Richie Mehta is an acclaimed Canadian film director and writer best-recognised for his films Amal and Siddharth.
Interestingly, many of his ventures depict the central characters searching for something – be it right thing or a son.
Now, venturing onto the digital platform with the Netflix original series Delhi Crime in which DCP Vartika Chaturvedi (Shefali Shah) investigates into a heinous gang-rape which shocks the nation.
Inspired by the 2012 Nirbhaya case, the series is a harrowing but eye-opening venture which provides an insight into the Indian Police Service’s endeavours and working environment.
Filme Shilmy managed to catch up with Richie Mehta to discuss his experience of working on Delhi Crime.
Immense congratulations on the successful reception for Delhi Crime. How satisfied are you with this?
I’m still a bit numb, as it was 6 years of work, and then it abruptly releases and it’s now out in the world. So I’ve yet to register its departure from our hands.
Your main forte is in feature films. What was it like to direct a Netflix series? Was this transition from a cinema to the web a challenge for you?
It was no different.
It was done as a 7-hour film, so it’s just logistically much grander.
But I conceived of it as a long script (4 X the size of a film) and a long shoot (as one continuous story).
In that way it’s been overwhelming, size-wise, to manage it all creatively.
A lot of research and examination has gone into the series. What was that process like?
Protracted and exhausting.
That part took 4 years, and there were many times I didn’t want to proceed.
It was too emotionally draining and I questioned the value of doing it at all.
It was only after I saw that there was something positive at the end the tunnel that could come from this, that I fully committed to it.
For you as a filmmaker, how challenging was it strike a balance of narrating the story sensitively and objectively?
I would say it’s my subjective point of view on a lot of things – the investigation, the people involved, the event, and its aftermath.
So subjectivity for me was actually quite important.
However, sensitivity was of paramount importance and overshadowed everything.
That was something I had to negotiate at each stage, from the largest to the smallest decisions, right up until the end (including never to show the crime itself).
There are also a few social topics that the show covers. How did you ensure that Delhi Crime does not become preachy?
I never wanted to be preachy, on-the-nose, or prescriptive.
That’s why it’s 7 hours long.
There was so much to explore, and I figured if we could do it through these characters, these officers, and stay with them on their journey, with any commentary being made in passing, it would help.
The subject matter at hand is quite heavy, was there ever a moment where it got a bit much for you? How did you overcome that?
Yes, often. At the start, when I was researching, it was overwhelming.
I often had to stop, take a breath, and really introspect about what I was doing, and why.
What was the point of diving back into such horror?
What could come from it?
But ultimately, the people I met became a kind of optimistic compass for me, and the reason I wanted to proceed.
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?
This is a massive question and one that I can’t really answer in full.
I’ve put everything I had to say in this, with the hopes that the viewers who connect with it will be able to answer this properly.
But from a general perspective, I hope this gives people a bigger-picture understanding of such events.
So that if they have a strong, visceral reaction to something like this – which we all so – they can at least understand all points of view, from the people involved, before acting on those strong emotions.
What would you like the audience to take away from the series and what can be expected from season 2 (if it’s happening)?
The answer above would apply here as well.
But in addition to that, that all of us have a part to play in the solution(s) to these problems – every one of us.
Season 2 – same characters, different crime. That’s all I have for now!
Delhi Crime is available to stream on Netflix.