What happens when a journalist known for her consistent page one scoops becomes the top headline herself as an accused in a murder case? Senior crime reporter Jagruti Pathak gets a lead about the Anti Terrorist Squad failing to act on a tip-off that could have prevented the 2010 twin bombings in Mumbai. Her investigation into the story leads to an exclusive interview with notorious gangster Chhota Rajan. But as the journalist gets closer to unraveling a nefarious nexus between cops and the underworld, she is named the prime suspect in the murder of a fellow journalist.
Created by Hansal Mehta, the six-episode Netflix series “Scoop” stars Karishma Tanna in the lead as Jagruti Pathak and is a swiftly paced crime drama inspired by “Behind Bars in Byculla,” a memoir by journalist Jigna Vora. Despite its title, “Scoop” never gets too sensational or dramatic and maintains a steady gripping pace until the end. Instead of imitating real-life Jigna Vora, Karishma Tanna delivers her own version of an eager “exclusive-hungry” journalist and is convincingly fantastic as the street-smart Jagruti, who knows how to get her sources to talk. Prasenjit Chatterjee has a short but powerful cameo as Jaideb Sen, an investigative reporter who ruffles a lot of feathers with his exposes and is shot to death.
The first episode establishes some of the primary characters in the story really well, and Jagruti Pathak is introduced as a “go getter” reporter, who also happens to be a single mom supporting her young son and grandparents. Viewers get generous glimpses of Jagruti’s personal life and how she constantly chooses to chase a news lead over spending time with the family. For example, she takes a long leave for the first time in a while for a Kashmir trip with her folks but rushes back to Mumbai to cover a big story. It sums up the lives of pretty much every journalist around the world and is laudably done without shaming the protagonist for it. While some of the family scenes and interactions weren’t crucial to the plot, they help add a human element to the tale and will keep general viewers more invested in the series.
“Scoop” skillfully explores the dichotomy between “sensational journalism” and “responsible journalism” while delving into the process of crafting a news story. Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub portrays Imran Siddiqui, Jagruti’s mentor and editor at the “Eastern Age,” presenting him as one of the few editors who still values presenting all sides of a story rather than chasing sensational headlines. Inayat Sood’s character, Deepa Chandra, a trainee reporter mentored by Jagruti, offers a stark contrast to Imran’s idealistic editorial approach. Deepa, a rookie, prioritizes bylines over thoughtful news coverage. And since its a “dog eat dog” world, Jagruti finds few allies when she is framed for murder.
The second-half of the show follows her Jagruti’s legal battles and her nightmarish experience at the Byculla jail as her lawyers try to fight to get her bail. The cinematography effectively captures the contrasting settings, from the bustling streets of Mumbai to the dismal conditions of Byculla jail. The graphics team excels in creating realistic TV news scenes and debates. The music was sombre, serious and complementary to the tale. The only time the background score struck as odd was at a house party scene, where the characters are excitedly moving to a dance number, but an odd track plays over it.
One of the non-journalist characters that stood out in this series was that of JCP Harshvardhan Shroff, portrayed by Harman Baweja, who was almost unrecognizable as the aging top cop, known to favor Jagruti over other reporters. His character also contributes to an additional subplot that explores the challenges women face in earning recognition for their work among their male colleagues. Tanmay Dhanania portrays Pushkar Mohan, who possesses a work experience similar to Jagruti’s but holds a lower position, which he firmly believes is due to “special favors” rather than her hard work. In a clever irony, Ira Dubey portrays Anita Mohan, Pushkar’s wife, who constantly faces sabotage from her male colleagues and is subjected to malicious gossip at her workplace. While Pushkar continuously urges Anita to disregard her “envious peers,” he fails to recognize his own hypocritical behavior towards women.
The creators of “Scoop” obviously take their own creative liberties to make the series slightly more entertaining, instead of letting things unfold like a serious dry documentary on how a journalist is implicated in a fabricated case. Which is why it was slightly disappointing that the writers don’t clearly explain the motivations of some the characters in the tale for their actions. Viewers are expected to read between the lines, which is fine, but a more concrete conclusion could’ve worked better. While the last episode feels somewhat scattered and sluggish compared to the rest of the series, overall, this gritty Karishma Tanna starrer is highly binge-worthy.
It’s a 8 on 10 from me.