The seven-episode series Delhi Crime, based on the 2012 gang-rape case, is streaming on Netflix. The series has received a lot of acclaim overseas as it premiered at Sundance Film Festival.
In the series, Shefali Shah plays DCP Vartika Chaturvedi based on the real-life DCP whose team was behind catching the accused in the 2012 gangrape case. Shefali’s character is a breath of fresh air and this is mainly because we see her portray a character that has been properly fleshed out and that is a welcome change, especially when it comes to cop roles.
In a conversation with indianexpress.com, Shefali spoke about her character and the impact of playing a role that can be emotionally taxing.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
You play DCP Vartika Chaturvedi who is in charge of the case and not only do you show her tough side, the audience also gets to see her emotional side. Why do you think that we have not seen such portrayals of female cops before?
Honestly, I don’t even know how many female cops have I seen in (Indian) films or shows. She is not just a cop. It is not just about the uniform or her place of power. If she didn’t have the vulnerable, sensitive side to herself, then she would have treated this just like another job. She is a wife and a mother. When she is working, there is nothing around her. As far as her personal life is concerned, that is a choice that the director makes. He could have chosen to stick to just the chase and the manhunt but it was important for him to see these aspects of everyone. Not just Vartika’s life, but every single person who is involved in it, their lives, their relationships. I am just so glad that she is what she is, otherwise it would have been extremely one-dimensional.
Delhi Crime is based on the 2012 gang-rape case. Did you get a chance to meet the cops who worked on it?
Yes, I did have the honour of meeting the person this is based on. She was the DCP at that point in time. She was extremely kind to answer my queries but just as a person, I mean, it is very inspiring to meet someone like this. She is incredible and to have the opportunity to stand in her shoes, it is really something.
As a society, we have the tendency to blame the system, especially when something like this happens. This time you got a chance to sense what it feels like on the other side. What is your take on that?
Until Richie met me and told me about this side of the story, I didn’t know about it and when this incident happened in 2012, it generated a lot of anger and angst and we needed someone to blame. The thing that we all asked was that we are not protected, there is no one doing anything about this. But when I heard this side of the entire incident, and read the material that he has researched on, I was like okay, there was someone who did something about it. There was a team of people who really worked hard at getting these guys. It is not always possible to do preventive policing but they did the best they could in that time and that place and they did very very well.
The show’s subject gets a little tough to watch sometimes because it has an immediate impact on the viewer. What impact does it have on you as an actor?
As Shefali, I would have a different reaction but as Vartika, she has a different way of dealing with that emotion. I have the luxury of being an outsider to express it the way I want to but as Vartika, she has blocked out her emotional space because she needs to focus everything and channelise all her anger and hurt into finding these guys. Emotionally, it is taxing and it is like a fine line you tread between your instinct and your impulse.
With projects like this, the web space is just getting bigger. What opportunities does it open up for an actor?
A lot. For anyone who is in the creative field, not just actors. Writers, directors, it is their voice and it is not influenced by what numbers it is going to do at the box office, or the censorship. They can say what they want to in complete honesty. For actors, it is just opened a completely new world because in films, unfortunately, we talk about a hero and a heroine, which is changing and that is great. But in something like this, you are talking about characters and that character doesn’t have to necessarily fit into very good looking, young, really worked out toned bodies. So, it is great