Moody and evocative, Delhi Crime tells a brutal true story with authenticity, compassion, and attention.
Created, written and directed by Richie Mehta, Delhi Crime, the new seven-part true-crime miniseries that debuted on Netflix today, reconstructs the heinous gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh in 2012. Told from the perspective of the police force, it’s a shocking and compelling bit of work ripped straight from the headlines, and a commentary on the systemic problems that allowed such a crime to occur in the “rape capital of the world”.
A certain defensiveness for the country’s police force notwithstanding, Delhi Crime is up-front about how India’s widening inequality, rigid class stratification and oftentimes unevolved treatment of women contributed to the tragedy that led to global media attention and reform in the country’s sexual assault laws.
One is reminded of the Oscar-winning short documentary Period. End of Sentence, which detailed a tragically affordable shortage of sanitary products for Indian women, and the stigma associated with a basic bodily function such as menstruation; the incident chronicled by Delhi Crime is, in some ways, an outgrowth of that bizarre attitude to women, women’s biology and women’s rights, even if the series itself, a moody and very well-made drama, has more in common with the Indian crime saga Sacred Games, also on Netflix.
Wisely, Delhi Crime is not at all exploitative or sensationalist; it’s a frank detailing of a case conducted by a police force woefully underequipped for it, and while it makes some concessions to not paint that police force in too much of an accusatory light, it nonetheless includes details — most gleaned from Mehta’s extensive studying of the case — that are worryingly authentic. Many of the characters are based directly on real people or are composites of several, and an admirable amount of effort is made to detail the difficulties and complexities of an understaffed and undertrained police force tasked to serve and protect a population many, many times larger than itself.
If nothing else, Delhi Crime evokes the conflicts and contradictions of a city that is easy to judge but difficult to understand, one blighted by endemic corruption and frequently backward thinking, but that is nonetheless beloved by many as a rich nexus of culture and tradition. It is not an easy-to-watch or digestible series, but it is a powerful and important one.