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Monday, January 18, 2021

Interview: ‘Delhi Crime’ director Richie Mehta on winning Emmy Awards

Very recently, the Netflix show bagged the best drama series honour at the International Emmy Awards, which is a huge honour for the country.

On a chilly December night in 2012, a woman and her male friend boarded a bus back home at night in Delhi, after spending the evening watching a movie  at a theatre. Little did they know that the bus was being driven by joyriders — a group of men who were about to commit one of the most heinous crimes ever committed in history.

The young paramedic student was gang-raped and brutally assaulted inside the moving bus. The male friend accompanying her was assaulted too. While he recovered, the woman succumbed to her injuries, days after the assault.

The gruesome nature of the crime shook the collective conscience of the nation. Streets of Delhi as well as other cities saw thousands of protestors demanding justice.

It was not easy for the Delhi Police to deal with the mounting pressure. An exceptionally hard working, diligent team of the Delhi Police ended up nabbing the perpetrators within five days, leaving no scope for people to question their conduct.

Richie Mehta’s Delhi Crime

While various shows and documentaries made on the incident focused on the gruesome crime, Richie Mehta’s Delhi Crime, a hard-hitting seven-part Netflix web-series released in 2019, followed the Delhi Police’s investigation into the Nirbhaya case.

Very recently, the Netflix show bagged the best drama series honour at the International Emmy Awards, which is a huge honour for the country. A series like no other, Delhi Crime throws light on the hard work and will power of the Delhi Police team that nabbed the perpetrators.

Following the huge win, Platocast spoke to Delhi Crime director Richie Mehta on how he put together the brilliant web-series.

1) How does it feel to win the Emmy Award? 

It was shocking, surprising, and I felt a lot of pride for my team for what we all accomplished. It was a mammoth task that included six years of hard work by hundreds of people. These are issues that affect people, characters that people can relate to, and I really wanted to show how women in India, in various positions, are doing their best to fight this kind of evil.

2) What inspired you to take on this particular venture?

A family friend, Neeraj Kumar, had put me on to this. He is the former commissioner of Delhi Police. He had seen my previous works and he felt that this was an appropriate project for me to take up. He introduced me to the police officer who led the manhunt that ensued following the gruesome crime. 

As I got acquainted with the team of police officers who had nabbed the perpetrators, I realised how incredible and hard working all of them are. They are heroic, humane, compassionate, and they are our frontline fighters. They fight against this kind of misogyny, chauvinism, and this kind of evil. So when I got to know them, I felt like it was my responsibility to tell their story as I was in a privileged position to do so.

3) The show deals very well with the intricacies of the investigation. Why did you choose to focus on the investigation while most other documentaries on this incident focus on the crime?

We all know about the crime. We know the horrific, gory details, and it has changed all of us, forever. That kind of darkness is already there and I did not see the need to focus on that. But what people did not know was how hard the Delhi Police team worked. 

We had so much anger against the police when it happened. We were angry because we thought they did not do enough to protect this girl, and that they never do enough to protect our women. We thought they were idle and corrupt. But when I got to know the team led by Chhaya Sharma, I realised how knowledgeable they were, how intriguing their minds were because every day, these people, the women who led the team, have to deal with such violent offenders. The pressure on the Delhi Police to nab the accused was so overwhelming at a time when they were being labelled as ‘not good enough’, I thought I should help tell the other, more important side of the story. 

4) How did you find out all the details of the investigation? 

There were many people, many officers, who helped me understand the details of the investigation. Various ACPs and DCPs helped me. Chhaya Sharma was the main person because she had led the investigation. The process included a lot of reading — reading several files, charge sheets, the legal verdicts written by the judges in the courts. We accessed the medical reports. We spent time with these officers, understood how they worked. That’s how we did our primary research.

5) Do you think it is important for people like directors and producers to use their voice to side with moments of injustice?

As directors and producers, we must tell important stories because we are in a position to do so. We are in a position to reach out to the masses. I would take on a project when I realise that there has been an injustice that plagues the world, and needs to be dealt with.

6) Do you think India has changed at all when it comes to women’s safety, after the Nirbhaya incident?

There are various statistics that point towards what the situation is right now. Every two weeks, we do learn about crimes that make it difficult for us to sleep at night. However, the most important thing is that people have definitely started talking about these things more, and that is the first step towards fixing a problem.

7) Do you have any tips for aspiring directors?

Directing anything involves a lot of hard work. If you want to direct films or series or anything in the media space, the first question you need to ask yourself is why you want to do it. If you’re doing this because you want to speak about important issues, explore them, then you proceed in the purest form of that. Never deviate, especially when you are starting off. Don’t let others suppress your voice. 

Whether you wish to deal with a societal issue or you wish to direct something for entertainment, you must ask yourself why you’re doing it. Hold the question dearly as you proceed. 

Platocast congratulates Richie Mehta and the team of Delhi Crime for winning the prestigious award. 

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