Season One of Delhi Crime, the Netflix police procedural, was based on the true-life story of a brutal gang rape that took place in a Delhi bus in 2012. It is a hard act to follow. The show’s meticulous crafting, and the police investigation that led to the arrest of all six suspects, sucked in an audience that was already deeply invested in that story. You wanted DCP Vartika Chaturvedi (Shefali Shah) and her dedicated team of officers to nab the perpetrators and bring them to book.
The new crisp five-part second season, created by Richie Mehta and directed by Tanuj Chopra, takes a different route, blending true life details with fiction to create another grim and gruesome crime drama. Based on “Moon Gazer”, a chapter from former Delhi police officer Neeraj Kumar’s book Khaki Files, the season opens with a robbery and multiple homicide that rocks an upscale Delhi neighbourhood. Chaturvedi and her team are called in to investigate. Prima facie, the nature of the crime points towards the once-notorious “kaccha-baniyan gang” that terrorized the capital in the 1990s.
This season is as much about the solving of the case as it is about the class divide, the haves and have-nots, and the impact of living in an aspirational economy. The makers have explored the congested living conditions of the DNTs (De-notified Tribes) and deftly shown the confirmation bias that runs through the public as well as law-keepers. A retired police officer with suspect antecedents and crooked methods is called in to assist, but when the body count of senior citizens continues to rise, it becomes clear there’s more to the case than meets the eye.
Choosing a fact-fiction blend and a docu-drama style, which explores the socio-economic structure of urban society, puts some distance between the viewer and the events unfolding. The season starts slow. The overuse of English dialogue (by Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh and Virat Basoya) in a Delhi police station may have been the result of a conscious decision to appeal to a wider global audience, but it rings inauthentic.
Written by Mayank Tewari, Shubhra Swarup, Vidit Tripathi and Ensia Mirza, the season hits its stride mid-way. Tillotama Shome’s performance is brilliant in a part that smartly speaks of modern times and what fuels ambition. Shefali Shah powerfully navigates her character’s conflict as she’s forced to choose between instinct and sanction, which play out neatly in her interactions with her daughter Chandni (Yashaswini Dayama) on one hand and the police commissioner (Adil Hussain) on the other. Officers Bhupender Singh (Rajesh Tailang) and Neeti Singh (Rasika Dugal) are also torn between the demands of public duty and fraying family life. Tailing and Dugal are ever-reliable in their reprised roles, as are Anuraag Arora, Sidharth Bhardwaj and Gopal Datt as the other officers.
Even though the story might not be as immersive, Delhi Crime season 2 is a very well-produced show with a rock-solid cast. It keenly looks at police procedure, and humanises police personnel by interweaving their domestic quandaries while conveying the city’s uneasy balance.