Delhi Crime review: A gritty police procedural centred on Nirbhaya case

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An overworked cop gets an emergency call. He reaches the location to find a young naked couple lying on the side of the street. The girl is bleeding profusely and the guy is holding on to her for dear life. The police take them to the hospital.

Higher authorities are informed, and DCP Vartika Chaturvedi (a splendid Shefali Shah) assigns herself to the case. She reaches the hospital and loses her cool with the doctor on duty, who looks her straight in the eye, and says, “I know my job, ma’am.”

Delhi Crime, the new Netflix show based on the 2012 Nirbhaya case, is a gritty portrayal of the Delhi Police, who had to do their thankless jobs efficiently and apprehend these criminals. The show uses the case to break down their strengths, pressures, weaknesses, perceptions, and most importantly, emotions.

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Director Richie Mehta isn’t afraid to pull any punches; he shows the failings of the police, and the system, as is. You have a police station that suddenly goes dark because there were no funds to pay the electricity board.

You also have police discussing jurisdiction while deciding who should handle the investigation. It seems appalling that they are arguing over jurisdiction when such a heinous crime has been committed. But then again, isn’t this just another crime for them? An investigating officer even asks Vartika, “What’s so special about this case. We have seen so many gang rapes. How is this case any different?” Vartika replies, “This is demonic.”

While Richie doesn’t resort to showing the violence on screen, be warned that the incident is recounted thrice. Twice by the victim, and once by the perpetrator.

Three bone-chilling narrations about how the heinous act was orchestrated.

There are also brief looks into the lives of each of the investigative officers. If Vartika is trying to change the opinion of her daughter who wants to go to Canada because she feels Delhi is an unsafe city, IPS trainee Neeti Singh (a restrained but effective Rasika Dugal) is someone who has come to Delhi to feel “independent.”

There is Bhupendra Singh (an ever-reliant Rajesh Tailang) who has to set aside his prejudices. Adil Hussain plays Commissioner Vijay Kumar, who not only has to defend his team, but also negotiate government interference during the investigation.

These nifty touches humanise the police force, which allows you to overlook certain other flaws in their policing.

The strength of this procedural drama lies in the performances, the nuanced characters, and the dialogues. We oscillate between trying to understand the minds of these accused and wanting to exact vigilante justice.

And it’s not just us, but the police too, who are torn between these two extremes.
It has been six years since the incident, but we know every detail. What we didn’t know is how the Delhi police managed to apprehend all six criminals within five days of the incident, how the doctors in the hospital did their duty without receiving even a passing mention anywhere, how burdened the police force are.

Delhi Crime might be a glorification of the police force, but it is also a mirror to our society. It might absolve the Delhi police of its alleged dereliction of duties, but it is also a reminder that we vouched, and hoped, for a similar incident to never happen again.

How do we sleep at night knowing we are continuously failing as a society? As Vartika says in answer to Neeti, who has conflicted emotions about the police work in times of grave injustices such as the ghastly gangrape, “If you are trying to ascribe meaning to all this, forget it.”

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