such as "Shahid", "Aligarh”, and "Faraaz", said he is always in search of interesting stories.

"I want to make a musical and a romantic one. The problem is there are too many stories to tell, too many genres to explore. I keep feeling that there is very little time," Mehta told PTI in an interview here.

"For me, filmmaking is a trip, I have to find that trip. It has to give me a high. It can be anything, a comedy or a love story. I have to find that. I keep looking at different things and if something excites me, I do it. It is as simple as that," he added.

"Scoop", a six-episode Netflix series, is inspired by Vora's 2019 jail memoir "Behind Bars in Byculla: My Days in Prison".

"It is the story of dreams, aspirations set in the world of reportage in the city that has given me so much and taken so much as well... It is a story set about our times, I found that compelling," said Mehta, who collaborated with "Thappad" writer Mrunmayee Lagoo Waikul on the series.

Waikul, Mehta said, developed the story in a way that he instantly wanted to adapt that script for the screen.

"It is perhaps the most outstanding piece of writing, like ‘Scam’ and ‘Scoop’, they are two of the most outstanding pieces of writing," he added.

Mehta consciously chose not to meet Vora as he did not want to be "coloured" by her version of the story. He also suggested his leading lady Karishma Tanna to not meet the journalist.

"This is a new story, a fictionalised retelling of events, so it has to be open to interpretation. All the research has been expertly woven by Mrunmayee and her team. So, I wanted to interpret that and not be coloured in my interpretation that Jigna does this or this is her body language," he said.

“I told her (Karishma) not to meet the real person. She shadowed a crime reporter but that was a different person... Just to see how they deal with cops, what they do, how they talk to them. She (Tanna) went to jails, cop stations, she saw that girl hustling with cops trying to get a story and all of that," he added.

Asked about his approach in presenting a protagonist with a controversial life, Mehta said he tries not to judge his characters.

"These are labels that we put on them. This is a controversial person, this is a hustler, this is a greedy or evil person. It is easy to say these things. But I try consciously to not judge anyone. Like, there are people, who you feel, might be going into a grey area but I have not judged them in that way. So they come across as human even in their flaws,” he said.

“Like, a journalist hustling to get a story, against all odds, at the cost of her own life, a colleague trying to get a story reporting on her, her own mentee. I don't judge her. The moment you don't do it, that greed also becomes human. That is the attempt. (To) see the character as a character and not as a label," he added.

The result of this approach, according to Mehta is, "you neither whitewash them nor paint them in shades of black."

"As a storyteller, I see my responsibility in helping you judge a persona, beyond that person’s profession, caste, religion, see that person as a human being," he added.

"Scoop" marks Mehta's first collaboration with Tanna, who plays the protagonist Jagruti Pathak.

The director said he was impressed by Tanna's hunger as an actor, which was also the key trait in her character.

"When she auditioned, I found that she had something that was there on paper (in the script), like the character is hungry. It's a hunger that you will relate to, to be on the front page, to have your byline seen.

"That hunger I saw in Karishma, the hunger to be seen and to be taken seriously as an actor that somehow came through in the audition. Karishma has an arresting screen presence. If she has to hold the show, you see her in almost every scene," he said.

Produced by Matchbox Shots, Sarita Patil and Dikssha Jyote Routray, "Scoop" streams on Netflix from June 2.