Raj and DK’s “Farzi” pits an artist who makes counterfeit notes, Sunny (Shahid Kapoor), against a diligent officer of a Special Task Force, Michael Vedanayagam (Vijay Sethupathi). The two engage in a cat-and-mouse chase while politicians, international and domestic criminals, and people living ordinary lives get involved in it. The narrative shifts from India to abroad and back again. Morals and ethics are challenged. And lives are built and broken over the course of eight very long episodes. So, let’s talk about the kinds of themes that the directing duo manages to touch upon.
Major Spoilers Ahead
It’s established from the get-go that Sunny and Firoz’s (Bhuvan Arora) dreams of outgrowing their economic class are what set them off on their mission. Yes, Sunny does care about his Nanu (Amol Palekar) and his “Kranti Magazine.” But he doesn’t align with its idealistic stance, which is why he takes to making counterfeit notes. I’m pretty sure the flaw in Sunny’s philosophy is intentional because he firmly believes that the only way to crush the system that’s oppressing them is to break it, even though that’s literally not possible, and he doesn’t even come close to “breaking the system.” He has the right idea, as he points out that every nationalized institution runs on tax-payers’ money, but they don’t serve the people who pay those taxes. Instead, they serve politicians. He also rightfully points out that one doesn’t become a taxpayer by just paying income tax because they’re also paying tax whenever they purchase something.
Sunny highlights the issue with capitalism and how it has permeated the education system, housing market, and even the health sector. However, his crusade against this systemic injustice is very myopic as it aims to help himself, which all amounts to nothing, as he ends up in a place that’s worse than where he started. So, in a way, Sunny’s arc shows that unless the middle-class votes for change and holds those who take on the responsibility of the nation accountable, things aren’t going to get better.
Credit where credit is due, “Farzi” does bring up the devastating decision to demonetize the old currencies and replace it with new currencies. But after that, the show plunges into tackling the creation of counterfeit notes and how it’s leading to financial terrorism. The reason that feels weird is that the older currencies were demonetized to tackle financial terrorism. And the existence of replicas of the newer, more detailed notes is a slap in the face of that move that literally killed hundreds of people who stood in lines to get their notes exchanged. However, the showrunners don’t even dare to ask a question because then they wouldn’t be able to glorify the law enforcement agencies that are fighting those who are easily faking these new notes and making money off of them.
The ministry essentially creates a bigger problem in order to solve a previously unsolvable problem and then publicizes its half-measures to control the situation so that it can get votes. If that’s the showrunners’ sly way of showing how meaningless the 2016 demonetization move was, it’s way too sly to impact the viewers who see it as something historic and mind-blowing. In addition to that, the “financial terrorism” aspect is hardly touched upon because the financial impact of counterfeit money is complex. Showing fast cars and loud guns is easier; hence, that’s what you get.
The one thing about politics and politicians that “Farzi” accurately portrays is that they are all about votes. They don’t care what happens to the country. They don’t care what happens to the people in this country. They aren’t patriotic in any way. They’ll do something only when it benefits their public image, which in turn gets them more votes. As exposed by Michael, ministers like Gahlot (Zakir Hussain) always have skeletons in their closets, which can be used to manipulate them. Going by Gahlot and Doshi’s (Govind Pandey’s) relationship, there’s no real enmity between the two opposing political parties. It’s just for the media and to create some noise before elections.
At the end of the day, no matter which political ideology these politicians assign themselves to, they are just monkeys scratching each other’s backs. With all that said, the showrunners don’t really have the guts to show politicians as the real problem makers of the country, even though they are the ones who create every nationally implemented policy. They eventually show Gahlot in a positive light by making him an integral aspect of the mission to end the fake currency scam. All his nefariousness and lack of interest in the country’s situation are whitewashed and cute-fied so that these politicians can be treated and supported as walking and talking memes.
Rebelling seems to be the core theme of “Farzi.” Nanu’s paper is named “Kranti” (which translates to revolution). Sunny is rebelling against the system. Michael is rebelling against the government’s slow process and dirty politics. And Megha is rebelling against his mother’s wishes to settle down by diving headfirst into her work. How does that work out for each of them? Nanu is idealistic by nature, and despite making “Kranti Magazine” online, it doesn’t reach anyone. Sunny could’ve been the personification of his legacy. But his greed tarnishes his idea of fighting injustice, as he thinks personal success is equal to breaking the system. You can say that Sunny’s corruption doesn’t impact Nanu’s legacy because he lived and died without doing anything illegal or immoral.
As for Michael, well, he does a lot in terms of fast-tracking the work of a branch of the government that is infamous for its slow pace. He even exposes the connection between politicians and these fake moneymakers. Is any of it permanent? Because once the ruling party changes, everything starts from scratch, thereby rendering Michael’s efforts meaningless. Megha inadvertently proves her mother right by showing that he isn’t a good choice of character because the person he’s dating (Sunny) is actually the person she’s hunting, and he’s eventually going to break her heart. All in all, I think Raj and DK aren’t big fans of rebelling, and therefore, they are showing it in such a negative light. Or, they know that the reality of modern life is that small acts of rebellion will amount to nothing, and we need to identify the true villain and make our votes count when the time comes.