I just binge-watched two seasons of Delhi Crime, the hit Hindi series on Netflix. Each season traces how Delhi’s top cop Vartika Chaturvedi, a superb Shefali Shah, and her trusted team solve a heinous crime with their limited resources. Its first season won the Emmy award for outstanding drama series, the first for an Indian series. All the episodes in the first season are written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Richie Mehta.  

Like any good crime series, Delhi Crime keeps the suspense up, leading to a nail-biting finish. But Delhi Crime also makes you stop to think of the culprits’ circumstances. It does not do it overtly but with little bits of dialogue inconsequential to the plot that linger in your mind long after you have finished watching the series. 

The first season is about the gang rape of a young woman that brought India to a standstill because of its sheer brutality. The victim and her boyfriend mistakenly boarded a bus, thinking it was a regular bus. But it was a school bus that the driver had taken out for a ride with his friends, one of them a juvenile. The perpetrators brutally raped the woman on the bus and grievously injured her in unimaginable ways. They then dumped her and her boyfriend naked on the streets. 

Delhi Crime shows us how the Delhi cops ingenuously caught each culprit. The case was the turning point for India introducing harsh sexual harassment and assault laws. Four of the six convicts were executed in 2012; the main culprit committed suicide in prison, while the sixth, a minor, was released from juvenile prison after he became a major. The victim, who died from her injuries, lives on in public memory as Nirbhaya or the fearless, with Delhi Crime immortalizing her.            

The nature of the crime and the main convict’s lack of remorse makes it easy to brand their actions as unforgivable, an open and closed case where the highest form of justice, the death penalty, was meted out. Even the doctors treating the victim wanted the culprits to be put to death. Although executing the victims cannot relieve the pain of the victim’s family and friends, there is closure. 

But the question remains, why did they do it? Why did they mutilate her so brutally?  Are these men beasts? Sociopaths? Delhi Crime Season 1 tries to shed some light on this question with the random musings of one of the cops. The cop notes that these men from the lowest rung of society have no prospects. Their entire life ahead will be a struggle. But they have desires like everyone else. Add to this the freely available porn, heightening their frustration and objectifying women. 

Delhi Crime also focuses on the tipping point for the six men. They initially only wanted to rob the victims. However, the boyfriend’s over-the-top PDA with the victim drove the main culprit, the group’s leader, over the edge. The investigating cop considers this an important detail since all six culprits mention it in their confessions. None of these details condone the crime, but they shed light on the margins of society waiting to explode.   

Season 2 of Delhi Crime focuses on the brutal murders of wealthy seniors. Spoiler alert next. The cops trace the murders to its mastermind, a beauty salon employee with big dreams of owning her own salon. Her clients are wealthy older women who constantly laugh off her dreams. One of them offers to help her with a sum that’s peanuts but rescinds the offer at the last minute, chiding her for losing touch with reality. When the cop asks her why she killed these innocent older adults, she responds, why did they kill my dreams? 

As the population increases unevenly across the world, so does hopelessness among the poor who cannot aspire to join the mainstream and must endure the lifelong humiliation of poverty. Sensitive shows like Delhi Crime make us realize that extreme social inequality in times of high technological connectivity is the breeding ground for extreme crime.

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