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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Delhi Crime Netflix Review: The Harrowing Story Told Sensitively & Objectively

On the night of December 2012, a young woman was mercilessly raped and mutilated on a moving bus, while her male friend cowered in the front, helpless and beaten.

Delhi Crime directed by Richie Mehta is a Netflix original series based on this horrific crime which not only shook India but also the world.

As Delhi reels in the aftermath of gang rape, DCP Vartika Chaturvedi (Shefali Shah) leads a painstaking search for the culprits.

Richie Mehta Sensible & Effective work

The 2012 Delhi gang-rape, also known as Nirbhaya case, is one which still continues to haunt us years after the conviction.

Delhi Crime is a well-balanced and sensible adaptation of the Nirbhaya case.

Whilst working on a creatively liberal platform like the web, it can be easy for a filmmaker to get carried away with the overt use of profanities or explicitness.

Director Richie Mehta has sensitively approached the subject matter at hand and maintains objectivity whilst narrating this story.

Moreover, even though the story is heart-wrenching, the show does not play on the heartstrings at all. This underplay of emotions comes across as impactful.

The intricate detail of the characters, sequence of events and event locations, it is quite clear that a lot of research has gone into the project.

Delhi City Becomes a Character

The style of the series is a drama but yet it strongly has a documentary style.

The authentic locations, realistic characters and lack of background score give the viewers a visceral feel.

Also, it’s interesting how the director incorporates old Bollywood love songs but in a relevant manner which suit the on-goings of the series at that particular moment.

Whilst showcasing the grittiness of Delhi, Richie ensures that he does not portray a regressive side to the city.

In fact, Delhi itself becomes an additional character in the show.

We see shots of a bustling city alongside people travelling on the metro as per their usual routine.

Amidst this normality, we see a heinous crime like the gang-rape took place.

It is both fascinating and frightening to see this juxtaposition, but it is also a mirror to the society that such atrocious acts take place under our noses and yet sometimes they go unnoticed.

Richie Mehta‘s endeavour to portray Delhi seems to mirror Zoya Akhtar’s effort in Made In Heaven.

It’s almost as if the filmmakers are using the capital city as a way to alert us to what is happening around our world.

The Social Relevance of Delhi Crime

Delhi Crime focuses mainly on the mentalities of men in Indian society.

The scene where one of the rapists does not shy away from his atrocious crime shocks the viewer… It makes one repulsed that such horrendous people exist in today’s society.

There are several social messages that are conveyed in the series.

The main theme revolves around women empowerment and equality.

We see three strong female cops essayed by Shefali Shah, Rasika Dugal and Jaya Bhattacharya fulfilling their duty with full dedication in an otherwise patriarchal profession.

At the same token, it is refreshing to see how these female protagonists are not dominated or by the male characters – regardless of their ranking in the police force.

The Indian police force has always been the subject of scrutiny and scepticism, the series successfully humanises the cops.

We get to see a never-seen-before world of the police officers and Indian procedural system.

Often in Bollywood films and Indian TV shows, we see a corrupt and weak portrayal of the cops. However, the Delhi Crime shatters this stereotype.

If anything, the show will make us respect the hard-work the IPS goes through.

Plus, this is the first time we are seeing the 2012 Nirbhaya case from the perspective of the police and this exposure itself is thought-provoking.

Powerful Performances

In addition to the intricate research and first-rate filmmaking style, the web-series consists of some solid performances.

Shefali Shah is outstanding as DCP Vartika Chaturvedi. Her expressions, body language and dialogue delivery is par excellence.

She seamlessly gets into the skin of the character.

When she gets frustrated and angry, the audience does too. A truly natural performance.

Vartika is the most progressive representation of an Indian cop.

Up till now, all we had seen is hot-headed, loud & flamboyant police characters however this character is pragmatic, formidable and hard-working.

Rajesh Tailang as Bhupendra Singh is a key character who negotiates the pressures of a patriarchal society.

His subtle and effective presence helps to balance the gender dynamics of the show and he is a great actor.

It is lovely to see Jaya Bhattacharya back on our screens as Vimla Bhardwaj.

Despite her girl-next-door exterior, there is a feistiness as a cop but is yet compassionate.

Rasika Dugal is another great talent and she plays Neeti Singh, a new recruit in the police force.

Whilst we don’t see much of her in this series, Dugal enacts her part well as an officer who holds the DSP to the highest regard.

The scenes where Neeti looks after the victim’s parents are quite poignant.

Mridul Sharma delivers a convincing performance as one of the dreadful rapists – Jai Singh.

The scene where he fearlessly has no shame about his dreadful crime and his regressive attitude towards women compels you to hate him.

In addition to these actors, all the other artists like Adil Hussain (as the commissioner) and Denzil Smith (to name a few) also deliver great performances.

What’s bad?

There are a lot of positive factors about Delhi Crime. Perhaps the only weak point about the series is the pace.

Given that the accounts are very detailed and convoluted, it requires a lot of patience for the viewers to acknowledge and appreciate the narrative.

Having said that, one wishes that the series continues beyond the seven episodes.

Despite the series is quite heavy, one cannot help but to binge watch it.

We’ve seen several Indian procedural shows but Delhi Crime could prove to be a game-changer.

This is because the show is headlined by headstrong female cops which make it not only about empowerment but also revolves around equality.

In our view, this is one of the finest Indian Netflix original series and it deserves to be watched and appreciated!

⭐⭐⭐⭐(4/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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