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Explained: How International Emmy winner ‘Delhi Crime’ came into being

India's win at the 48th International Emmy Awards was born "out of sadness, anger, frustration, and ultimately, compassion," says its creator Richie Mehta.

Written by Ektaa Malik , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | November 25, 2020 11:15:54 am
Delhi Crime, Delhi Crime Emmy award, Delhi Crime International Emmy Award, Richie Mehta, Delhi Crime review, Indian ExpressDelhi Crime is available to stream on Netflix. (Photo: Netflix)

An Indian programme has for the first-time ever won an international Emmy. At the 48th International Emmy Awards, Delhi Crime was awarded the ‘Best Drama’. The ceremony, held online on Monday night, featured 44 nominees across 11 categories, from 20 countries.

A seven-part Netflix Original Series created by Richie Mehta, it is a police procedural show, based on the 2012 Delhi gangrape case. “I never anticipated getting here — it’s the culmination of years of work by hundreds of people, sometimes in total isolation and defiance. Delhi Crime is a complete labour of love, born out of sadness, anger, frustration, and ultimately, compassion. The entire team from start to finish should take a bow for giving their all to this vision,” said Mehta in a statement after the Emmy win.

Mehta, 41, has other titles such as Amal (2007), Siddharth (2013) and I’ll Follow You Down (2014) in his filmography.

There is a second season of the web series in the works, this time with a different crime, but perhaps the same cast and characters. So, what prompted Mehta to make Delhi Crime?

Rooted in reality

Delhi Crime is set against the backdrop of the horrific rape that took place on December 16, 2012 in the national capital. With Shefali Shah, Rajesh Tailang, and Rasika Duggal in the lead, it is a fictionalised dramatisation of its aftermath.

The story unfolds through the investigation initiated by the Delhi Police to nab the group of perpetrators. The incident went on to be known as the Nirbhaya case in public memory. “In 2013, when all of it was very recent, I thought it wasn’t appropriate to make a film on the case. The verdict had just come out, and I happened to be in India when the incident took place in December 2012,” said Mehta, director and creator of Delhi Crime, in a previous interview to The Indian Express.

But the subject stuck with the Indo-Canadian filmmaker. “Six years ago, I was on another project here in Delhi, and met with the former Commissioner of Delhi Police (Neeraj Kumar), who happens to be a family friend. He had seen my work and suggested I make a film on the case. It didn’t feel right at that point. He then said, ‘Just read the verdict, so you get a sense of the whole story. And later, I can introduce you to the officers involved.’ I read the verdict and was shocked by the details. I talked to other Delhi Police officers, and those from the Special Task Force (STF) and asked them questions like whether they had talked to the suspect when they brought him back from Rajasthan. Those nuggets just caught on to me, and the way Delhi Police functions, not just as cops, but as human beings.”

Delhi Crime, Delhi Crime Emmy award, Delhi Crime International Emmy Award, Richie Mehta, Delhi Crime review, Indian Express Delhi Crime won the International Emmy award for Best Drama Series. (Photo: Netflix)

Dramatic turns

The show is told through various police personnel, from DCP Vartika Chaturvedi (Shefali Shah), newly commissioned police officer Neeti Singh (Rasika Duggal) and a veteran cop Bhupender Singh (Rajesh Tailang). It charts the journeys of the cops as they nab the perpetrators of the crime.

The show, though very much rooted in the real incident, was tweaked in small parts. “Three characters in the real story become one in the show. And tiny details like how information on the scene of the crime — the bus — was gathered. Otherwise, the basis of the story, the verdict, is all in the public domain,” shared Mehta. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

Praiseworthy narrative

The show was praised for its stark representation of the way women are treated and perceived in the country. The rape case brought sexual crimes against women into the limelight, triggering a debate on the topic in mainstream society. We see the theme repeatedly reflected in the show.

“We tend to become jaded when we hear of such incidents. But this case shattered all precedents. As a man, I couldn’t perhaps relate to it, but thought if a loved one is subjected to this, what would you do? And if you witness it as a stranger, do you intervene, and at what cost? That became my internal conflict, until I met these people who solved the crime. And, I really believe the crime was solved only because of DCP South’s response to it as a woman, as a person,” said Mehta.

Also read | Ranveer Singh, Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma and others congratulate team after Emmy win

Courting controversy

While the show was praised for its attention to detail and gripping narrative, it also received some flack for its overtly sympathetic portrayal of the Delhi Police. The script and the narrative go the extra mile to humanise the Delhi Police force.

For Mehta, it stemmed from the need to tell the stories behind the uniform. “They (Delhi Police) are like psychologists. They gather vast data and information daily. They are talking to criminals and suspects, and are often stuck in traffic with them. The lives they lead, that narrative was important to me. Like the lady cop on whom we based Vimla’s character… she was very concerned about her daughter going abroad and not coming back, which I then used for Vartika’s story. She is a sub-inspector, super tough, but the incident worried her. Rajesh Tailang’s character was based on this officer of the STF. I asked him what was he doing earlier that day, and he said, ‘Trying to find a match for my daughter, but when they found out I was Delhi Police, they called it off, as I was not an IPS.’ I had to incorporate these details,” he said.

Delhi Crime, Delhi Crime Emmy award, Delhi Crime International Emmy Award, Richie Mehta, Delhi Crime review, Indian Express Richie Mehta directorial Delhi Crime is a fictionalised crime drama based on the investigation into the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case.

How is this Emmy different?

Delhi Crime won the International Emmy Award, which has been constituted by the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (IATAS), to recognise the best TV programmes produced and made outside the US. The first-ever International Emmy Award ceremony was held in 1973.

The International Emmy is not to be confused with the other Emmys like the Primetime Emmy, or the Daytime Emmy awards — which cater to only American programming — and have a huge fan following in the US. The International Emmys have slowly and steadily built a reputation for recognising stories with an international appeal and universal resonance.

Netflix’s Coup de Grace

This year, streaming platform Netflix has had three major wins, including the Portuguese series Ninguém tá Olhando (Nobody’s Looking) in the comedy category and the Spanish telenovela La Reina del Sur for the Non-English US Primetime programme category, apart from Delhi Crime.

“Congratulations to the entire team of Delhi Crime for bringing home India’s first International Emmy win. Led by the incredible Richie Mehta, the amazing cast and crew told an important story with sensitivity and responsibility. Winning Best Drama Series is a testament to the brilliance of India’s outstanding creative community. We hope this is the first win of many for Indian stories that are watched and appreciated by the world,” said Monika Shergill, VP, Content, Netflix India, in a statement.

Netflix also led the nominations, while HBO and Rede Globo followed close.

Last year, Lust Stories, a film anthology produced by Netflix had been nominated and actor Radhika Apte was nominated for the best actress category for the same. Sacred Games (Season 1) too was nominated last year.

Also in Explained | Why has Harry Styles angered right-wingers and gender conformists?

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