Who Was Abdul Karim Telgi in Scam 2003

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Who Was Abdul Karim Telgi in Scam 2003

It’s an interesting real-life story one person actually came up with the idea of fake stamp papers. The mastermind behind India’s biggest counterfeiting scam, amassed a counterfeit empire worth 30,000 crore.

Abdul Karim Telgi, born in 1961, was an Indian counterfeiter who became infamous for orchestrating a massive counterfeit stamp paper scandal, regarded as one of India’s most significant stamp scandals. His illicit activities spanned across multiple Indian states, and his intricate network was dedicated to the production and distribution of counterfeit stamp papers, essential documents for legal and financial transactions.

Telgi’s criminal enterprise inflicted substantial financial losses upon the Indian government, prompting extensive legal and investigative responses. In 2001, he was apprehended and subsequently faced a range of charges related to counterfeiting, forgery, and various other criminal activities. As a consequence of his involvement in the scam, he received a prison sentence.

Rewrite Scam 2003 – The Telgi Story Episodes 1-5 (Hindi)
Showrunner: Hansal Mehta
Cast: Gagan Dev Riar, Hemang Vyas, Sana Amin Sheikh, Sameer Dharmadhikari, Nikhil Ratnaparkhi, Bharat Dabholkar
Episodes: 5 of 10
Runtime: 45-55 minutes
Storyline: The rise and rise of Abdul Karim Telgi, a humble fruit-seller from Karnataka who becomes the boss of stamp paper fraud


The new series draws its inspiration from journalist Sanjay Singh’s book “Telgi – A Reporter’s Diary,” with the writing team comprising Karan Vyas, Kiran Yadnyopavit, and Kedar Patankar. Born in Khanapur, Karnataka, Telgi’s journey begins as a humble fruit vendor on train carriages, eventually leading him to manage a tranquil guesthouse in Mumbai. However, Telgi’s true talent lies in forgery. Starting with modest endeavors, he begins by crafting counterfeit documents and passports for emigrating laborers bound for the Gulf. As his ambitions grow, he ventures into the audacious realm of stealing government stamp papers and substituting them with shoddily produced fakes. His illicit activities are conducted in broad daylight but cloaked in the cover of night, all while Telgi maintains an unwavering belief that he’s doing the right thing. This steadfast conviction bewilders his associates, as he boldly declares, “I want to make money, not earn it.”

By this juncture, Telgi’s modus operandi becomes clear. He possesses a friendly demeanor and a disarming smile, which easily lulls cautious strangers into a false sense of security. His attire is unassuming, typically untucked shirts, yet he cleverly peppers his conversations with English, a language he learned through his own determination as a child. Recognizing the impossibility of sustaining such a complex operation on his own, he begins to cultivate influential connections. Telgi extends his trust to law enforcement, lawyers, politicians, railway employees, NGO workers, and religious leaders. Episode 4 unfolds a captivating subplot in which he attempts to corrupt, fails, and then successfully corrupts a significant government official—a darkly comical illustration of what can be described as the seven stages of greed.

It’s worth noting that, despite its seamless transitions between Mumbai, Nashik, and New Delhi, Scam 2003 doesn’t quite capture the grandeur and significance of its predecessor. Harshad Mehta’s ascent coincided with some of the most profound economic changes in modern India. In contrast, Telgi’s story unfolds within the same timeframe, yet the series doesn’t imbue the historical backdrop with the same epic and vital feel. Unlike Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s sardonic narration in Sacred Games, Telgi’s voiceover maintains a calm and self-absorbed tone. While the show briefly touches upon the 1991 reforms and the Babri demolition a year later, all Telgi, a Muslim immigrant in Mumbai, has to say about those turbulent times is that they inconvenienced his “dhanda” (business).

Gagan Dev Riar’s portrayal of the real Abdul Karim Telgi is impressively accurate. He captures Telgi’s pudgy cheeks, expressive eyes, and that characteristic lopsided grin. It’s a decidedly unglamorous depiction of a middle-aged scam artist who shuns refinement or class unless it serves his ulterior motives. Despite Ishaan Chhabra’s mischievous musical score occasionally energizing the character, Riar refrains from portraying Telgi as a hero. Instead, he skillfully blends Telgi’s frustrations and determination, his vulnerabilities, and his bitterness.

The series benefits from vibrant writing in its scenes, such as bribes concealed in biryani containers or the poignant image of jail inmates united in singing ‘Vande Mataram’ while a visibly deteriorating Telgi collapses in their midst. If these promising elements continue to build upon one another in subsequent episodes, there’s hope that the series will offer a dense and meticulous exploration of one of India’s most prominent forgers, who passed away in 2017. For now, much like Telgi himself might suggest, the show could benefit from a “plan change.”

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