A well-made and well-intentioned “true-crime” story from India just a little too slight to make much of an impact.
This review of Jamtara: Sabka Number Ayega (Netflix) is spoiler-free.
Despite arriving with less fanfare than some of Netflix’s other Indian originals, the ten-episode Jamtara: Sabka Number Ayega is surprisingly assured in its ostensibly true small-town story of family, friends, cops, robbers, politics and the press.
Simplistic enough to jump right on board with but energetic and clever enough to keep the journey interesting, the plot of Jamtara concerns the lucrative phishing endeavors of a group of young men, the (notably female) cop on their trail, and the corrupt politician who wants to exploit them. Highlighting the boys’ maleness, lack of education and economic disenfranchisement without pinning the blame for their actions on any one of those things, the story is largely about delusional young lads getting into bother by exploiting an impersonal system against largely faceless targets at the other end of a class gulf.
While the story’s Robin Hood-style undertones are there, Jamtara: Sabka Number Ayega is careful not to sensationalize the criminals or justify their actions, simply to rationalize their decision-making and humanize them as individuals. A lot of the blame can be placed on youthful idiocy, as well it should be, and infighting among the group is a natural consequence of their newfound success. While the scope of the story becomes surprisingly wide-ranging, it’s still, at its heart, a story about young relationships in a socially claustrophobic place.
Well-made and well-acted though it is, Jamtara is too thin and uncomplicated on the level of its writing to really make any stinging points; its themes are the seasoning, not the dish itself, and while that helps to give a relatively simplistic account some resonance, the series could stand to be more scathing. Its also very slight, with its ten episodes mostly clocking in at around twenty minutes – easy to binge, but it’ll pass by so quickly and easily that very little of it will stick in the memory for long.
Still, with a lot of India’s representation on Netflix coming in the form of execrable garbage like Chopsticks and Drive, Jamtara: Sabka Number Ayega feels much more of a piece with something like Ghost Stories, Typewriter or Bard of Blood – a well-intentioned effort, perhaps a bit too flawed in execution to dethrone Sacred Games as the platform’s regional highlight.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.