It isn’t easy being on the right side of the law when all you get for your efforts is brickbats and insults from fence sitters.
To say that ‘Delhi Crime’, a disturbing but finally redundant real-life crime drama, whitewashes the police would be frivolous and irresponsible. What it does do is humanise the police force by showing a cluster of fiercely committed officers (the two main ones in the story are women) driving themselves over the edge to nap the perpetrators of the 2012 gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh (known at the time as Nirbhaya).
Did the cops on the case really show this level of commitment? Does it matter? Heroism on a level where it heals society is unquestionable.
Recreating in vivid colours the events before, during and after the horrific incident in Delhi, this seven-part series spares us the brutality of watching the rape but protects none from the trauma and aftermath of a crime that shook the conscience of India.
As we hear our drama’s hero Vartika Chaturvedi say, this crime was different, the savagery was unprecedented. She got it right.
I will never forget the sequence where the ravaged 23-year-old is rolled into the hospital bloodied and brutalised and tells her father: “I will be fine.”
Director Richie Mehta negotiates with powerful hands the many hurdles that such a complex investigation must face. This is a very professionally handled crime drama, superior to some of the real-life dramas on television, mainly for the level of performance Mehta gets out of the cast, especially Shefali Shah.
But it doesn’t achieve the level of emotional impact that I expected from the product, considering the fine talent that’s gone into it.
There are two reasons why ‘Delhi Crime’ stops short of being a true crime masterpiece. For one, it holds back too much of the angst, probably to appeal to a global audience. The attempt to subdue the sheer insanity of the crime is admirable but eventually an error of judgment.
A more immediate crisis of efficacy emerges from the fact that ‘Delhi Crime’ resembles a very recent Netflix film ‘Soni’, which was in every way a superior work.
The domestic disarray in the life of the female cops and the professional dynamics between two of them in ‘Soni’ is echoed here in the rapport that grows between the two officers played by Shefali Shah and Rasika Dugal, both in fine form imbuing the contours of crime with an implosive reined-in anger at a system that fosters inequality and brutality.
Shah is especially powerful. She is compelling because her anger is internalised and palpable. She not only anchors the series with her persuasive presence, she also decimates the rather disturbing feeling we get that this sort of stark recreation of India’s most well-known sex crime serves no purpose except to remind us that the change we hoped to see in the number of rapes in the country never happened.
Nirbhaya lives, and dies, again. Long live Nirbhaya.
Don’t miss it!
Delhi Crime is now streaming on Netflix.