DELHI CRIME (2019)

  • Original Air Date: 22/03/2019
  • Director: Richie Mehta
  • Cast: Shefali Shah, Rajesh Tailang, Rasika Dugal, Adil Hussain.

Delhi Crime chronicles the journey of Delhi Police through a span of 5 days as they try to track down the perpetrators of the infamous “Nirbhaya Gang Rape” case (names changed here). The story not only takes us through intimate details of how the police machinery worked in this particular case but also gave us shocking revelations about how the case was being used by different forces as a means to get their own personal agendas fulfilled.

We have a chief minister who wants to bring the Police Force under his control. There is the media that is going all out to bury the police on various instigations. There are the citizens who are vying for the blood of the perpetrators and are not afraid to take on the police to get their hands dirty. If that was not enough, there is also the Chief Justice who drags the police to the court for negligence of duty amidst an ongoing hunt. Taking it all in and still doing their jobs tirelessly are DCP Vartika Chaturvedi (Shefali Shah), Inspector Bhupendra Singh (Rajesh Tailang), Neeti Singh (Rasika Dugal) and Chief of Police Kumar Vijay (Adil Hussain) who ultimately end up nabbing the culprits within 5 days. The hook here is “how?”

Delhi Crime takes a well-documented story but presents it as fiction for obvious reasons. However, when you are watching this series, you never for a second take it as fiction. The story is done with such conviction and details that it almost feels like a documentary. The makers even get the look of the culprits right. I watched the interview of Ram Singh, one of the key perpetrators in a BBC Documentary, titled “India’s Daughter”. The man who plays Jai Singh here (an obvious nod to Ram Singh) looks so much like him that after a while, the thin line between the character and the man playing hiim was nearly dissolved. Each of the criminals is nabbed after a lot of struggle that involves intellect, scrutiny, and leg-work. I was particularly amazed at the portion were one of the culprits is nabbed from a bus terminus when the police had nothing more than a name and tentative description. Another great acquisition was of one culprit hailing from a Naxalite infested area where the arresting Delhi Police team had to put up with the histrionics of the local police.

The criminals had their own share of impact on the narrative. The interrogation of Jai Singh is bound to question your belief in the social fabric that binds society. Here is a man who believes that what he did to the girl was nothing more than teaching her a lesson for going wayward in her conduct. He accepts his crimes without any remorse or empathy. He gives vivid details of what he had done and that he does with confidence and ease. Mridul who essays the character, successfully draws a picture of the man that is not only goosebumps-inducing but also detestable.

Shefali Shah is a seasoned actress but I feel this might just be her best act till date. The frustration and angst associated with all that is going around the case and the various characters involved with it find a medium of expression through her character. She is as real as one can be and even in that she is highly animated. There are moments when we see in her eyes the desire to squash a perpetrator or two but she restrains herself and ends up throwing nothing but her shoes on them. She breaks into verbal abuses a few times on a SHO who she thinks is not showing the dedication and drive that he should given the circumstances. Everything about her character feels relatable. There were junctures when I could practically smell the stench of the police station on her five days old and unchanged uniform. That’s how haunting and convincing her act was.

Rajesh Tailang plays Inspector Bhupendra, Vartika’s second in command. He does an exceptionally good job with the character. He has the meatiest role after Shefali and makes the most of it to shine with his clinical and believable act. Rasika Dugal plays a trainee who is entrusted to stay by the victim’s side in the hospital throughout the whole ordeal. As she is at it, she gets called out time and again for riot control. The amalgamation of these two facets of her duty makes an interesting impact on her as an individual which is brought out beautifully by Rasika. Adil Hussain has a smallish role but the man is commanding in his screen presence.

A few minutes into the first episode of this series, I completely forgot that it was actually a fictional account of events based on police files. I came to learn that the director Richie Mehta spent 5 years with the police understanding the case, reading the case files, pieces of evidence and also recreating the 5 days that this series is all about. His hard work has paid off wonderfully as the research is evident in every shot of the series. Little details like the vegetarian cop having issues with another cop who is hell-bent on feeding him chicken, a cop returning home after 5 days with a medicine that his wife asked for 5 days ago, a cop having problem introducing himself as a cop while facing his daughter’s potential in-laws and last but not the least, a mother’s dynamics with her daughter who knows that she is heading the investigation and wants to know what she is doing to bring the guilty to justice heavily influenced by peer pressure. All this and a lot more make this series fantastic.

I was particularly impressed by the cinematography and lighting of the series. Unlike Bollywood’s radically glamorized versions of the police station (Singham, Simmba), we are presented dimly lit claustrophobic interiors that are more often than not deprived of even electricity. There are also a lot of on-location sequences which are handled beautifully and are again lit as if it was all natural light. What these things do to the series is to make it even more real and helps in immersing the audience in the tale. The camera moves are jerky every now and then but there is no shortage of close-ups that help us to dwell in the minds of the characters that we are looking closely at. The background score is limited but apt.

Netflix is fast becoming an oasis for quality Indian content in an otherwise corporate wasteland-ish Bollywood. While Bollywood has transitioned into something so mindless and assembly line that sometimes I can’t even understand why they are making films anymore, Netflix keeps churning out series and films that remind us of everything that was great about Indian cinema and series. The fact that they are beyond the censor and the limitation of the runtime is proving to be an important reason in enabling them to churn out even better material and giving it the needed attention, germination time and respect. Delhi Crime is one of their finest creations.

Rating: 5/5 (5 out of 5 Stars)

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