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Friday, December 8, 2023

Rasika Dugal Talks Netlfix’s Delhi Crime and the Rise in Female-Centric Content

Rasika Dugal is amongst the finest actors in Indian cinema.

In comparison to many other actors out there, Rasika has never shied away from essaying realistic characters in films like Tahaan, Kshay, Qissa, Manto and most recently, Hamid.

However, acting prowess has not been limited to cinema. 

Even on gritty television shows like Powder and Kismat (backed by YRF), Dugal has made her presence felt in every venture.

The most amazing factor about the actor is that she has never bound herself to do one style of content. 

As such, Rasika lately impressed viewers in popular web-series like Mirzapur and Made In Heaven.

But her next venture on the digital media platform can be said to be one of the most hard-hitting and crucial works yet.

Starring in the Netflix web-series Delhi Crime, the show is based on the true-life investigation about the brutal gang rape in India which took place in 2012.

The case had an enormous impact, paving the way for the introduction of stricter laws so the victim’s voice will finally be heard in this developing nation.

Headlined by two female protagonists – the other being actor Shefali Shah – the 7-episode series focuses on two cops investigating the harrowing crime.

In a special chat with Filme Shilmy, Rasika Dugal talks more about Richie Mehta’s Delhi Crime.

This year will mark 7 years since the Delhi gang-rape happened. Why do you feel it’s taken this long for this story to be brought onto the screen?

A story like this needed a lot of research and work to arrive at a place where it can be told sensitively.

That research, in the form of extensive interviews and going through tonnes of government documents, was put in by writer-director Richie Mehta and I am so grateful for that.

Any good work takes time and it must be given that.

The script reflects the time and effort spent on putting it together.

I don’t think me or any of the other members of the cast or crew would have wanted it any other way.

This is the first time we see a series based on this heinous crime and there have been countless news converge on the gang-rape. What new aspect or discoveries will Delhi Crime showcase?

For me, the series was about revisiting the hurt I felt in 2012 after the news broke out.

It was a reminder of that time and in one sense, I wanted to remember, to not forget and to not slip into the complacency of our lives.

What was completely new though, was the perspective of the police.

Because of limited exposure to the police and possibly because of the portrayal of the police in mainstream Bollywood, I had never really known the people who we trust to uphold law and order.

Working on this series humanised the police for me.

You play the role of IPS Neeti Singh. What was it like to get into the skin of a police officer, given that you had limited interaction with actual cops?

It was like entering a new world and I was happy about that.

As an actor one craves for roles which are beyond one’s realm of experience.

I spent some time with IPS officers who were in training at the time when we were filming.

As part of the training, they don’t have one job.

They try and understand the working of the police, however, they can.

Sometimes they are at one police station, sometimes at another, sometimes at a checkpoint, sometimes understanding the working of the PCR vans or sometimes in rehearsal for a parade.

I hung out with them at all these places.

I think what struck me was their sense of duty, the sincerity towards their work and the idealism.

One officer had left a very comfortable job to join the IPS. She said it was because she wanted to ‘see the change’ she was making in the world.

But some amount of scepticism had already begun to find its way in even at this early stage of the job. The realisation that they have to work under certain limitations and within a system.

The disappointment that most often civilians have no faith in them.

After playing a cop in the series, in what way (if at all) did it change your perception towards the Indian police force? 

I think it humanised the police for me and in a way reinstated my faith in the people who are a part of the system or at least, helped me see them as people within a system.

Yes, the system has its limitations but the general cynicism I had as a civilian that ‘no one really cares’ is I think replaced by ‘someone does’.

There’s still scepticism regarding the depictions of the 2012 Delhi Gang-rape. How do the series portray the heinous crime in a sensitive manner?

The series does not show the crime in any way – neither visually nor acoustically.

I think that was a very sensitive decision taken by Richie Mehta (the writer /director).

I totally stand by it and, without a doubt, I would not have wanted it any other way.

Netflix original film Soni was headlined by two female cops and so is Delhi Crime. How do you feel the show is relevant to rise in female-centric content?

What moved me most about the script, when I first read it was that besides the investigation and the police procedure, the series very sensitively examines the lives of the women who are investigating the case and how they negotiate patriarchy in their daily lives.

How even the men (example Rajesh Tailang’s character Bhupinder) negotiate the pressures of a patriarchal society.

I believe it touches upon all those smaller conversations that we often forget to have or those that we overlook or those that are too subtle to fight.

Those which finally enable a world in which a crime like this happens. I think these are the conversations we must have through ‘female-centric content’.

We should not limit our understanding of that only to content which has the woman as the ‘hero’ and often very male-like or fall into a stereotypical understanding of a liberated woman.

Besides providing an insight into the investigation of the gang-rape, in what way do you feel this series will have an impact in society today?

People take from a work of fiction what they have to and want to and each one takes something different.

In one sense, that is the beauty of it… I believe we have attempted to tell the story sensitively and I hope that people are moved by it.

Delhi Crime also stars Rajesh Tailang, Denzil Smith, Swati Bhatia and Yashaswini Dayama in pivotal roles.

The series is now available to stream on Netflix.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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