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    Delhi Crime season 2 is gripping, thoughtful, and a must watch

    Delhi Crime season 2 is gripping, thoughtful, and a must watch

    Delhi Crime season 2 is gripping, thoughtful, and a must watch
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    By Sneha Bengani   IST (Published)


    Directed by Tanuj Chopra, the second season of Delhi Crime features Shefali Shah, Rajesh Tailang, Rasika Dugal, and Tillotama Shome in key roles. It’s available for streaming on Netflix.

    You know, how certain works of art are so sacred, that it’s best to leave them untouched? Because it’s neither easy nor every day that you get to touch greatness. You’re lucky if you manage to do it once. To aspire to it again is not just stubborn ambition, it’s foolhardy. But Richie Mehta is an audacious man. After giving Indian streaming one of its finest shows ever in 2019, he is back with Delhi Crime’s second season, this time helmed by new director Tanuj Chopra. Do they succeed? Is the new season a worthy follow-up? Let’s find out.
    This time, DCP Vartika Chaturvedi and her team are grappling with a gang that has a penchant for brutally killing South Delhi’s wealthy senior citizens. They attack in the dead of the night wearing shorts and vests, faces masked, and bodies oiled to minimise resistance. They bludgeon unsuspecting elderlies to gruesome death with hammers, mallets, and rods. Before leaving the crime scene, they celebrate—eat available food and drink booze, leaving the house a mess as if to tease the police. They leave ample evidence but no trace.
    Their modus operandi is eerily similar to the Kachha Baniyan Gang — operated by members of the denotified tribes (DNTs) — which wreaked havoc in Delhi in the 90s but has been inactive for the last 20 years. The obvious assumption is that the dreaded gang has returned. Clueless and under tremendous pressure from the public and senior officials, Vartika and her team start with trial by error. With the help of a retired SHO (a tribal specialist), they round up DNTs — basically everyone who looks suspicious or has a criminal record — living in Shahdara.
    Vartika’s search for the murderers among the DNTs occupies the first three episodes and then hits a dead end. The investigation suddenly changes tracks. IPS officer Neeti Singh makes an obscure connection. Soon pieces of the puzzle begin to fall in place. The identity of the killers is revealed. The hunt begins anew.
    Despite so much happening on the ground all the time, Delhi Crime 2 never takes its eyes off the bigger canvas, the larger questions. Its ability to carefully intertwine the immediate with the systemic in a way that keeps its moral core alive is its biggest strength. Much like the first season, the second also conducts two probes simultaneously. The first is the surface investigation—the manhunt to nab the killers at large. The second is a more nuanced, deeper investigation into our psyche, biases, dilemmas, and social constructs. It keeps shapeshifting, taking the face of the character in front of the lens. A cop who wants his unwilling daughter married, another’s fauji husband is finding it difficult to cope with her demanding IPS career, a DCP whose daughter is thousands of miles away physically, but emotionally, she is even more distant, an underprivileged mother who wants to make it big in life quick, a senior cop who is torn between easy obedience and doing the right thing.
    Richie Mehta, Tanuj Chopra, along with writers Shubhra Swaroop, Mayank Tewari, Vidit Tripathi, and Ensia Mirza ensure that all of this season’s multiple probes are thorough. They cleverly use the prevalent, deep-seated discrimination against the DNTs (erstwhile referred to as criminal tribes under colonial rule) as a smokescreen to present a stellar case for another marginalised minority — women.
    Delhi Crime 2 begins by spewing a lot of data. Within the first 10 minutes, we are told that one-third of Delhi’s population lives in unauthorised slums, that the city’s crime rate has increased by 20 percent in the last two years, and that it has only 138 cops per lakh people. But soon enough, the show begins to wonderfully illustrate the fatigue, the thanklessness, and the impossibility of doing right in a crooked system eager to hoodwink, consume you.
    The pace of this season is restless, but its tone is meditative. The result is an exquisite watching experience that is racy, informative, gripping, and makes you question your privilege, entitlement, and the accident of birth, much like Aravind Adiga’s 2008 Man Booker Prize-winning novel The White Tiger does. You must read it if you haven’t already. The 2021 Netflix adaptation starring Adarsh Gourav, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Rajkummar Rao is great but the book is even better.
    However, what makes Delhi Crime 2 subliminal more than anything else is its unbelievably terrific cast. They breathe life and blood into the text, make it their own, and together have managed to attain the enviable stature that most second seasons dream of but rarely achieve. Rasika Dugal is fantastic as the jaded Neeti Singh, who is tired of doing the double duty, being constantly available at home and work, and falling short at it each day. Her fatigue is written all over her being; it’s as physical as the rest of her. Rajesh Tailang as Vartika’s right-hand Bhupendra is solid and dependable as ever. So is Anuraag Arora as Jairaj. Holding them all together with her piercing gaze, no-nonsense uprightness, and quiet leadership is Shefali Shah. She is the indefatigable captain who ensures the sails see the shore. Together, this tiny team of cops is an island unto themselves, trying to stay afloat in rough, unforgiving waters. They have an unspoken sense of solidarity, like sailors and soldiers up against insurmountable odds often do. You want them to win, go home, and rest a while.
    But as exceptional as everyone is, my favourite from this season is Tillotama Shome. She is a revelation. She reveals the mind of a woman who has been constantly pushed around and told her place, where she feels she doesn’t belong and forced to live with an identity she is constantly at war with. Though Shome doesn’t have a lot of screen time, she’s the one who will stay with you the longest after the end credits roll. Watch out for her scene with Shah — they have only one together — in the climactic sequence. Set in the back of a police jeep and bathed in red light, with Shome doing most of the talking, it is transcendental.
    After the excruciatingly overlong 10-episode second season of SonyLIV’s Maharani which was released a day earlier, Delhi Crime’s five episodes, each between 36-54 minutes, feel like a cakewalk. Ceiri Torjussen’s music and Manas Mittal’s slick editing make sure that you can’t look away even for a second. Director of Photography David Bolen helps create a Delhi where nights stretch long enough to provide cover for grisly crimes to keep a bunch of righteous sleuths on their feet. Should you care? Absolutely.
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