Delhi Crime cast: Shefali Shah, Rasika Dugal, Adil Hussain, Rajesh Tailang, Vinod Sherawat, Denzil Smith, Gopal Dutt, Yashaswini Dayama, Jaya Bhattacharya
Delhi Crime director: Richie Mehta
Delhi Crime rating: Three and a half stars
The word ‘heinous’ took on a new meaning after that December 2012 night, when a young woman was mercilessly raped and mutilated on a moving bus, as her male friend cowered in the front, helpless and beaten.
Several years have passed, but we haven’t forgotten. We all know what happened, and how it happened, because we followed the unflagging media reportage, and witnessed (and, in some instances, participated in) the outpouring of grief and anger which swept the Capital. The citizens of Delhi were forced to shake off their customary apathy, and take to the streets. The brutality of the attack shocked everyone: the people who had lived for years in one of the most unsafe cities in the world, as well as the most phlegmatic cops and doctors, who had never seen anything like it before.
Delhi Crime is a fictionalized crime drama, based on the painstaking investigation which led to the capture of the six men who attacked the couple. It works best when it sticks to the assembling of a team that the deputy commissioner of police Vartika Chaturvedi (Shah) can trust, led by the unflappable Tailang, and his band of men, crack trackers, investigators, informers, who fan out and nab the culprits, one by one.
Where it weakens is when it tries to show the back stories of the cops as they go about trying to capture these men, whose heads are being demanded on a platter by politicians and their hangers-on. Vartika’s teenage daughter (Dayama) hates Delhi, and wants to flee: her mother’s attempts to convert her are admirable but not quite on point, even if Shah fills out her complex role with ease, alternating between being shaken to her soul at the horrific injuries of the victim, keeping her daughter safe, and the leader who leads by example.
Much the proceedings are familiar but still a wrenching sock to the gut. When the couple is climbing into the bus, I could not, did not, want to watch. Sensibly, the camera doesn’t follow them in: we are left with our imagination, and that is so much worse.
Where Delhi Crime scores is in the portrayal of a beleaguered police force, which is easy to point fingers at. The average policeman’s quality of life is so low that they are forced to do some questionable things. A young fresh entrant to the ranks (Dugal) sees it all: she is brave, uncorrupted, and the face of the good cop that will keep us safe.
This is Delhi, with its hard, brutal byways where, like all big cities, crimes cannot always be prevented. The series brings this Delhi to life. The accents are authentic, mostly. The seven-part series, expertly shot, takes us back to the crime that we all wish had never taken place. And shows that crime does lead, as it should, to punishment.