Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Delhi Crime

On someone's recommendation, I recently watched the seven-part series Dehli Crime on Netflix.  It's a police procedural, shot and set in Dehli, based on the real-life 2012 Dehli gang rape and murder case. That was the case in which a young woman, out at night with a male friend of hers after they had seen a movie, was raped, beaten and tortured by six men in the back of a bus in southwestern Dehli.  Her boyfriend was beaten as well, though not nearly as badly as she was, and the assailants threw the couple off the bus and left both for dead at the side of the road.  Someone discovered them there and alerted the police. The series begins in the immediate aftermath of the crime and follows the police work that led, somewhat remarkably, to the quick arrest -- within six days -- of all the assailants. It also shows the social fallout from the case.  There is much public anger, protests against the police and their failure to protect women from the ongoing horror of gang rapes.  And there is a freewheeling media that stokes the outrage people feel and that eggs on the backlash against a police force widely considered inept and incompetent. At the same time, while the police do their work, there is political maneuvering behind the scenes, as some in government for their own ends angle to overhaul certain command structures within the police force.  

Show writer and director Richie Mehta got the idea to do the series from a conversation he had with the former Commissioner of the Dehli Police, Neeraj Kumar.  And it's clear that everything was done to get as much authenticity as possible into the shoot.  The lead investigator, played by actress Shefali Shah, is based on a former deputy commissioner of police in Dehli named Chhaya Sharma, with whom Shah worked a lot in preparation.  Her character leads a team comprised mainly of men but also of a couple of key women investigators, and how the police do their jobs and live their lives here is something I found quite interesting.  They hardly live lives like the police in the United States. The Indian police are underpaid, have no union, work atrociously long hours and get no overtime, and the resources they have, under normal circumstances, are pretty limited.  As part of the backdrop of the show as well, as I just mentioned, is the general low esteem in which the police seem to be held in Dehli, huge city that it is.  Even a magistrate Shah's character, DCP Vartika Chaturvedi, goes before, says quite casually that the police, when bothering to do their jobs at all, probably spend a good bit of time in places like five-star hotels. When, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  The police as seen here, at least this group working on this case, really are city servants doing their best under trying circumstances.  When was the last time in a police show, you saw the spouse of an officer bring food to the station so that 1) they have an excuse to actually see their overworked partner who's been sleeping for days at the station and 2) their partner can get a nice home-cooked meal instead of whatever the cops can manage to scrounge together on their unending shift at the station? 

One thing the police here don't have to contend with much, apparently -- guns.  It's eyeopening and somewhat startling to see the police lead rape suspects by the hand, no cuffs anywhere, once they have them in custody. At one point, a female officer, in her plain clothes attire, leads one of the rapists in just this way as she moves him from one location to another, her hand around his wrist.  There is maybe one male police officer with them, by the assailant's other shoulder, and that's it.  While the general public holds little regard for the police force, those caught, at least here, show fear and deference to the authorities once caught.  

I shouldn't end this without saying that as grim as the central crime here is, Dehli Crime is in no way a slog.  It's serious and intense but unfolds also, with its rich panoply of characters and personalities, with a good bit of quiet humor. I found it enthralling and I was glad to read that the series will be back, with the same cast, for a second season.


1 comment:

E. Ellis said...

I am glad I read your piece about Delhi Crime before I started watching it because it gives the needed background to enjoy the program more.

One thing I find quite interesting about the program is the quiet and understated resolve the actors portray in their ongoing investigation.

Quite the interesting program.