Life inspires fiction: ‘Jamtara’ showrunners recount experiences in scam capital

Mumbai, Aug 28 : Scams – big or small – have always been a part of the society. While earlier there were thugs duping people, with the advancement of technology, the scams have diversified into online scams of varied nature of which phishing scams are prime.

The soon-to-be-released second season of the popular webseries ‘Jamtara’ tells the story and modus operandi of such scams, the people involved and how it affects the life of everyone, who are part of it.

IANS recently spoke with the show’s creators — Trishant Srivastava (writer) and Soumendra Padhi (director) — about the nature of these scams, the upcoming season of the show and their findings while they were piecing together the information to tell a compelling story.

One would wonder about the people behind such scams being 12 to 15-year-old school dropouts. As per the 2011 Census, the city of Jamtara in Jharkhand had an average literacy rate of 63.73 per cent, lower than the national average of 74.4 per cent.

In such a scenario, crime becomes the prime outlet to make money and Jamtara is no different as Trishant says, “The boys, who operate from Jamtara, don’t have any training for these scams. For them it’s just trial and error. They just learnt it from somewhere and got better at it.”

The cash flows have swollen to the point where the scammers forget where they buried the money.

“A lot of times these boys forget where they have buried the money so there have been instances where bags full of cash have been recovered after the scammers forgot to take their share,” Soumendra, the show director, adds.

But, like other crimes, phishing has its own set of challenges when it comes to countering them.

“The thing with these scams is that the person itself is willing to fall into it as they expect so much more to come out of it. These are not very serious like other crimes, like a murder. These scammers find themselves in a tricky spot,” Trishant tells IANS.

As the internet continues to boom, there are dark alleys of fin-tech scams which benefit from the rise of the internet.

Soumendra adds an important point, “This crime is now getting organised much like the underworld.”

Imagine coupling the phishing and organised crime, the picture looks dreary as there are lots of possibilities for the scammers, the worst can be asking �protection money’ from the ones at the receiving end of phishing or sextortion where scammers get remote access to your device and blackmail you over explicit content.

The scams are in their nascent stage and are “dynamic in nature”, as Trishant mentions, “A lot of people are still falling for the scam because this crime keeps on evolving. The earlier modus operandi also kicks in action sometimes. The new modus operandi and the old ones co-exist.”

While Season 1 focused on OTP scams, the upcoming season of ‘Jamtara’ will diversify into a lot many scams just like the nature of this crime. Soumendra mentions, “For the second season, the one word that we had as a theme was �revenge’.”

“The stakes will be much higher for all the characters involved and the narrative will push the characters to the edge. Things will get more serious and risky in the second season,” he adds.

But, where do the scammers get their data from? Trishant has an answer: “These guys get their data from the bank grievance redressal fora where bank customers leave their numbers.”

“Most of the time, these guys don’t even know whom they’re talking to. They can be scamming a celebrity on the other side without even knowing about that person,” Soumendra adds.

What’s worrisome is that in a hyperconnected world, these scams have now spread out to the entire country although Jamtara remains the scam capital of India.

The 4G penetration and demonetisation have given boost to these scams, courtesy the rising popularity of digital payments and e-wallets, and scammers are doing everything in their capacity to exploit digital payments. They’re now extending their network. Since the OTPs were failing, they were forced to come up with new ways.

“During our research, we found a guy from Maharashtra and a guy from Kerala in Jamtara trying to get a hang of these scams,” says Trishant, as he gives an idea of what’s about to befall on the people at large.

Soumendra adds a darker hue to Trishant’s comments, saying, “There’s a reason behind Jamtara being the scam capital of India. There’s a place in Jamtara called Karmatand, where only 5,000 people live, but it had its first cyber police station before a normal police station. There are more than 40 mobile shops and huge towers, ‘network bahut accha aata hai wahan pe’ (the telecom network there is unparalleled).”

“I have seen homes in that place where they open their doors with a remote. They have got houses bigger than Amitabh Bachchan’s Jalsa. Earlier, there used to be mud houses, which have now been converted into palatial residents, the real estate prices have shot up!” Soumendra says as he draws a parallel between Jamtara and the millennium city of Gurugram.

The only difference is that Gurugram owes its rapid development to the government and administrative actions, and the rush of global corporates to set up shops there, but the money in Jamtara owes its origin to the dark world of cyber crime.

“There, entire families are in the business of conning. In addition to boys of 12-15 years, females have also entered this business. The situation is becoming very complex and we are not prepared to counter a scam of this scale,” the director adds.

Season 2 of the show will see new entrants in addition to the existing set of characters.

“A lot more players have come in for Season 2. The story demanded the introduction of new characters and we designed the overarching narrative and character set-up accordingly,” Soumendra points out.

Another major factor forming the backbone of Season 2 will be how phishing money drives elections, a phenomenon which is part fact and part fiction.

As Soumendra puts it, “It came up during our research that in the 2019 general elections, the phishing money played a definitive role.”

Trishant lauds his actor Amit Sial, who never fails to impress the audience, sating, “Amit brings so much more to the character of Brijesh Bhaan than what’s written on paper. He himself adds such small nuances that the character really comes alive. It’s his acting prowess that despite being the sort of an antagonist, you still root for Brijesh Bhaan.”

The season 2 of �Jamtara – Sabka Number Ayega’ will stream exclusively on Netflix from September 23.

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