Actress Shefali Shah speaks to WION about her new show, Netflix original 'Delhi Crime' that's based on the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case.
The 2012 Delhi gang-rape can easily be termed as the most shocking crimes that the country saw in this century. The horrific incident proved to be a catalyst of sorts as it brought citizens of the country on the street demanding quick judgment on rape cases and swift action against those guilty. It was also the case that Delhi Police earned praises and criticism for. While their prompt response in nabbing the perpetrators was lauded, they were also questioned for failing to provide adequate security for women in the capital city. Six years after the landmark case, Indo-Canadian filmmaker Richie Mehta recounts the entire incident in a new seven-part series called 'Delhi Crime' which tells the story from Delhi Police' perspective. Featuring Shefali Shah, Rasika Dugal, Adil Hussain, Rajesh Tailang and others the show is available on Netflix.
Shefali Shah, who plays DCP Vertika Chaturvedi in the show, says that she took exactly 3 minutes to say 'yes' to Mehta. Shah's character is shown to be in charge of the investigative team that eventually cracked the case and arrested the rapists. Considering the show is based on a real-life incident, Shah says that the team was aware that it had to be approached with sensitivity and a certain amount of responsibility. "When I heard what Richie had in mind, I knew he would treat this with great sensitivity. The incident shook and scarred all of us- something that we will never get over. But Richie wanted to tell what happened after that incident took place, the investigation that followed," said Shah while speaking to WION.
Calling her director 'benevolent', Shah said that he was clear that he did not want an actress onboard. "Richie was clear that he did not want an actress but a collaborator. He told me that 'I have written from a man's perspective. I need a woman, a voice to bring in the sensitivity.'" The actress said she tried to bring in her own interpretation as to how a female officer would deal with the situation. "We all worked very hard on the script and Rishi is quite open to opinions and suggestion. He is not at all rigid and I respect him a lot as a director."
To prep for her role, she did meet the lady officer on whom her character is based. Calling her inspirational, Shah said that she was kind enough to answer all her queries.
Did she ever get emotional or overwhelmed while filming the show? "I was overwhelmed throughout. I think playing Vertika has been the most emotionally consuming role for me. I get emotionally involved with all my characters but this one more so."
Shah also learned a lot from her character of Vertika. "She is emotional just like me but unlike me, she has to keep it under check. She cannot let her emotions cloud her investigations."
Like most of us, the actress admits that she was extremely angry and emotional when she had first read about the incident but while making the show, she realized there was so much more to the case than just blame-game. "The script came as a surprise to me initially. It gave me a fresh perspective." Shah is quick to add that the show is not indulging in propaganda but presents the case as it was. Aware that the Police was severely criticised for not amping the security in the capital, Shah says, "Preventive security is not possible always. Delhi has a population of a small country. No one can ever fathom that such a thing can happen until it happens."
The show premiered at Sundance Film Festival where it received critical praises. "When we started filming, we did not know which OTT platform would pick it up. It was only after Sundance, that Netflix decided to release it. I think that way, I'd call the entire team very brave to have agreed to do such a project without knowing if it ever will get a release. I guess, we just wanted to tell an important story and rest worked out on its own."
The actress who rose to fame during her stint on Indian TV in the late 1990s and early 2000s, says that OTT platforms like Netflix have a huge reach which helps shows like 'Delhi Crime'. "There is scope for detailing when one is making a series for the web. Besides I can binge watch. I don't have to wait for another week to watch what happens next."
The actress also feels that the present times are far more open to women-centric content. "Be it films or web shows, I think stories with women-protagonists now are thought of more now that earlier."
For now, Shah is happy that 'Delhi Crime' is getting critical praise from all quarters and credits the director, the cast and crew for it and reveals that the second season of the show is already in works and that she is prepping for that as of now.