Tag Archives: Delhi Crime

Discussing Delhi

In December 2012, a female physiotherapist was beaten, raped, tortured and murdered by a gang of six men in Delhi, India. Netflix miniseries Delhi Crime dramatises the manhunt that followed from the point of view of the female police officer who led the investigation.

In this DQTV interview, director Richie Mehta and producer Pooja Kohli discuss the impact of the incident in India and how the series was developed using documents and personal accounts related to the police case.

They also talk about how the series paints a picture of Indian society and outline the landscape of Indian drama and Delhi Crime’s place within it.

Delhi Crime is produced by Golden Karavan and Ivanhoe Pictures for Netflix.

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DQ Recommends: Non-English-language drama

DQ asks some of the people who make TV around the world which non-English-language series they’re currently watching and recommending.

Delhi Crime
Based on true events, this seven-part Hindi-language Netflix series dramatises the police manhunt that took place after a woman was beaten, raped and tortured during an attack in Delhi in December 2012. She later died from her injuries.

Red Arrow Studios International’s exec VP of commercial strategy for scripted, Carlo Dusi, says: “Richie Mehta’s original crime show for Netflix India is such a vibrant and accurate reconstruction of the gruesome rape and murder of a young woman on a Delhi bus that, as a viewer, you feel transported to the smells and colours of the Indian metropolis on every viewing.
“Every character comes to life in a real and fully rounded way, in a show that never exploits its real-life subject matter and chooses instead to celebrate the humanity of those who fought for the truth.”

Our Boys and Baron Noir
“It’s a tie between the truly bold and masterfully written American-Israeli drama Our Boys and Baron Noir, a gripping French series that exposes the dark heart of politics through an embattled MP’s career,” says Emmanuelle Guilbart, co-CEO of APC Studios, of his current favourite dramas of the moment.

HBO’s Our Boys (pictured) is another series based on real events, this time in the summer of 2014, when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas militants, before the burned body of a Palestinian teenager was found in a forest, leading to weeks of riots in Jerusalem.

Dubbed France’s House of Cards, Baron Noir is a French political thriller about one politician’s thirst for revenge against his enemies. The series first debuted on Canal+ in 2016 and has aired three seasons.

Happily Married and Exit
“Two very different shows have got under my skin,” says Tony Wood, founder and CEO of producer Buccaneer. “The French-Canadian comedy drama Happily Married is an absurd chronicle of two couples taken to the edge of their moral compass and back again with a retained warmth and endless curiosity. It’s rare to find a comedy that travels as well as this one beyond its own language.”

Wood’s other recommendation is Exit (pictured), the Norwegian drama by the “brilliant” Øystein Karlsen that is based on true stories of the country’s financial world. “It’s a worthy addition to a canon of work including the blinding Dag,” says the producer. “A wild assault on the senses, handled with the emotional dexterity always seen in Karlsen’s work, it has echoes of The Wolf of Wolf Street and inspires empathy in spite of an entirely dispassionate view of its characters. It’s a sensation in Norway and it’s not hard to see why.”

Dicte
This Danish series is based on Elsebeth Egholm’s novels about the title character. It debuted on TV2 Denmark in 2013.

UKTV drama commissioner Philippa Collie Cousins says: “The hit series stars Iben Hjejle as Dicte, a reporter who gets divorced and moves from big-city Copenhagen back to her home town of Aarhus. She soon finds herself side by side, and often at odds, with the local police as she races to get to the bottom of various crimes. Every two episodes focus on one crime, while Dicte’s life – from romantic tribulations to navigating life as a single mum with a teenage daughter – entertains in the background. It was a big hit in Denmark and it is really compelling lighter viewing, but not froth.”

Babylon Berlin
This standout German drama takes place in 1920s Berlin, where police inspector Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch) is on a secret mission to dismantle an extortion ring. It is based on the novels by Volker Kutscher and recreates the city in stunning detail, with a score to match.

Royal Television Society CEO Theresa Wise says: “I have just finished season three of Babylon Berlin. It is a quirky but unflinching look at Berlin between the wars. This period feels like it has been less explored by television than, say, the world wars. It has a light touch, while exploring the economic desperation of Germany during that period through the main characters.”

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Bingeworthy box sets

As people around the world self-isolate and heed orders to stay at home amid the devastating coronavirus pandemic, DQ offers a selection of series from around the world to enjoy.

Babylon Berlin
From: Germany
Original broadcaster: Sky
Starring: Volker Bruch, Liv Lisa Fries, Peter Kurth, Matthias Brandt, Leonie Benesch, Severija Janušauskaitė, Ivan Shvedoff
Seasons: Three
This German noir has become a breakout hit for the country, immersing viewers in a visually intoxicating 1920s Berlin. Based on the crime novels by Volker Kitscher, it follows police inspector Gereon Rath, who is on a secret mission to expose an extortion ring, and Charlotte Ritter, a police clerk who aspires to be an inspector but at night is a flapper and occasional prostitute at the Mika Efti cabaret. The series is also lifted by the dramatic soundtrack, which features standout song Zu Asche, Zu Staub (To Ashes, To Dust), performed on the nightclub stage.

Badehotellet (Seaside Hotel)
From: Denmark
Original broadcaster: TV2
Starring: Amalie Dollerup, Lars Ranthe, Anne Louise Hassing, Merete Mærkedahl, Ulla Vejby, Jens Jacob Tychsen, Anette Støvelbæk, Birthe Neumann
Seasons: Seven
Downton Abbey by the seaside, this long-running Danish drama is one of the country’s most popular series, drawing audiences every year since 2013 to the trials and tribulations of the staff working a lavish hotel and the guests who visit them each summer from Copenhagen. Combining beautiful scenery with comedy drama and the clash of class and cultures that comes naturally from the upstairs/downstairs setting, it’s the perfect example of blue-sky Nordic drama.

Das Boot
From: Germany
Original broadcaster: Sky
Starring: Vicky Krieps, Tom Wlaschiha, August Wittgenstein, Lizzy Caplan, Rick Okon, Vincent Kartheiser
Seasons: Season two launches in Germany on April 24
Following a classic novel and iconic film is no easy feat, and critics were rightly sceptical that the ambition of this series could match what had come before. But from the first glimpse of a U-boat rising out of the Atlantic Ocean, this wartime drama serves up a compelling and technically stunning show. Set nine months after the Wolfgang Petersen film, the action opens in 1942, simultaneously following the crew of the claustrophobic U-612 and the Resistance in La Rochelle, France.

Delhi Crime
From: India
Original broadcaster: Netflix
Starring: Shefali Shah, Rasika Dugal, Aakash Dahiya, Adil Hussain, Rajesh Tailang
Seasons: One
While true crime dramas continue to dominate the broadcast and streaming schedules, buoyed by a similar wave of documentary series in the genre, this is one of the best. Based on the tragic true story of a 2012 gang rape in Delhi, the series follows the aftermath and the police investigation to find those responsible. Shah plays Vartika Chaturvedi, the deputy commissioner of police who drives the series forward and guides viewers through the sights and sounds of the city.

Fauda
From: Israel
Original broadcaster: Yes
Starring: Lior Raz, Itzik Cohen, Neta Garay, Rona-Lee Shim’on, Boaz Konforty, Doron Ben-David
Seasons: Three
Israel has become known as the home of some of the most original drama series in the world, leading to US remakes such as Homeland, Hostages, In Treatment and the upcoming Your Honor. Fauda might be the best of the bunch, drawing on the military experiences of creators Lior Raz (who also stars) and Avi Issacharoff. Set against the backdrop of the Israel-Palestine conflict, it follows the leader of an elite unit as they pursue a Hamas terrorist. Season three switches the action-packed story to the Gaza Strip.

Freud
From: Austria
Original broadcasters: ORF, Netflix
Starring: Robert Finster, Ella Rumpf, Georg Friedrich, Christoph F Krutzler
Seasons: One
Having recently launched in Austria, this dark, gothic period drama from director Marvin Kren (4 Blocks) is set in 1890s Vienna, famous for its decadence and the dark underbelly of high society. Mysterious murders and political intrigue clash as young psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (Finster), who finds strong opposition against his theories, becomes embroiled in a murderous conspiracy alongside a policeman and a notorious medium.

Herrens Veje (Ride Upon the Storm)
From: Denmark
Original broadcaster: DR
Starring: Lars Mikkelsen, Ann Eleonora Jørgensen, Simon Sears, Morten Hee Andersen
Seasons: Two
From the creator of hit Danish political drama Borgen comes this drama about a family of priests and the characters within it, as each follows their own path to a meaningful life. On the face of it, they are the epitome of respectability, but events that leave the family in crisis soon unfold.

La Casa de Papel (Money Heist)
From: Spain
Original broadcasters: Antenna 3, Netflix
Starring: Alvaro Morte, Itziar Ituño, Alba Flores, Esther Acebo, Pedro Alonso
Seasons: Three, with a fourth released on Netflix on April 3
If any series characterises Spain’s assent to global drama powerhouse, it is this thrilling and action-packed story of a mysterious man known only as El Profesor (The Professor), who brings together a band of criminals to carry out the biggest heist ever imagined: taking over the The Royal Mint of Spain and taking home 2.4 billion euros. In season three, they are forced to reunite to execute a more ambitious plan, this time targeting the Bank of Spain.

Line of Duty
From: UK
Original broadcaster: BBC
Starring: Martin Compston, Vicky McClure, Adrian Dunbar
Seasons: Five
With filming on season six interrupted as productions around the world shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, now is the chance to catch up creator Jed Mercurio’s nail-bitingly tense police thriller (also pictured top), which introduces the members of Anti-Corruption Unit 12, tasked with uncovering police wrongdoing. Each season features a host of guest stars, while a long-running conspiracy plays across the series. By the end, you’ll be asking, ‘Who is H?’

Mr Robot
From: US
Original broadcaster: USA Network
Starring: Rami Malek, Carl Chaikin, Portia Doubleday, Martin Wallström, Christian Slater
Seasons: Four
Turn off social media and be sure to pay attention to Mr Robot, a critically acclaimed psychological thriller that follows Elliot Anderson (Malek), a young man living in New York who works for cyber-security company Allsafe and whose struggles with social anxiety and depression mean he struggles with paranoia and delusion. Elliot’s hacking skills lead him to anarchist Mr Robot, who is planning to attack one of the biggest corporations in the world – and Allsafe’s biggest client.

Professor T
From: Belgium
Original broadcaster: Één
Starring: Koen De Bouw, Tanja Oostvogels, Goeie Derick, Carry Goossens, Herwig Ilegems
Seasons: Three
Belgium is certainly among the most ambitiously creative countries in the world when it comes to television drama, thanks in part to a financial system that demands fresh and original ideas. Set in Antwerp, this crime drama introduces the eponymous eccentric professor, who works alongside the police to solve crimes. What makes it stand out is the mixture of genres the series covers, from musical and comedy to tragedy and melodrama. The show has already been remade in France and Germany, and a UK version starring Ben Miller is now in the works for ITV.

Queen Sono
From: South Africa
Original broadcaster: Netflix
Starring: Pearl Thusi, Vuyo Dabula, Lois Maginga
Seasons: One
Recently launched on Netflix, this series marks the streamer’s first foray into original African scripted programming. Mixing thills, actions and character drama, it follows the titular character, a member of the Special Operations Group and daughter of an anti-apartheid leader, who tackles criminal operations while dealing with crises in her personal life.

Sex Education
From: UK
Original broadcaster: Netflix
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Gillian Anderson, Ncuti Gatwa, Emma Mackey, Connor Swindells, Kedar Williams-Stirling, Aimee Lou Wood, Tanya Reynolds, Patricia Allison
Seasons: Two
Ostensibly the story of a teenager who follows in his sex therapist mother’s footsteps by providing advice to his hormone-driven classmates, Sex Education matches an eclectic cast of characters with a visually vibrant take on the traditionally dour British school drama by blending the look of a US high school with a distinctly 80s vibe, all while mixing laugh-out-loud humour with discussions of serious subjects such as sexual assault, sexuality and sexually transmitted infections.

The Expanse
From: US
Original broadcaster: Syfy (now Amazon Prime Video)
Starring: Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Frankie Adams
Seasons: Four, with a fifth already ordered
For a sci-fi drama that’s out of this world, look no further than The Expanse. Based on the books by James SA Corey, the show’s future was in doubt when it was cancelled by Syfy after three seasons, before Amazon stepped in to save the series and order two further seasons. It opens hundreds of years in the future in a colonised Solar System, when the case of a missing girl brings together a hardened police detective, an Earth-based politician and a rogue ship captain, leading them to expose the greatest conspiracy in human history.

The Mandalorian
From: US
Original broadcaster: Disney+
Starring: Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Werner Herzog, Nick Nolte, Emily Swallow, Taika Waititi, Giancarlo Esposito, Omid Abtahi
Seasons: One
Those lucky enough to be in the US, Canada or the Netherlands may have already check out this Star Wars series, the flagship original drama on the new Disney+ streaming platform. But as the service reaches most of Europe tomorrow, millions of subscribers will no doubt be eagerly awaiting the opportunity to see this acclaimed show, which is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order, as seen in the most recent trilogy of Star Wars films. It’s here we meet a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy, far from the authority of the New Republic.

The Marvellous Mrs Maisel
From: US
Original broadcaster: Amazon Prime Video
Starring: Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, Michael Zegen, Marin Hinkle, Tony Shalhoub
Seasons: Three, with a fourth on the way
A comedy-drama that has plenty of both, The Marvellous Mrs Maisel sees Rachel Brosnahah turn in an Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning performance as the titular character, a housewife in 1950s New York who discovers a knack for stand-up after an impromptu set at a comedy club.

This Is Us
From: US
Original broadcaster: NBC
Starring: Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K Brown, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley
Seasons: Four
For heartwarming comedy and emotional family drama, this smash hit US drama ticks all the boxes. It follows the members of the Pearson family – mum Rebecca, dad Jack and siblings Kevin, Kate and Randall – mostly in the present day but flashing back to the past and into the future, focusing on their individual relationships and how their lives and experiences have been experienced by their childhood. Last year, following its third season, the show received the rare honour of being renewed for an additional three seasons.

Top Boy
From: UK
Original broadcasters: Channel 4, Netflix
Starring: Ashley Walters, Kane Robinson, Shane Romulus, Malcolm Kamulete, Sharon Duncan Brewster
Seasons: Three
British crime drama Top Boy first aired in 2011, with a second season running in 2013 on Channel 4. But thanks to the support of rapper Drake, Netflix revived the series this year. Set in East London, it introduces a group of friends and gang members fighting for survival on fictional crime-riddled estate Summerhouse. The series has been praised for its tough characters and its realistic portray of the world the story is set in.

Watchmen
From: US
Original broadcaster: HBO
Starring: Regina King, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Tim Mison, Sara Vickers, Jeremy Irons, Andrew Howard, Louis Gossett Jr
Seasons: One
This might be described as a superhero drama, but it can’t be compared to anything produced by Marvel (The Avengers) or DC (Batman) in recent years. From Lost creator Damon Lindelof and described as a “remix” of the iconic graphic novel created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, this alternate-history series takes place 34 years after the original story and follows a detective (Regina King) as she investigates a murder, in a world where police officers are forced to conceal their identities in an ongoing battle against a white-supremacist group. King’s standout performance and stunning filmmaking ally with topical themes and a powerful soundtrack created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross from Nine Inch Nails.

Westworld
From: US
Original broadcaster: HBO
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson, Aaron Paul, Vincent Cassel, Lena Waithe
Seasons: Season three is now airing
As visually striking and imaginative as ever, this science-fiction series continues to be one of the most ambitious and complex stories on television. Based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 film, it introduces the eponymous Wild West-themed resort where guests can entertain their wildest – and often most villainous – fantasies alongside the android ‘hosts’ that populate the park. Naturally, things don’t go as expected when some hosts begin to gain sentience and search for a way to leave the park and join the real world.

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Indian independence

Netflix’s acquisition of Richie Mehta’s manhunt series Delhi Crime made waves at this year’s Sundance. Here, the showrunner tells DQ why he decided to plough ahead and make the Hindi-language drama, despite having no broadcasters attached.

Richie Mehta wasn’t planning on making a TV series. The filmmaker – whose predominantly India-set movies include 2007’s Amal and 2013’s Siddharth, as well as the 2016 documentary India in a Day – was in Delhi in 2013 working on a movie script when he crossed paths with family friend Neeraj Kumar, a former commissioner for Delhi’s police force.

“He looked at my script and said, ‘Alright son, forget about this. The story you should be doing is about this gang rape on the bus,’” Mehta tells DQ.

Richie Mehta

The event in question, which forms the basis of Mehta’s seven-part series Delhi Crime, is the infamous December 2012 assault on a private bus in South Delhi, which saw a 23-year-old female physiotherapy intern brutally beaten, raped, tortured and murdered by a gang of men.

The horrific crime prompted international shock and condemnation, leading to protests and riots, and forced India into a national reckoning over its treatment of women. “I was in Delhi when it happened; I saw the protests that had arisen, I saw the riots,” Mehta remembers. “It was insane. The whole country was moved.”

A week-long manhunt led to the apprehension of the men responsible. One died in custody, another – a minor at the time of the attack – was sentenced to three years in prison and the remaining four were sentenced to death by hanging.

After mulling the idea, Mehta, who is Indo-Canadian and Toronto-based (and also no relation to filmmaker Deepa Mehta), initially rejected his contact’s proposal, suggesting that a local or female filmmaker might be better placed to tell the story.

Sensing the filmmaker could be swayed, Kumar dismissed his protests. “He said, ‘I have seen your work, I think it should be you. I am going to give you some police files, I’m going to give you the verdict – which is 350 pages – and I’m going to introduce you to all the investigating officers involved, especially the woman who led the investigation, [revealing] how these six guys were caught across the country in six days with no information on them. And if you think there is a story there, I will give you the world on this.’”

Ultimately, the access proved irresistible. “They trusted me with so much information that they had never trusted anyone with,” the showrunner recalls. “As I got all these details, I realised this could be a compassionate look at law and order, done in a way that not only illuminates the issues these people face trying to do the right thing, but also how this manhunt across North India was so sprawling and so varied that each detail revealed another aspect of why this thing happened.”

Delhi Crime stars Shefali Shah as lead investigator Vartika Chaturvedi

With such extraordinary access, one might wonder why Mehta chose to make a drama, rather than a documentary. But he says the open doors came with caveats.

“Whenever I would meet the Delhi police and talk to them, they would say, ‘You’re not recording this, are you?’ because they could be held accountable. It’s a very media-savvy culture and they would get nailed. So I would say, ‘No, I am taking notes.’ They were telling me really intimate details about their lives, but they would say, ‘If you want to recreate it, go ahead. You can generalise this point but please don’t make it specific to me.’

“So, I realised I could actually be more truthful if I depicted it dramatically rather than with a documentary, of which there have been many. People would come from the CBC and the BBC to interview them and they would just tell them what they wanted to hear, because that was the safe thing for them.”

After opting for a dramatic approach, there was still the question of whether to make a movie or an episodic work. It was former high-ranking HBO executive David Levine who first convinced Mehta to adapt the story into a TV series, rather than a feature. (Levine stepped down as HBO’s exec VP and co-head of drama in February, after more than a decade with the pay TV network, to become Anonymous Content’s president of television.)

“He said, ‘Why don’t you go write it and then I can look at it,’” Mehta recalls. “I said, ‘I don’t know how to write a TV series.’ So he said, ‘I will give you all the research material from The Wire and I will teach you how to write a series.’ And so for two years he taught me how to write a series based on that material, purely because he wanted to see this exist. He’s a wonderful person and a real collaborator.”

The show focuses on a horrific real-life crime that took place in December 2012

As the months passed, the filmmaker would send various drafts to the exec, receiving notes and rewriting accordingly. “One of the things I learned from my HBO tutelage, in a series like this, it’s that it’s the opposite of a film’s priorities,” he explains. “It’s world first, character second and plot third, which is the exact opposite of what you would do with a film.

“If you have a supermarket paperback, its plot-oriented,” he adds. “Whereas if you have a piece of literature, you have your tree trunk, which is the plot, and you have the branches, which are character digressions that add to the world. You are allowed to do that in this space, versus in a film where you are not. That became a guiding light for me. Yes, the trunk is the plot of this manhunt, but really the value of this tree is the leaves that come from the branches.”

Despite Levine’s support, broadcasters and networks – including HBO – were skittish about the prospect of taking on such a dark work. “In the West, they would say, ‘It’s Hindi language; not really for us,’” says Mehta. “And in India they said, ‘We don’t want to touch this.’ I would take it to broadcasters and they would say it was too controversial.”

With traditional TV doors closed, Mehta turned to independent financiers to tell the story, securing investment from Mumbai-based Golden Karavan and Hong Kong-based Ivanhoe Pictures (the latter of which coproduced last year’s rom-com hit Crazy Rich Asians) to shoot in New Delhi.

Actor Shefali Shah (Monsoon Wedding, Juice) was tapped for the role of lead investigator Vartika Chaturvedi, with a supporting cast that includes Adil Hussain (Life of Pi, Hotel Salvation), Denzil Smith (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Rasika Dugal (Qissa, Manto) and Rajesh Tailang (Siddharth, Selection Day). Mehta’s Canadian ties qualify the project as a Canuck coproduction, with all the series’ postproduction sound and music work having been completed in Toronto.

Netflix picked up global rights to the show in January

Heading into production with no broadcaster attached constituted a significant risk. But the gamble paid off this January when Netflix purchased global rights to the series at the Sundance Film Festival, in a landmark deal that marks the first major global rights, scripted episodic sale in the festival’s history. Such deals have been commonplace for years for feature films, but with Sundance only in its second year of hosting an independent episodic strand, the acquisition is the first of its kind.

While the first two episodes screened at Sundance under the title Delhi Crime Story, Netflix has retitled the series as simply Delhi Crime, with all seven episodes dropping globally on March 22. The streaming giant also plans to build the show into an anthology series, telling further Indian crime stories under the banner.

Simran Sethi, the streamer’s director of international originals, describes the series as “an important story told with sensitivity and responsibility,” adding: “Shows like this bring a much-needed lens to the lived reality of women around the world.”

Mehta reflects that the acquisition brings a happy ending to what was, in many respects, “a huge gamble” for his international producers. “For me, the risk was time and energy, but they rolled the dice and put in their money,” he says.

“And it was a huge risk because it was a very controversial subject and it was a big project. There were more than 200 actors, 400 locations and seven hours of content. And they were gracious enough to give me the freedom to figure it out.”

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