`Caught Out` Web Review: Indian match-making (of another type)!

`Caught Out` Web Review: Indian match-making (of another type)!

Movie: Catch Out
Genre: Documentary
Director: Supriya Sobti-Gupta
On: Netflix
Rating: 3/5

It is no coincidence that the biggest scandal in Indian (if not world) cricket history, strictly speaking, was not broken by an all-access sports journalist.

Anirudh Behl was practically a replacement sports reporter when he exposed ‘match-fixing’ in cricket – with a cover-story in Outlook, in mid-1997.

Meaning, players were not only passing vital match-information to the bookies, but were also taking orders as to how the match would be played!

Around this time, as we learn from Supriya Sobti-Gupta’s Netflix documentary, Caught Out, it was common to hear journalists chatting with bookies from the press box.

This shared privacy/complexity is not surprising. This is the curse of beat reporting, where you end up getting so close to your sources/subjects – in turn, like Icarus before the sun, they destroy your existence (cause)!

The whistle-blower in Bahl’s cover-story was cricketer Manoj Prabhakar. By then, Prabhakar’s career was over – having been dropped after the 1996 World Cup. Sure, he had a bone to pick with – what source doesn’t? But then he did not tell the name.

He later did so for Behl’s documentary, made for the recently launched Tehelka magazine. This is where Prabhakar alleged Kapil Dev Offered him money to drop the match. Six weeks in, Prabhakar stalked associates/friends who made even more disclosures, supposedly ‘off the record’.

This doc, Fallen Heroes (produced by Minty Tejpal) – shot with spy cameras on an unprecedented scale – is the film within the cut out. Since then Behl has almost pioneered this kind of brave, undercover reporting – including blowing the political cover of legacy news-media!

Caught Out is the directorial debut of Sobti-Gupta. Although he himself is, in many ways, a recent first-mover for this ‘Netflix style’ of entertaining docs, if you will – well-reported events go deep into its coverage are, and given the distance of time, can come out. With the view that daily journalism is inefficient for its deadlines. Think of it as history’s second draft!

The same helped him with the script while working on Mumbai Mafia (MM, 2023), which follows vultures on the Bombay underworld of the 90s. With Bad Boy Billionaires (BB, 2020), on big-ticket financial scams – though her segment in Satyam’s anthology on Ramalinga Raju is still stuck in court.

Of course, with such a smartly packaged narrative, shot and dramatized pizazz for a new audience in nearly 200 countries – there’s potential for defamation/litigation.

Simply because an old wound is being scratched. There’s practically no new piece of evidence/reporting to be sure. On doping in cycling, it’s not quite like, say, the exploratory/revelatory, Brian Fogel’s Icarus (2017).

But it’s easy enough for a giant like Netflix to play it safe — keeping the movie almost under wraps so that its members can automatically discover the content on its app. The algorithm is the only advertisement.

So with cout out, or bbb, and mm. As might be guessed, the larger audience is probably with more slapstick reality entertainment, like Sima Aunty’s Indian Matchmaking, or even The Romantics (a Yash Raj Films biopic), for that matter.

speaking of which, “match making”, or match-making is exactly what the accused Mohammad Azharuddin (India Captain, 1990-99) told the CBI what was really happening, allegedly on the instructions of the bookies!

After the said confession, Azhar was banned from cricket. He fought against that decision in court; Even got acquitted. He made a crappy cricket film called Azhar (2016) for the celebration!

Anyhow, match-fixing, as it turns out, is not a crime that will land you in jail. Why sports-betting is stupidly a criminal offense in India requires a more in-depth legislative debate. This is something a Sobti-Gupta film could have touched upon. As for the subtext, the movie lays out two facts so essential, that you’re almost certain that nothing is going to change.

One, that “love for money”, or money itself, is “addictive”. Two, “The gambler never wins; The bookie never loses”! Public re-shaming like Caught Out is, I think, an important deterrent – to stop corrupt practices like match/spot-fixing in sports, like insider trading – and horse-trading in business, and politics. Public memory is short.

Sobti-Gupta along with their doctor do an even better job of bringing out good journalists. In such cases they are likely to be the best detection dogs. Most of them remain so underpaid and unheard of together, that the incentives rarely match the potential risk.

Felt the same with Alex Perry at MM – didn’t know it was his profile of constable Pradeep Sharma in Time magazine that got the Indian government to reconsider the issue of ‘encounter police’ as a praiseworthy force inspired.
Similarly, Bahl is the hero of Cut Out. Special thanks go out in the closing credits to my (mid-day) colleague Clayton Murzello. Personally, I have followed the match-fixing scandal in Indian cricket primarily through its strongest historian, sports journalist Pradeep Patrika.

Also Read: `Gulmohar` Movie Review: A Chalti Phirti Daawat!

He was among the first to discuss the subject in print/publicly. His book, Not Just Cricket, exposed the apparent “toss-fixing” by Pakistani cricketer Asif Iqbal in the 1979–80 Indo-Pak Test. How old is the rot? The magazine should have been profiled in Cut Out.

Also, looking at cricket since 2000’s Hansie Cronje, Azhar, Ajay Sharma revelations – for God’s sake, we have IPL, with capitalist-opportunists owning cricket teams, with no stake in the game. Rumor is terrible on this world!

Should have seen Sobti-Gupta there. This is an obvious sequel. How much detail can you cover in a little over an hour long document, anyway! Well delivered, though.



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