During the challenging year of 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hansal Mehta’s Scam 1992 emerged as a major success. Owing to its unskippable intro music and Prateek Gandhi’s outstanding performance, the show gained immense popularity. Now, after three years, Hansal Mehta is set to release another installment in the series, focusing on India’s infamous scam from 2003, The Telgi Story. While various films, series, and documentaries like Paper starring Rohit Roy or 2009’s Mudrank: The Stamp have already explored this scam, a unique take is expected from this new series to offer a fresh perspective. Unlike the previous series, Scam 1992, Mehta’s involvement is limited to him being the showrunner, as the direction is handled by Tushar Hiranandini.
The series revolves around Abdul Karim Telgi, a lower-middle-class hawker with big dreams. Despite having a degree, he struggled financially and wanted more than just survival. He desired wealth and influence. To achieve this, he started forging stamp papers, amassing a great fortune. But his success was short-lived. He was caught for his massive fraud, showing how his greed led to his downfall. The show highlights Telgi’s journey from ambitious beginnings to a tragic end due to his unyielding greed for money and power.
How Did Telgi End Up In Bombay?
Scam 2003 Episode 1 took place on a train in Khanapur station, where Abdul Karim Telgi was seen selling fruits with his charming smile and rhymes about the fruits to attract customers. He successfully convinced almost everyone on the train to buy his fruits. In the midst of this, he managed to capture the attention of one passenger named Shaukat. Approaching Telgi, Shaukat introduced himself and started a conversation. Telgi revealed to Shaukat that, despite holding a degree, he sold fruits to make ends meet. In response, Shaukat invited Telgi to visit Bombay, giving him the address of his guest house and offering him a job opportunity.
In the evening, when Telgi returned to his village, he noticed a middle-class family in his neighborhood saving some leftover biryani. Later, they offered the remaining biryani to Telgi’s mother, who accepted it. While Telgi’s brother and the rest of the family embraced the food, Telgi himself hesitated to eat someone else’s leftovers. He resolved to change his circumstances, which motivated him to travel to Bombay in search of a job.
Telgi arrived in Bombay and found the guest house where Shaukat had promised him a job. Telgi enthusiastically began attracting customers for the guest house, gradually making it more popular. With Telgi’s efforts contributing to Shaukat’s flourishing business, their bond grew stronger. This led to a closer relationship between them. Unexpectedly, Nafisa, Shaukat’s wife, fell in love with Telgi, and this feeling was mutual. They got married and welcomed their daughter, Jiya. But neither Shaukat nor Nafisa had the slightest idea of Telgi’s growing fixation on money and his burning desire to become a big shot.
Why Was Telgi Arrested?
Telgi had always leaned toward shady ways to make money. His first venture involved creating fake passports for people who wanted to work in foreign countries. He had his own experience in a Gulf country like Saudi Arabia, so he knew the ropes. He even helped other laborers learn the basics of English to survive there. He created fake documents and passports for them in exchange for substantial amounts of money. But his illegal activities came crashing down when Inspector Dombey caught him in the act. Telgi got arrested and ended up in jail. There, he befriended a fellow inmate, Kaushal Javerie who introduced him to a lawyer named Ganesh Kambley, known for getting prisoners off the hook. Just when Telgi was about to ask for Kambley’s help, Shaukat stepped in and got Telgi released. Shaukat was very upset at Telgi for employing such illegal activities to earn money.
Telgi wanted to start a new business, but first, he needed to wipe his police record clean. He eventually approached Ganesh Kambley and suggested bribing Inspector Dombey to clear his name. Kambley was puzzled at first, asking why a lawyer should pay a bribe for his client. Telgi explained that this would boost Kambley’s reputation among inmates and attract more clients. Kambley was convinced and ended up bribing Dombey to get Telgi’s name cleared from the police records. He even bailed Kaushal out with his power.
Later, Kaushal visited Telgi’s guest house and inquired if he was interested in various schemes to make more money. Telgi finally found someone who shared similar aspirations, so he teamed up with Kaushal who eventually became Telgi’s close friend.
What Motivated Telgi To Counterfeit Stamp Papers?
Hailing from the small village of Khanapur in Karnataka, Telgi had been exposed to poverty and class disparity. He had grown up enduring humiliation from the upper class just because of his poor economic status. As a result, his strong desire to gather more wealth and provide a home for his family became his utmost priority. Telgi felt driven to participate in any possible business without worrying about its ethical standing, all to make more money. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize that his growing greed would change into an unquenchable thirst for more, pushing him onto an irreversible path.
One day, Kaushal introduced Telgi to an old factory and presented a plan involving stealing valuable revenue stamps from share certificates, which was a potential way to become wealthy. These stamps were worth a lot, so their plan meant pretending to be factory workers, getting hold of share certificates, and removing the stamp papers using a gum wash and acetone mixture. Telgi and Kaushal followed this plan, heading to the Bombay Stock Exchange to trade the revenue stamps for a big profit. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as expected. They were beaten by a rival seller from Kolkata, who took their gains.
Feeling disheartened, Telgi and Kaushal discussed how the Bengali Babu from Kolkata outsmarted them in this money-making race. He then told Telgi about an alternative: bribing government officials at the Old Customs House to get stamps directly, which would spare them the hard work of gum washing. When they visited the Customs House, Telgi saw how the Bengali Babu operated his business. Under the guise of a delivery guy, he would give the tiffin boxes filled with biryani and money to these corrupt officials, and in return, they handed out stamps. Telgi and Kaushal also found one of the officials who had a similar appetite. They approached this official on his way back home and proposed trading biryani for stamps.
The following day, the official met Telgi and his partner in a nearby park, where the official gave them stamp papers instead of the expected revenue stamps. At first, Telgi didn’t think much of the papers and rejected them, but when the Bengali Babu’s henchmen saw them dealing with the official, they attacked and grabbed all the stamp papers. The incident made Telgi realize how valuable those papers were. However, despite this understanding, Telgi and Kaushal were so badly beaten that they couldn’t stop the theft due to their opponents’ overwhelming strength.
Back at their home, a crucial event took place when Shaukat created his will and gave it to Nafisa to keep in the safe locker. During this moment, Telgi grasped the true importance of stamp papers and understood what they had carelessly ignored. Later, Telgi took Kaushal back to the factory and shared a personal story. He spoke of his deep love for Halwa, an Indian sweet, and how he eagerly looked forward to Diwali for just a single spoonful of that treat from his childhood. He compared the value of that small amount of halwa to his perspective on a bundle of stamp papers potentially worth 70–80 crore. Telgi highlighted the essential role of stamp papers in the Indian economy, emphasizing how they were needed for various transactions and many partnership deeds, starting from marriages to big business deals.
Recognizing the potential, Telgi and Kaushal realized that stealing even one bundle of stamp papers could bring them a great fortune. With this realization, the first episode of Scam 2003 came to an end. With Telgi’s decision to focus on collecting valuable stamp papers instead of ordinary stamps, the upcoming episodes promise to reveal his master plan to acquire these papers.