Delhi Police is assumed to be the most ostentatious, callous police force in the world, especially by the women who reside in the city. According to most people, they're always late, never follow proceedings as they're supposed to and always hamper vital evidence, with more and more cold cases piling up within their files. That's an assumption. I don't know if it's a fair or a just one, but it's an experiential assumption. I am not trying to bring the force into a bad light but everything that falls under the purview of the police should be scrutinised till its eventual end and to ward off these assumptions, we have the perfect case from their files, which completely changed the way Delhi Police represented itself in the city.
December 16th, 2012 was a normal day in the capital. It was exceptionally chilly and the city was donned in winter silence. The police, I am sure was set out doing their daily duties, filling the FIR logbook, while trying to rectify nuances which were at play negatively all around. They barely knew their lives were going to change forever after sunset. On one of their regular patrolling rounds, Delhi Police found a couple, naked on the side of the road. When they were brought to the hospital, wrapped in bed sheets, the boy was still conscious with bruises all over his body, while the girl was in agonising pain, whispering she'd been raped and violated with a rod, which was put in to her vagina and taken out, repeatedly. She whispered to the doctor that someone had pulled out flesh from inside her stomach.
The statement made by this girl was the beginning of the end of Delhi Police's callous misconduct towards heinous crimes throughout the city. Nirbhaya sent shockwaves that were so riveting, no one could fathom how brutal this crime was.
Yes, it was the most brutal crime that had taken place in the capital where a young girl was badly beaten and bruised, raped and devoured antagonistically, her case had to be put on fast track. This is where Delhi Police showed the world their real face, their real mettle, as a valuable police force. They caught the perpetrators within 5 working days and gave Nirbhaya and the country what they needed- the perfect resolve, that it always sought.
Almost 6 years after this crime was given due justice, Netflix released a series called 'Delhi Crime', which highlighted not the crime, but how it was dealt with, with every moment in dire speculation. Honestly, I couldn't sit through the series at first. Yes, it was intense but in more ways than one, it was a triggering point for someone who had no idea about the gravity of how and why it took place. 'Delhi Crime' effortlessly and carefully peeled layers of successful tribulation of the victim, her family, her friend and what the police went through on that ill-fated night.
"I have a family friend in the Delhi Police and he retired six years back. He'd seen my previous work and kind of knew me and my style, so he suggested we do a film on this six years back. I told him that I don't think it's a good idea at all. He asked to read the first verdict that had come out in the sessions court, back in 2013. He offered that he'll introduce me to some more officers involved if I was interested, and if you feel there's a story there, then go for it" Richie Mehta, the director told us in an interview, while revealing the truest sculpture of the series.
The series is divided in to seven parts and it's a clear focus on the dedication Delhi Police has shown towards solving the crime in a short duration. It's an apt reconstruction of the case which was handled very professionally and aesthetically by the cast and the crew. Usually, cinematic reconstructions of crimes such as rape and sexual abuse are callously handled by filmmakers in the country. There is little or no research that goes into reconstructing a crime and even if there is, most of it is secondary. 'Delhi Crime', on the other hand, took care of every intricate nuance featured in the series. For instance, even though the film was about the heinous crime that took place, it deliberately focused more on how the perpetrators were brought to justice and not so much on how the victim went through the darkest hour of her life. The series made unsubtle references to the recreation of the crime that took place in the bus, when the victim narrated it out loud, the injuries she succumbed to and the way she dealt with it all. Everything was created in complete discretion, keeping the societal triggers in mind. But even so, every bit of it was nerve-gripping.
"There were certain basic things that were non-negotiable to me. Like, no way will I show the crime and there was no chance of that. You wouldn't even sounds of the crime, that is off limits. This was about people perpetrating the crime and other people dealing with it.
One big mandate was based visually. The style of shooting would be as a by-standard. If we can remove as much judgement as possible from my standpoint. If you're doing a scene and you're in a car, the camera is behind you, as if you're just sitting in the car. We don't do the front shots. You're looking at everyone else, as if you're sitting there. And if you're in the police station, the movie camera is on the cinematographer's shoulder , they get up and go in to the hallway and we go with them. So, that mandate was reflective of taking a non-judgmental approach." said Richie.
The opening credits of the series tell us that they were directly inspired from the original case files. While I am off the notion that additional fiction was added to the series to create that extra 'thrill', I wasn't sensitised to the fact that the light the police were presented in would steal focus from the rest of the characters and the facts that were shown very limitedly. It came as a slow realisation that other things actively happening around the time Nirbhaya was in the hospital and when her perpetrators were roaming free, were not given much screen time.
There were protests that broke out, civil society and women welfare NGOs that demanded justice, student bodies, politicians and her family reacting to the situation was put at bay to valorise the police. While it's fair this content might have been created to redeem the functioning of Delhi Police and spill their truth, it certainly sidelined a lot of important aspects, especially the burste of identity Delhi was gathering through its people at the time.
The constant reminder of how the police is understaffed and not paid enough and how ill-equipped they are financially and otherwise in comparison to other countries like America, came up again and again in the show. This was one thing that didn't settle in too well for me, but then everyone loves a good cop story and this was mostly about that.
"There was a turning point for me when one sub-inspector I was speaking told me about a heinous crime he was investigating. And after he told me that, I asked him if he still believed in people and he said 'ya ya for sure'. And I asked him why does he believe in people if he deals in this evil every day. He then told me there are 17 million people in Delhi at night and 40,000 officers. 70% are used for VIP and traffic, so do the math on how many officers are keeping the peace. They can't prevent a crime from happening before, statistically. Which means the only thing keeping the peace 24 hours a day are the people and they're doing it" said Richie.
Even though it seems like the story is one-sided, the character sketches are very strongly put forth in the show. Every character seems almost real, like we're reliving the exact same crime through them. That's also because the actors chose to play the part put their heart in soul to showcase an extremely sensitive issue. For instance, the DCP's character carried out by Shefali Shah was ruthless yet comforting. Her character was drawn from the real life DCP Chhayya Sharma, who handled Nirbhaya's case back in 2012. Shefali's character made a rogue statement which was much needed at the time. Not just for the fallen faith in the police force but for the a heinous crime like this in the city and she absolutely carved her way through a beautiful character sketch. Shefali feels if there wasn't a woman handling the case, it would probably not be done with so much focus and precision. Not because of anything else, but because the angst the DCP has experienced back then was more empathetic towards the victim, because she was a woman.
"She really wanted to get them and the fact that she was a woman, it probably got cracked so fast and she took it personally" Shefali opened up about her role.
While talking about whether or not this incident or even this show has changed the defination of safety in India, she went on to say:
''I stopped travelling by public transport a long time ago and I am really not in a space to sit and say I feel safer. After this what I know, the way this was investigated, we're not completely thrown to the winds. There are people who care, there are people who work really hard to keep us safe. There is always a balance of good or bad and if there wasn't can you imagine what would happen to this country?"
Although the show wasn't uncomfortable or traumatic for her to do, it was emotionally exhausting but empowering to step in to the shoes of someone who actually burnt the midnight oil and found the ones responsible for the crime.
'Delhi Crime', although has its triggers and biases every now and then, it still showcases the vast mentality that exists in our country and the level some men can stoop down to teach women a 'lesson' they rather learn and/or be raped. It's an eye-opener definitely and for those of you who didn't know or understand the brutality the crime exposed, can really take a peek inside and feel the anguish everyone including the cast members went through when they had to enact it out.
It's definitely a must watch and if at any point you do get triggered while watching it, you can always remember Nirbahaya aka Jyoti Singh who tried her best to face her fears till the end, till she gave up her life for a million women residing in this country.
Watch the trailer here