“Tell me something, have you ever seen a local crime being covered by CNN?”
Kumar Vijay - Commissioner of Police
This sums up the gravity of the events at play in Delhi Crime - a new show by Netflix. The show is based on the events of 16th Dec 2012 in Delhi i.e. the gang rape of Nirbhaya in a moving bus by 6 men. Yes, Delhi is known as the Rape Capital and yes the unfortunate truth is that they are not a rare occurrence. This case, however, was different and the show reminds us of the horrifying truths that made it so.
When the show was announced, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, there was Shefali Shah, who I would pay to watch any day. On the other hand, I feared the worst - makers milking this tragedy, showing graphic details and manipulating our emotions and ideologies. As I got through the first couple of episodes, I was happy at being right about Shefali Shah, and happier at being wrong about the rest.
First and foremost, Delhi Crime is a procedural and tells the story of how the police caught the 6 accused. The story is told from the point of view of DCP Vartika Chaturvedi played by Shefali Shah. The character is based on IPS Chhaya Sharma who was in charge of the Nirbhaya case at the time. Honestly, 10 mins into the first episode, I was blown away by how good Shefali Shah is. She lives, breathes and leads as DCP Vartika Chaturvedi should, getting into the skin of her character. The way she centers herself after the emotional shock of looking at Deepika (the rape victim) gave me goosebumps. Even as an audience, you will respect her, feel proud of her and would want to stand up and salute her for being who she is.
The strength of Delhi Crime is in the novelty of its treatment of the Police. I cannot remember a single film/show where Police have been depicted without taking sides. They are either heroes among the likes of Singham, Simmba, & Rowdy Rathore or villains, corrupt and dishonest. Delhi Crime’s portrayal of the Delhi Police is extremely nuanced and balanced. We see issues that are common in workplaces across departments and industries. Lack of budgets, being understaffed, no overtime, getting paid less. And yet, people do it, with all their heart. These policemen and women are people like you and me. People who are emotional, sensitive, & flawed like all of us. People who want to spend time with their family, earn a comfortable living, be respected but not out of fear. The show really shows a new side that I had never thought of.
There are so many good actors that make this show possible. Rajesh Tailang as Bhupendra, Chief of STF, and a father to a daughter who is of marriageable age. In one scene, Bhupendra is interrogating a suspect with complete authority and then loses all the authority when he gets a call from his prospective in-laws. Rasika Duggal as the new IPS trainee Neeti is top notch. She just eases into every role and changes her looks from one show to another as if she is changing her skin. I can't believe this is the same actor who played the sultry Beena Tripathi in Mirzapur (Prime Video). Jaya Bhattacharya, a veteran of Indian TV, plays Inspector Vimla Bhardwaj, the magnificent Adil Hussain as Police Commissioner Kumar Vijay who is willing to put his own reputation on the line for this. There are many more character actors who make their presence felt in very small roles.
The camera work by Johan Heurlin Aidt and direction by Richie Mehta give Delhi Crime a docu-drama kind of a feel, which is tailor-made for this kind of a show. The night scenes and low light scenes are shot beautifully, showing us the real Delhi. Sound design is subtle and authentic, catching the hustle bustle of bus terminals and market places exceedingly well. There is no dramatic or emotional music when you see the victim. What you see, is what you hear.
Creators of Delhi Crime, Laurence Bowen, Toby Bruce, Richie Mehta understand the heart-wrenching nature of the subject. Just the mention of the sequence of events made my mouth dry and sent a chill down my spine. Hence, the actual act of rape is never shown. Hats off to the team for taking this brave and sensitive call. Hence, the show continuously keeps our attention on the core of the show.
Delhi Crime is not about Delhi being unsafe for women, it is also not about making the accused pay for their crime. The show is about catching the accused and Delhi Crime does it like no other show or film has ever done before. It is a must watch and the finest thing Indian television has to offer.