“Eleven thousand heinous crimes are reported every year in Delhi. Prevention is nearly impossible since half the police force are stuck on traffic duty… The city looks away because it has to. Because it always has. But once, something happened which made it stop. The eyes of the entire world turned to Delhi.” So says the voice-over of the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) who introduces this dramatization of an actual case in 2012.
DELHI CRIME (Indian, Netflix) ♦♦♦♦½
Brace yourselves. “Delhi Crime” is uncomfortable viewing. In this seven episode series, police try to solve the crime of a 23 year-old woman found naked, savagely beaten, almost dead, lying in a ditch beside a road. Her male friend, also bloodied, is with her. Canadian director Richie Mehta tells the story from the point of view of DCP Vartika Chaturvedi, a female police officer who relentlessly seeks justice for the victim. Spoiler alert: against all odds police apprehend the six guilty men. En route to the resolution, we learn about India in surprisingly — given the subject matter — positive ways. That’s one reason we can stomach this potentially indigestible show.
Fortunately, we do not see the men rape and brutalize the young woman. The aftermath conveys the horror. Turns out the men intended to steal from the couple, but the ringleader took offence at their public display of affection. He objected to them insulting traditional propriety. Petty theft led to gang rape and assault. DCP Chaturvedi and her team go to work, non stop, for days on end, pursuing leads into over-populated slums and towns. They conduct the investigation under challenging circumstances, their crime-solving techniques unsophisticated. But their dedication is inspiring.
Mehta recognizes the need to engage the audience in the show. He develops the buddy-cop formula with DCP Chaturvedi and her assistant, Inspector Bhupendra Singh. Adds a subplot involving Varika’s daughter, who wants to escape Delhi to attend university in Toronto. Crowds gather in the name of justice, or do they want revenge? As public outrage mounts, DCP Chaturvedi and Commissioner Kumar Vijay must defend the police against rumours of misconduct. Mehta also includes the element of suspense; once suspects are identified, will arrests go awry? We learn the culprits worry more about shaming their mothers than going to prison.
Despite this story investigating the dark side of Delhi, Inspector Singh assures his superior — and us — that 99% of people are decent. A feeling of hope prevails. •
P.S. Glen also gives “Delhi Crime” ♦♦♦♦½, saying it’s important to know this case resulted in an amendment to the Criminal Law Act that redefined rape and made punishments more stringent.
P.P.S. The “best on-screen buddy-cop team seen yet in India” will return for a second season with a different crime story. We’ll tune in.