Netflix’s Jamtara dropped today with the mission to shed light on countless phishing scams pulled off rather conveniently from rural India. Jamtara happens to be a small village in Jharkhand. It also happens to be the phishing capital of India. Those fake calls that Indians get about problems with their debit cards, asking for bank details and PINs are coming from the most basic mobile networks and not the smartest phones (or minds). The new addition to the streaming giant’s binge-watching catalogue is a deep dive into the Jamtara scams in a Soumendra Padhi directorial.
We consider the time to be right for true crime and news-inspired stories due to the success of The Family Man. The Manoj Bajpayee-led show had the appeal of Indian street crime with the relatability factor to hype it up. Jamtara should have a similar effect in a blend of more fact and less fiction. To find out if it will, I had a chat with the series’ director. Here’s everything you need to know about Jamtara and young people stealing people’s money:
“Scam bohot hi basic hai. These aren’t hackers. Yaha koi code likhke system hack nahi kar raha hai. These are normal people who are school dropouts. These kids are calling different parts of India and making a very simple call. And with such a simple call people are getting duped, that’s the beauty of it.” – Soumendra Padhi
The show revolves around a bunch of youngsters, very ambitious youngsters. Kids pulling off scams isn’t unheard of. But the fact that they are doing it with practically no hacking skills is shocking considering that it actually works. It’s like the kids from How To Sell Drugs Online (Fast) minus the IT educational background.
I’m not one to endorse phishing here but when the director speaks of the simple beauty of it, I agree with him. They struck out big when demonetisation was a thing, digitally robbing large sets of victims in a time of financial chaos. Techsplaining in Jamtara is then limited to data privacy. Consumers need to know that their data is valuable and the messages instructing them to keep their PIN numbers and OTPs to themselves isn’t disclaimers to be brushed aside. The research says as much.
“We got in touch with the cyber cobs and cyber experts, the police team involved there. Police ne ek live demonstration kiya tha. Ek ladke ne unke saamne hi phone karke successfully details procure kare and transferred it to the police’s personal bank account. It was pretty shocking.” – Soumendra Padhi
While the show is rooted in real news, it’s far from the docu/drama category.
“It’s cinematically written. They’ve stuck to the language and it’s very Shakespearean. We’ve combined reality and fiction and I hope people will connect with that. We tested out a lot of cameras we also had a plan to shoot on negative to get a cinematic look but, we finally with endomorphic (it’s a little technical), shooting on gave us that look. We needed the audience to get a sense of mysticism ki kahi ek part of India hai jaha se yeh calls aate hai and that should feel very mysterious and the camera has done exactly that.” – Soumendra Padhi
When you and I think of phishing scams as a passé method of conning people out of their money, we don’t account for a large population that still thinks it’s okay to reveal their ATM PIN to others. Not everyone is digitally woke and not everyone has easy access to necessary pieces of information. The infamous Jamtara scams worked after all and made it the biggest den of digital crime.
Jamtara releases on January 10, 2020, on Netflix. Check out the trailer here: