The fateful night of 16th December 2012 would always be remembered as a blot on the face of India, a nation whose leaders promised the empowerment of its women. What happened that night took our society to unprecedented depths of decadence from where there could be no return. Jyoti Singh Pandey, a Physiotherapy Intern, was returning home with her friend Awindra Pratap Pandey after catching a movie. Unable to find a mode of conveyance at the Munirka bus stop, they chanced upon a private bus that seemed to be going to Dwarka which was their destination. Little did they know that the six passengers who were present in the bus would change their lives forever. On their way, when one of the passengers began an altercation with Awindra, the rest joined in and started beating the young man. When Jyoti tried to defend him, they dragged her to the back of the bus and raped her repeatedly. However, one of the men did not stop there. He violated her with a metal rod and then threw them both out of the bus to die on the roadside. Humanity had been buried alive. What came to be known as the ‘Nirbhaya’ case became a dark chapter in our collective history.
Written and directed by Richie Mehta, Delhi Crime retells the ghastly story from the perspective of Delhi Police who were instrumental in cracking the case. Based on bits and pieces from the real investigation led by the DCP of South District Chhaya Sharma and her team, the limited series explores the trials faced by the infamous Police department which had an unfavourable reputation of being a corrupt office by the citizens of the national capital. As public sentiment turned to outrage blaming the inefficiency of law and order, the investigative teams ran a race against time to track down the perpetrators before they disappeared into oblivion. The incident was not significant just for its abhorrent subject matter, but also for the fact that a woman took it upon herself to avenge the victim who was also a woman.
Shefali Shah’s stand-out performance brings the talented actor back to our screens in a new medium where she is far more unfettered in her art than I have ever seen her before.
This first of its kind Indian true-crime series boasts of an ensemble cast with Shefali Shah playing DCP Vartika Chaturvedi (fictionalised name), the strong-willed IPS officer who pushed her department to the very brink to nab the culprits; Rasika Dugal as Neeti Singh, a newly inducted IPS officer who is here a taste of the over inner workings of the department; Adil Hussain as Kumar Vijay, the Commissioner of Police who shields his team from facing political heat; Rajesh Tailang as Bhupendra Singh, a seasoned Sub-inspector who drives his sources and forensic team on the ground bringing the DCP’s operation to fruition. The strong performances by the central characters pulls you into the narrative from the get-go as the dark, morally languishing form of Delhi looms in the backdrop. Shefali Shah’s stand-out performance brings the talented actor back to our screens in a new medium where she is far more unfettered in her art than I have ever seen her before.
Richie Mehta weaves together some compelling creative elements into the narrative that adds a lot of depth into the story. Vartika Chaturvedi’s teenage daughter has been accepted into a Canadian University. As proud as she is, she tries to convince her to stay citing that the city was not as bad as it looked, and that she was working hard to improve it every day. When, a few days later, the Nirbhaya case happens, Yashaswini Dayama who plays the daughter finds herself standing up for the victim and her own mother even though her faith in the city had been torn to shreds. This element of a dynamic between a mother and her daughter against the premise makes for a very personal motive for her to provide justice to the victim. The writing also allows room for character attributes for the supporting cast and a glimpse into their lives right from the lowly Sub-inspectors who are overworked and barely have time to visit their families. For the first time, as an audience I could feel sympathy for the police who are also human beings after all facing similar struggles that all of us are, while carrying the immense weight of the law on their shoulders. For a few corrupt officers, it would be unfair if we generalised the entire Police department as an office of crooks. The capture of the perpetrators in a record five days is a testament to that.
Through a press conference where the Police Commissioner addresses questions from social activists and the Chief Minister himself, we get to understand a hard fact about how it is statistically impossible for the Police to detect crimes of this nature which are designed to be hidden. If the perpetrators in a rape-case are not apprehended in the first 7-10 hours, the case is as good as lost. The series does a commendable job in being as authentic as possible. A lot of attention has been paid towards detailing the various threads of the investigation that lead to the logical end of capture through practical methods that the Police follow.
Statistics show that the number of reported rape cases has increased markedly over the years where in 2018 five rapes were being reported every single day. This may be due to the changes that have been introduced that now make it easier for a victim to file an FIR without being subject to intrusive examination. In the same vein, conviction rates in rape-cases have also seen an increase thanks to Fast-track courts that are aimed at providing swift justice to the victims. The police cannot prevent rapes from happening all the time and expecting that from them would be unreasonable. The bottom-line basically comes to this – for our society to be safe for women, it is us who need to change first as citizens. We need to stop objectifying women in our conversations, in our interactions and in our Pop-culture media. We need to educate our youth in sex education so that natural processes don’t become some miraculous unattainable thing that they need to explore by force.
Delhi Crime goes to show us that even in a city with a reputation like Delhi, law does work if provided with the resources and supported by the will of senior officers. It also shines a mirror at our society where women fear to walk alone at night, not because of a lapse in law and order but for the criminal mindset that still lives amidst us. It is commendable that the makers were able to bring this adapted series to light especially when the subject matter is so sensitive and may have sparked controversy for the fact that it shows the police department as it is, without filters. Having said that, this was a story that had to be told, and I cannot imagine how it could have been told any better.