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Delhi Crime, a series on Netflix, is currently making waves, and digs deep into the workings of the police force in the nation’s capital, considered an extremely unsafe city by many.
The latest Netflix series, Delhi Crime, starts with the mandatory “inspired by true case files”, but for most of us who still remember the ghastly incident of December 2012 where a young girl was gang-raped in Delhi, there is no doubt that it is the same story.
There have been few cases that have shaken the national conscience as this case had. I also remember the disbelief and shock I’d felt on so many levels – as a woman, a mother , a gynaecologist and above all this as an Indian. I’d also felt helpless. I’m sure many of us did that winter.
Spoiler Alert – this might have some minor spoilers
The series Delhi Crime streaming on Netflix does the same from another woman’s point of view. But she has no time to dwell on it as she battles against time to catch the depraved rapists. Living her role as the fearless dedicated and brilliant cop who uses cuss words freely, Shefali Shah speaks with her eyes and body language, bringing to the role a “believability” that I have rarely seen. She is also mother to a girl who is close to the rape survivor in age which makes the gang rape an unimaginable possibility to the mother in her.
Her character has so many layers that she becomes even more of a real person to the viewer. She is brilliant at her job but she is also irritable, impatient for results and frustrated when things don’t go her way. That makes her human and relatable, as does her face shorn of make up and we actually see the ravages of tension and sleeplessness on her face as the days go by.
After having read so much about the case, I had wondered if there would be anything new to offer. But the makers have done just that. The rape itself is not sensationalized. It is never shown on screen, but we are aware of it right through the series. The story is about the police, the Delhi Police in particular, who are working under circumstances nowhere close to the glamorized version of American Cops who solve so many crimes on TV. They have inordinately long hours, salaries grossly out of proportion to the effort they put in and none of the sophisticated tools required in such cases. They do not even have adequate electricity and power in the police stations, the control rooms from which they are to solve this case. Add to this, are vested interests who are out to politicise the issue and keep baying for the Police Commissioners head on a platter for a crime that as he says, “was impossible to prevent even if I had 3 million cops on the streets.”
The strength of the series also lies in the gritty details it has created from the Government buildings the police stations and Safdarjung hospital are housed in to the hovels and shanties the culprits live in. Everything looks realistic and lived in, not sets of a TV series. The casting is superb too. The trusted Lieutenant of the DCP, a non IPS officer but brilliant in the field she handpicks to lead her team, the sharp “tracker” who has to visit the Naxalite heartland in search of the fugitive culprits, the young trainee IPS lady officer who is thrust into the midst of the explosive situation on her very first day on the force, the rebellious young daughter of the lead protagonist who doesn’t know whether to blame her super cop mom (as the media and public are suggesting ) or be proud of her are characters that will stay with you long after you’ve finished watching the series.
However, the backbone of the series is the performance by Shefali Shah – she emotes with her eyes as I mentioned earlier. The shock and disbelief in her eyes as she hears the main culprit confess to the heinous crime without remorse is a scene that needed no words. Yet the way she explodes with anger and frustration in the very next scene is also a lesson in acting, I would say.
Having said that, does the series have no weaknesses? It does. The emotional outbursts the DCP has off and on could have been minimised. This is the only aspect where her gender seems to work against her. Especially as she is otherwise portrayed as a dedicated, strong, no-nonsense, freely using cuss words, even physically whacking the suspects across the face. All this is without any gender bias.
She is just a top cop leading an investigation. She should have been allowed to remain one.
And to my mind, the other weakness is probably in the characterization and development of the survivors’ characters (another point I did not agree with was the way they are always referred to as victims and not survivors right through the series.)
I’m not sure of the way they have presented the survivor’s male friend who is cast as not having done enough to save the girl. It is even suggested that he was the cause of the rape itself by getting physically intimate with the girl on the bus, which one of the rapists justifies as reason for him being incited to rape. Can any situation justify rape? And one as heinous as this one? Never. Perhaps that was how the rapist’s mind worked. Agreed. But having a level-headed police officer refer to the male survivor as the root cause of “all this” cannot be condoned.
The series takes a new look at the crime that moved the country as one, from the point of view of the over stretched, over worked police force, that still delivers against all odds. To a certain extent it may even work as an advertisement for the police force. But perhaps it’s time we looked at the officers who work under such tremendous pressure with minimum perks and amenities to solve crimes if not prevent them with a little more empathetic eye at their thankless job.
In conclusion, the series is a must watch. Its dark, gritty and grim. It is brutally honest. The performances are phenomenal. Whatever the flaws, it made me binge watch the entire 7-part series at one go. It is a compelling watch, but heavy. Its not something one would want to watch breezily. It seeps into you. Frame by frame.
Go watch it and decide for yourselves. I would give it a 4/5 rating.
Looking forward to your feedback.
Image source: a still from Delhi Crime
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A Gynecologist by profession n blogger by passion, I love words!
I love weaving life
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