We hear the following lines during the opening scenes of Caught Out: Crime. Corruption. Cricket - "Gambling is part of life," and "We are villains, not heroes." This is exactly what this documentary is all about: The world of gambling and its villains. And these "villains" are not just bookies like Mukesh Gupta, but also (ex) cricket players like Hansie Cronje. Directed by Supriya Sobti Gupta, Caught Out is a simple and (to an extent) effective documentary about the match-fixing scandal that destroyed the careers of big names like Ajay Sharma and Mohammad Azharuddin.
But first, let's talk about all the glory before going into the gloom. Someone mentions that cricket is like "poetry in motion." Sharda Ugra, a sports writer, utters that the crickets became as famous and important as film stars during the 90s. The 90s also brought cricket into every household, thanks to cable TV. Because of this, every boy dreamed of playing cricket for India. Cricket is a religion in this country, so it's not surprising that the cricketers themselves are worshiped. The interviewees fondly compare some players to God, and one of them lavishes praise on Azharuddin, saying something like the almighty made Azhar's wrist with care during a leisurely afternoon.
However, this image of a paradise shatters when it's found that there is corruption in cricket. Manoj Prabhakar was the first cricketer to bring this horrible truth to light. Of course, the board denied all allegations. An article - India's Worst Kept Secret - was also ridiculed. Later, Prabhakar took part in an exposé along with the team of Tehelka news, which gave birth to a documentary called Fallen Heroes. Minty Tejpal, the co-founder of Tehelka.com, remembers suggesting spy cameras for their objective and how hidden cameras were bought from London. Tejpal also adds that going through the hidden cam recordings was a nightmare.
Notice the occasional appearances of Kapil Dev when the documentary focuses on Prabhakar. We see brief videos of Dev; moreover, Prabhakar is referred to as "the poor man's Kapil Dev." It all looks casual at first, but when Prabhakar confesses that the first Indian captain to win the Cricket World Cup offered him a bribe, the earlier mentions of Dev and his videos appear like a foreshadowing device. If Dev had been found guilty, the nation would have gone into depression. No one wants their God to be tainted. And all the cricket fans had only one wish: The game they adore should be clean and unscripted. The latter is what makes sports so exciting in the first place. The spontaneous decisions and actions yield unpredictable outcomes, keeping everyone fixated.
The bookies profit from making unscripted scripted. They plant their players into the team and collect important information. They also try to influence other cricketers. Bookies like Gupta achieve their objective by cultivating players for years and years before coming up with their first request. For instance, Gupta approached a young Ajay Sharma, praised his skills, and gave him Rs. 100. Caught Out exposes a dark incident, though it also comes with little humor. You can find it during the scene where Azharuddin denies all allegations against him, but the police find a fax detailing everything he confessed to the CBI.
My issues with Caught Out are not so different from those I find in other Netflix documentaries. You just need to watch a few of them, and you will observe certain patterns. Almost all (if not all) the documentaries consist of that shot where an interviewee walks into the frame and sits in front of the camera. It has become a cliché, and I find it very rehearsed and artificial. The opening scenes are treated like clickbait headlines as if desperately trying to hook the audience. In Caught Out, during the opening credits, you hear words like, "Absolutely explosive. What will happen next is impossible to say," and "Treachery. Like you have been stabbed in the back." Does Netflix have a guidebook that all filmmakers must follow to create their projects? Perhaps, one day, a documentary might explore this subject.
Final Score- [7/10]
Reviewed by - Vikas Yadav
Follow @vikasonorous on Twitter
Publisher at Midgard Times
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