CHENNAI: Given the tendency of Indian cinema to go overboard with graphic depictions of violence, Indo-Canadian moviemaker Richie Mehta’s “Delhi Crime” — which premiered at Sundance Festival last January, and will start streaming on Netflix March 22 — is subtle and controlled.
In the seven-episode series, based on true events, a young medical student and her boyfriend board a bus after seeing a movie. Six men, including the driver, get into a slanging match with them, leading to a physical assault and a rape.
The men then throw the couple out of the moving bus, where they are found. The injuries to the girl are grievous, whilst the boy escapes with superficial lacerations. The news spreads across the world, and shocks India.
Angry demonstrations force an understaffed police department to act. Shefali Shah, as Deputy Commissioner of Police Vartika Chaturvedi, arrests the six men across six days, and they are sentenced to hang.
These are hardly spoilers — the events the series is based on are well known. But that should not put people off: “Delhi Crime” is masterly in how it has been helmed. Scenes are intercut seamlessly to show different, convergent storylines, and Mehta keeps the narrative alive with a narrow focus and fast pace on a dispersed team working in an unimaginably over-populated city.
Shah steals the show. A calm and composed performance, she pushes the rest of the cast, and deals with the competing issues Chaturvedi faces, from political interference to a daughter intent on migrating to Canada, away from predatory men, with panache.
But, despite intelligent editing and innovative scripting, “Delhi Crime” need not have stretched to seven episodes. It makes sense, conceptually, given the number of suspects and victims, but in practice, drags the series out further than was necessary.