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It is easier to beat a country on the economic front rather than through military strategies.  Economic tools such as embargoes, stock market scams, sham corporations and so on are the usual ammunition deployed to ruin a country. One of the most effective of the sabotage missions is the circulation of counterfeit currency notes. This is the basic theme of the web series Farzi streaming on Amazon Prime Video now.

Hindi actor Shahid Kapoor is in the lead while southern star Vijay Sethupathi along with Regina Cassandra and Rashi Khanna, who too are well-known in south India, play supporting roles in the series originally made in Hindi and dubbed in four South Indian languages, including Tamil.

In the Tamil version, actor Jeeva lent his voice to Shahid, Nasser to Amol Palekar and small screen actor TSK to Vijay Sethupathy. One may wonder why Vijay Sethupathi speaks in a dubbed voice. But there is a surprise in TSK’s voice.

The series Farzi originally made in Hindi has been dubbed in four South Indian languages, including Tamil

Fake notes crossing borders (Spoiler alert!)
The Mansoor Dalal (KK Menon) gang brings fake currency notes into India after they are manufactured in the Mediterranean countries such as Jordan. The anti-fake currency investigation team led by Michael (Vijay Sethupathi) has effected a vital change in the money counting machines. Hence, the fake 2000-rupee notes are caught. It is Megha Vyas (Rashi Khanna), an RBI staffer, who has designed the change in the counting machine.

The fake note operatives seek the help of artist Sandeep (Shahid Kapoor) in order to print the fake notes so precisely that the machines cannot detect them. Sandeep has already got some experience printing fake 500-rupee notes along with his friend Firoz with an intention of redeeming his grandfather Madhav’s (Amol Palekar) ‘Kranti’ newspaper office and printing press.

Leading a life of poverty and humiliation, Sandeep gladly accepts the offer from Mansoor. He makes fake 2000-rupee notes in such a way that they look like real ones, and clandestinely brings the fake notes into India. Meanwhile, he makes friends with Megha and without her knowledge instals a surveillance app on her mobile phone so that he can keep tabs on her anti-counterfeit currency operations. Sandeep draws up his secret plans and tweaks them according to calls and messages flowing into her mobile phone.

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However, a small chink in the armor of the villains brings them under the scanner of the team led by Michael.

What is that small flaw of the villains? Are Sandeep and Firoz finally caught? What happens to the fake notes? The narrative slowly answers these questions, meandering through several terrains.

The central theme of Farzi revolves around what effect counterfeit currency notes have on the Indian economy and the terrorist activities funded by gains from circulating fake notes as well as from drug trafficking. However, the series has a dearth of visuals connected with these themes.

Usual visual template
Many OTT web series have a precast template where a few scenes are shown before the credit lines, which are either vital or recap previous episodes. But Farzi avoids that stale technique and has also dispensed with intercuts showing contrasting scenes back-to-back.

The first four episodes show Sandeep and Firoz engaged in the printing of fake notes. Sandeep’s childhood steeped in poverty and sustained on just a bun a day appears and disappears in the wink of an eye. There are no visual descriptions either of his parents who have died early. As a result, viewers find it a little difficult to connect with Sandeep.

There are no expositions of why money must change people’s lives as done by the professor in the popular series Money Heist. The whole story in Farzi moves from the government’s POV. Sandeep is not depicted as a money-hungry beast as he should have been. For a man in his circumstances set upon perpetrating such crimes to make wealth, money should have been a bee in his bonnet.

The two heroes travelling in diametrically opposite directions spice up the series with their adventures, which are well shot, even though they are not exactly fast-paced

Rather than western countries and the mafia operating there, it is Muslims (Mansoor, Firoz etc.) who are portrayed as running the fake currency racket in Farzi. This may end up stirring a hornet’s nest.

The character of a union minister tells mediapersons that efforts are underway to eliminate the counterfeit currency note menace. Keeping upcoming elections in mind, he gives in to the demands of government officials for better facilities. On the other side, an opposition MLA, who is always harping on the Gandhian ideals, is shown as stashing away fake notes in his house. It is quite evidence which parties are being referred to in this manner in Farzi.

The narration of how fake notes are manufactured and how they are brought to India feels straight out of the wonted clippings of regular dailies breaking such news.

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Beyond all these, it is the two heroes travelling in diametrically opposite directions that spice up the series with their adventures, which are well shot, even though they’re not exactly fast-paced.

Vijay Sethupathi’s role
It is Shahid Kapoor who fills all eight episodes in Farzi with his presence thanks to the tailor-made role of anti-heroism. Vijay Sethupathi is there alongside the hero, no less important. Though he speaks in TSK’s voice, the imitation comes off as the original. Called Michael Vedanayagam, Vijay Sethpathu has the promise of stealing the show in the next season of the series.

Rashi Khanna is the typical heroine of Western web series, where the lead woman is entangled with the lead male character who is a criminal. Regina’s role is limited to venting her sadness. It feels like a red herring to the main narrative.

Bhuvan Arora who plays Shahid’s friend Firoz competes with senior actors Amol Palekar and Zahir Khan and K K Menon.  Farzi will give him a good break. Likewise, Chittaranjan Giri playing Yasir chacha attracts the viewers with his sterling performance.

Editor Sumith Kodiyan’s job is, by and large, well done except in a few scenes like that of the printing press accident. But the chasing scenes in the final episode lack sting.

Raj and DK are capable of spinning tales out of the ordinary. Yet Farzi, touted as a black comedy crime thriller, is not as refreshing as expected

Pankaj Kumar’s cinematography and Parichit Paralkar’s production design have contributed richly to the visual depth of the series.  Several scenes break the beaten track of serials and deviate into cinema mode.

Directors Raj and DK have written the screenplay jointly with Seetha Menon and Suman Kumar. Though their screenplay moves consistently, it lacks zing and hardly takes the viewers by surprise. It does not elicit interest in watching the next season of Farzi.

Right from their first film, ’99’ the Raj-and-DK duo have come up with films based on true events. Farzi too feels like one. Yet certain scenes are unoriginal like when containers of counterfeit currency are pushed into the sea.

Raj and DK are capable of spinning tales out of the ordinary. Yet Farzi, touted as a black comedy crime thriller, is not as refreshing as expected. The next season may improve on the first one. Let us wait and watch.

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