"Scam 1992" is a web series that portrays the life of Harshad Mehta who was the Indian Big Bull of the late 70s and early 90s. It is directed by Hansal Mehta and the role of Harshad Mehta was enacted by Pratik Gandhi and that of Sucheta Dalal, Financial Editor of The Times of India, by Shreya Dhanwanthary. This web series not only shows the rise and fall of Harshad Mehta but also teaches us the financial stock market mechanism.
Initially, the story starts in the late 70s when Harshad was struggling for a good life. He lived in a one-room apartment in Mumbai's Gujarati-dominated suburb of Ghatkopar along with his parents, wife Jyoti, and brother Ashwin. Having run the gamut of doing all sorts of odd jobs, he joins the Bombay Stock Exchange as a “jobber”. After learning the stock market mechanism, he left the job as a jobber, became a full-time stockbroker and started his own firm.
Harshad normally invested the money after proper analysis of the organization and predictive risk. This was not enough for Harshad, and with the help of his old colleagues Pranav Seth and Bhushan Bhatt, he started to acquire corporate clients. With money coming by, he also started dealing with banks like UBI, SBI, and others. Harshad Mehta was called the “Big Bull”. His lifestyle became opulent; a sea-facing 15,000 square feet penthouse in the tony area of Worli complete with a mini-golf course and swimming pool. He had a fleet of luxury cars like a Toyota Corolla, Lexus LS400, and Toyota Sera. These further magnified his image at a time when these were rarities even for the wealthy people of India.
On the other side, Sucheta Dalal was tracking Harshad’s movement as his meteoric rise to success stoked her suspicions. Harshad's fate took a turn when he started bribing bank officials to manipulate journal books. As a result, the stock market rose, and he told his clients that the valuation of stock will be much higher. Stock traders got high returns. Harshad Mehta also used bank receipts and stamp paper for the banks' money to inflate the stock market.
The Reserve Bank of India Governor noticed manipulative transactions when Harshad Mehta went into Rs 500 crore debt. Harshad cleared the debt, but later it was found out that multiple banks were involved in the money scam and that the scam was much bigger in stature. This led to a CBI investigation that further revealed Harshad’s crimes including corrupt officials signing fake cheques, misusing market loopholes, and telling lies to drive the prices of stocks up on their original price. Stock traders making good returns as a result of the scam were able to fraudulently obtain unsecured loans from banks.
When the scam was discovered in April 1992, the Indian stock market collapsed, and the same banks holding millions of INR suddenly found themselves in huge debt. Harshad Mehta later confessed that he used all the loopholes in the Indian financial market. This resulted in forming new rules and obligations set by regulatory bodies. Harshad Mehta was on trial for 9 years, until he died at the end of 2001.
Excellent acting by the cast members coupled with impeccable direction, gripping screenplay, and catchy background score characterize the web series.
"Scam 1992" teaches us two things, first, financial risks need technical analysis. Without proper financial analysis of any company, a person should not invest money. Second, value and ethics constitute the core of any society. No matter how fragile the financial system is, none should misuse this for his/her benefit.
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