'Delhi Crime is about understanding evil'
...says director Richie Mehta, who joins actors Shefali Shah, Rasika Dugal, and Rajesh Tailang, in discussing their upcoming Netflix show that is based on the Nirbhaya crime
Nirbhaya. Just the word is enough to leave a lump in your throat and transport you to that horrific night on December 16, 2012. Richie Mehta's new Netflix show, Delhi Crime, takes a look at the event from the perspective of the Delhi police who apprehended the six perpetrators involved, within six days of the incident. "Delhi Crime is about understanding evil. It is about the people who we need to fight this evil for us. It is about the effect such an incident has on them," says Richie, who adds that the series is backed by solid research and is also a reflection of his own perceptions and opinions.
While certain dialogues and sequences in this show — especially the ones concerning the alleged government interference during the investigation — could potentially ruffle some feathers, the Canadian-Indian filmmaker is insistent that he hasn't shown anything that isn’t already known. "I'm simply trying to show a specific point of view about a specific moment in time. I'm not generalising. This is an experience of these characters, who are all inspired by people I've met and of course, fictionalised for dramatic purposes," he says. For instance, the character of the no-nonsense Deputy Commissioner of Police, Vartika Chaturvedi, played by Shefali Shah, is based on a real-life cop, Chhaya Sharma who was involved in the investigation. Other actors in the ensemble cast like Rasika Dugal and Rajesh Tailang also play real-life characters.
On the person her character is based on, Shefali says, "She is incredible. She is 100 times more than what you see on screen. There is a lot I got from her as an actor, but even as a person, it is overwhelming to meet someone like that." Meanwhile, Rasika, who plays Neeti Singh, a young IPS trainee, interacted with a number of trainees to get under the skin of her character. "They are so sincere, with a great sense of duty, and a lot of idealism, which had begun to turn into skepticism. This was heartbreaking, and my character Neeti too goes through something similar," shares the Qissa actor.
It has been six years since that incident, and nightmarish visions of the day still haunt us. Rajesh, who plays Bhupendra, a battle-hardened cop, says, "There was anger inside all of us. But we had our limitations. We wanted justice to be delivered soon. Bhupendra too faces a similar struggle. He too has his anger, his rage, but he is limited as a police officer and has to follow the law, and work within the legal framework." Rasika adds that she, like many others, went back to the complacency of her life, but notes that it is important to remember that something like this happened. "I didn't know anything about the Nirbhaya incident from the police perspective, and that was very new to me. It was like entering a new world," says Rasika who believes that there is no role that can be truly removed from oneself. Shefali agrees: "There is no blurring of lines between the various roles played by my character. You can't box someone only as a housewife/working woman/mother/daughter-in-law/wife. Vartika Chaturvedi is all this and more." However, the Dil Dhadakne Do actor does add that it wasn't easy to recreate the times and lives of the people involved in that ghastly crime, without it taking a toll on the cast and crew. "There is no way of doing something like this without becoming a part of that emotion. If it taxes you, well, it takes you. If it exhausts you, it does. But isn't that what we are aiming to do?"
This is not the first time actors like Shefali, Rajesh and Rasika are playing such intense roles. Are they worried about getting typecast? "I have never been worried about that. Scripts are different, directors are different, and even similar roles on paper can turn out to be something completely different on screen. In my mind, if the role is nuanced, it will never be like another role," says Rasika. Rajesh believes that getting stereotyped poses a unique challenge. “Ultimately, your talent determines how well you can differentiate between these characters and bring something new to the table." The actors point out that the boom in the digital platforms is giving them well-defined roles, the sort reserved only for protagonists in cinema.
The ensemble cast includes other prominent names like Adil Hussain, Denzil Smith, Jaya Bhattacharya, Gopal Dutt, and Yashaswini Dayama. So, do we see these investigating officers led by DCP Vartika Chaturvedi making a comeback in Season 2? "Definitely. Same cops. Same cast. Different crime" signs off Richie.
Produced by Golden Karavan and Ivanhoe Pictures, Delhi Crime, which is created, written, and directed by Richie, will stream on Netflix from March 22.