Film-maker Hansal Mehta has been a part of the entertainment business for 27 years, and has been making films for 23 years, but it was only recently that his success started to attract envy. Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story has enlisted him in the list of top directors of the country. Here’s a conversation with Mehta on everything Scam, his acting debut, and why being an opinionated Indian matters.

Post the success of Scam 1992, two spoof videos, featuring kids in the lead, went viral. Have you checked them out?

Of course. Both videos are brilliant. Both videos were made by the same people — a group of kids from Dombivli, led by an acting teacher. They hired a camera and made the video. A lot of effort has gone into making them, and I really appreciate their effort. It was humorous, and a smart way to retain the essence of the show and its characters.

The praise that you are receiving for Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story, must be overwhelming. How are you receiving it all?

I am just accepting it the way it is with all the gratitude in my heart. It is definitely overwhelming, but I do not want it to go to my head. Luckily, I have family, and past failures of my career to look at, to remind me ‘Zyada udd mat.’ In fact, after Chhalaang, I realised I desperately needed a reboot. Scam 1992 was that reboot. I went back to the basics in terms of storytelling.

The audience was divided between rooting for Harshad, and rooting for Sucheta. How did you balance this varying perspective?

Harshad Mehta was like one of us. The reason people find themselves rooting for him is because he was an ordinary man. In a country where we have crony capitalism, given his circumstances, it must be difficult for someone like Harshad Mehta to make it big, and generate the kind of euphoria and wealth. We realise that it was not done through legal means, and he made a mistake. We never demonised him, nor did we glorify his actions. The reason why some people do not root for Sucheta is because of the journalism we are witnessing these days. Journalism standards have fallen. When people like Arnab Goswami take sides while reporting news, it is imperial journalism. The job of a journalist is to get to the bottom of the truth. We have forgotten what it means to have a journalist like Sucheta Dalal. It is this reason why I call Scam 1992 a cautionary tale.

Hansal Mehta

You and Harshad Mehta have a lot in common. Was that a reason for you to take up the show?

Yes. I understand and totally connect with the world Harshad grew up in. I grew up in a similar environment — a typical middle-class Gujarati family, and around the same time when Harshad was becoming a hero of the masses. I relate to him in more ways than one. I could relate to his struggles to rise above the circumstances, but not to his means. I felt like I was back in my 20s.

Post Shahid, you have mostly worked on biopics. Why is that?

I see myself as someone who chronicles the lives of ordinary people involved in extraordinary things. These are the stories of our times. I enjoy telling real stories, be it the story of Shahid Azmi, Prof. Ramchandra Siras, Omar Sheikh, or Harshad Mehta. I presented them in the most objective way possible not only for this generation, but for the generations to come.

Did Rajkummar ever complain about not being cast in Scam 1992?

No, never. Rajkummar was extremely appreciative of Scam 1992. Rajkummar is a part of my life, whether he is cast in the show or not. We have worked on six projects together. Out of those six, I directed him in five. I was a creative producer on the show, Bose: Dead/Alive where he portrayed Subhash Chandra Bose.

Hansal Mehta

You and Harshad Mehta have a lot in common. Was that a reason for you to take up the show?

I have acted before, for Arati Kadav in Cargo on Netflix along with Vikrant Massey and Shweta Tripathi Sharma. It was after Cargo released that Patralekha called me and said, ‘Sir, you act so well, why don’t you act more’. After the lockdown was announced, I came back to Mumbai (I had moved to a village between Lonavala and Pune) just to work on an ad film. Anuj Dhawan was shooting the ad film, and I have worked previously on Shahid, Omertà, and Simran with him. Suresh Triveni was directing the ad film, and I really like him. Tigmanshu Dhulia was my co-actor, and it felt like a reunion of old friends. The ad film has worked wonders for me. Now, I nearly have four acting offers — one Marathi, and three Hindi films. I’m chuffed again.

Scam 1992 theme song and Chhalaang songs have been used extensively in short-form content videos on social media platforms over the last three months. How do you choose music for your films?

The credit for Chhalaang songs goes to Luv Ranjan and Bhushan Kumar. If the music works for everyone on the team, then I am happy. My parameter for choosing songs is my daughters. My older daughter, Kimaya, was the one who pushed me to use Muskurane ki wajah in Citylights. She heard the song and loved it. When I told her, I was not going to use it, she began crying, and asking why. I called Mukesh Bhatt, and said I will use the song. If I was not going to use it, Mukesh ji would have given it to someone else. I blindly follow my daughter’s taste in music now. I made her listen to Tu care ni karda, and she found it very cool. So, I was like chalo, song chalega. I did not have the song Teri Choriyaan, but I told my daughter it is a Guru Randhawa song, and she was thrilled. It just says a lot about Guru’s fan following, and I went ahead with the song.

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