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Delhi Crime Season 2, though soulful and searing, doesn’t hit all the high notes

The series loses out on the fact that the crimes this season, though ghastly, don’t feel as personal or compelling as what transpired in the first season

Priyanka Roy  Published 27.08.22, 04:32 AM

A little more than three years ago, a show — powerfully and seamlessly bringing together the genres of true crime and drama — came in and jolted the collective consciousness of the country, much in the same way the true-life malfeasance around which it was based had brought India to the streets seven years before it.

Delhi Crime turned out to be much more than a mere police procedural, taking every viewer, almost personally, right into the dark heart of the Delhi gangrape case of 2012. The series travelled with its principal character — top cop Vartika Chaturvedi, played by Shefali Shah in a part that proved to be a game changer for her — and her team who worked tirelessly and relentlessly over five days to capture the culprits. Vartika, her eyes mirroring myriad emotions, became the embodiment of what we all felt — grief, horror, pain, resoluteness.... Delhi Crime, despite its grim theme, became a consistent fixture on Netflix’s Top 10 list for many weeks after release and went on to win India’s first-ever International Emmy.


Season 2, that dropped on the streaming platform on Friday, carries forward the slow-burn action and moody atmospherics of the previous edition. A constant feeling of dread and foreboding — accentuated by the show’s trademark dark-grey palette — pervades the initial minutes of the first episode before Vartika (Shefali now wears the character, and her uniform, like second skin) is summoned to the scene of a ghastly crime — multiple murders, with the victims brutally bludgeoned, in a gated community in a posh locality of the capital. The scene immediately reminds Vartika and her seasoned team of the modus operandi of a gang, composed of a marginalised section of society, that carried out similar crimes in the ’90s. A string of heinous murders, all carried out in the same style, bring Vartika to tipping point even as pressure mounts on her, by dint of the victims belonging to the privileged echelons of society, to pin the blame on a lesser-privileged scapegoat.

Like the first season, Season 2 plays out over a few days and just five episodes. The script is interesting, but not as watertight. Richie Mehta, the creator of Delhi Crime and the man behind the phenomenon that Season One became, lived with the story for years, eventually coming up with a 400-page script. Tanuj Chopra, who takes over from Mehta this season, scores in most departments while falling a little short in some others.

Take for instance Rasika Dugal’s Neeti, now promoted to Vartika’s deputy, who gets a bit of a short shrift this season. Neeti’s struggle to maintain a balance between duty and domesticity is given more screen time than necessary. Neeti, save for a few scenes, remains largely on the fringes. It’s to Rasika’s credit that she makes the character much more than what it possibly was on paper.

However, Shefali Shah, as always, remains a standout, successfully conveying not only the angst and helplessness of a cop pulling out all the stops to bring the criminals to book but also of one restricted by both the skewed system, her own privilege and the stereotyped generalisation of certain members of society. The ever-widening chasm between the privileged and the underprivileged forms an integral part of this season, but one which is ultimately examined a little too superficially.

On the positive side, I liked how much morality came into play this season. Season One was built around a crime that was etched in black and white. In Season 2, many questions centre around why a criminal becomes one are raised, even though some of them are not answered satisfactorily. When they aren’t, there is always Shefali’s expressive face as a canvas to know what Vartika is feeling, and by default, what we in the audience are feeling.

What I also liked was how Season One had the woman as the victim and Season Two (spoiler alert!) has a woman as the perpetrator, who is also a victim in many ways. And both seasons have a woman — Vartika — at the centre fighting the good fight. That juxtaposition is interesting and throws up endless narrative possibilities. However, even as it touches upon the backstories of Vartika and her team — some more, some less — the series surprisingly doesn’t deep-dive into the antecedents of the perpetrator and what makes her trade humaneness for such unambiguous heinousness.

Even as it scores in its world-building and performances — Rajesh Tailang, Adil Hussain and Anurag Arora continue to be first-rate — Delhi Crime 2 loses out on the fact that the crimes this season, though ghastly, don’t feel as personal or compelling as what transpired in the first season. The victims here are merely reduced to names and stats. We don’t feel for them or the ones they have left behind.

In the end, what Delhi Crime 2 leaves you with is Shefali’s Vartika, as solid and as haunting as ever, a long and hard look at the socio-political chasms that all of us (knowingly or unknowingly) perpetuate, and the nagging feeling that this season — though searing and soulful — doesn’t hit all the high notes that it should have.

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