Director: Richie Mehta
Cast: Shefali Shah, Rasika Dugal, Rajesh Tailang, Adil Hussain
December 2012, cold Delhi winter, one girl, six men and a moving bus. Given the widespread coverage both nationally and internationally, these words are enough to take us back to the brutal and barbaric gang rape in 2012 that shook the conscience of the country. One of the details of the heinous crime was out in the public domain, the general mass was tipping with emotions like anger, pain, angst and frustration. Taking to the streets, people from all over the country united and protested against the administration demanding justice for Nirbhaya.
While a number of documentaries and regional films explored the angst of the victim, her parents and the perpetrators too, what went missing was the police's version of the case.
Netflix's Indian Original Delhi Crime sets the stage to give us a view from the other side of the table. Dedicating four years of extensive research, director Richie Mehta puts forth a gripping drama that takes us back to 2012, reminding us of the 72 hours when the Delhi Police personnel were on their heels to hunt down six men who gang-raped a 23-year-old girl.
The seven-part series begins with a sequence of scenes of a usual Delhi winter morning, setting the base for the general routine of the police force. Taking each day of the investigation as a separate episode, Mehta presents his version of the lesser known side of the Nirbhaya case. The director plays with the memory of the audience as he establishes a fictionalised version of the investigation.
While he vowed not to show the incident in any way, he reminds us of the disturbing visuals at multiple occasions through narration from different characters. Given the brutality of the crime, it affects one as a viewer and it's difficult to sit through the whole experience at a go. This will not be an easy binge watch. You will be forced to pause in between to deal with the trauma of reliving the whole incident. But, the show is so engaging that you will watch it till the end. And, it's worth the effort because it does give you a perception you might have missed earlier.
Mehta's lead, DCP Vartika Chaturvedi played by Shefali Shah is inspired from Chhaya Sharma, the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in south Delhi in 2012, who led the team of more than 100 policemen along with her entrusted abets to put the six culprits behind bars. Shah is the one force that holds the whole series together and is effective in balancing her character's emotions.
Rasika Dugal, who is seen as IPS officer-in-training Neeti Singh, has one of the most intriguing roles in the series. Neeti is like a bridge between the police, the parents and somewhere the media, too. Throughout the series, she is the key who makes you empathise with the police officers.
While Vartika and Neeti have prioritised the case over their personal lives and are emotionally involved with it, Rajesh Tailang plays the role of Bhupendra, an experienced inspector who understands that criminal cases are not treated with emotion. Bhupendra might want to solve the case right at the moment, but he understands the limitations of an officer who also has to work within the ambit of law and order.
As the supporting aids to Vartika, Rasika and Rajesh bind two loose ends of the case. While the former deals with the emotional dilemma of a trainee officer, the latter puts on the forefront the view of a practical police officer. Without them, Delhi Crime cannot be half the story Mehta wants to tell the audience.
Apart from the lead actors, Yashaswini Dayama, who essays the role of Vartika's daughter Chandini, catches your attention with her on point acting. She's the one divided between the police and the heated mass. Although she has a minor role to play, she makes an impact by questioning the system, the police department and representing the anger of the youth.
The series also tries to give an explanation for the violent behaviour of the police against the protesters and their sensitivity when it came to handling the juvenile among the rapists. Undoubtedly, the series is a refreshing take on the subject and it gives you a sense of contentment that there was actually a team of people who were working to bring justice.
However, the series seems unrealistic at certain points when they try to show a smooth investigation with full cooperation among various government departments.
This series essentially benefits from a combination of fine acting, direction and scripting. It's gripping, traumatic and impactful. There are various angles and perceptions presented in the entire series, like the victim, her family, the rapists, the police and the mass, but Mehta and his team put the investigation in focus, and not the actual incident. Despite dealing with a widely known topic, Mehta is successful in bringing something new to the table, something that will affect every person who's followed the developments following the gang-rape.