The second season of Delhi Crime, currently streaming on Netflix, comes with a lot of baggage and extremely high expectations. The first season, a police procedural thriller/drama based on how the criminals involved in the Nirbhaya gang rape were captured, was easily among the best of Indian programming on the OTT platforms. This, despite it being simplistic and going soft on the Delhi police and making them out to be too humane and too good to be true. The second season, while adding some complexity to the series, has enough going for it and is no doubt engaging as well but suffers from weaker writing and performances that though decent have too much of a been-there-done-that familiarity about them. Watchable? Yes. Great or brilliant? No.
Delhi Crime‘s second season is directed by Tanuj Chopra, while the man who helmed the first season, Richie Mehta, is credited as Executive Producer and Creator. Delhi Crime: Season 2 is based on the chapter Moon Gazer from the book, Khakhi Files, written by former Delhi cop, Neeraj Kumar. Moon Gazer is based on the ‘Kacchha-Baniyan’ gang that was active in the 1990s. The perpetrators were from denotified tribes, who targeted wealthy elderly folk living mostly alone in posh Delhi localities and not just robbed them but brutally killed them as well.
The series begins with a Gotham city like introduction to Delhi. Four senior citizens in the opulent neighborhood of Greater Kailash or GK are bludgeoned to death, with money and jewelry stolen. The police, led by DCP Vartika Chaturvedi (Shefali Shah) and her team (Rajesh Tailang, Rasika Dugal and others), find the modus operandi of the criminals being akin to that of the ‘Kacchaa-Baniyan’ gang that was last last active in the 1990s. Pressurised by her boss (Adil Hussain), to take on a retired cop, Viren Chaddha, who has worked extensively amongst denotified tribes, the police procedural drama is enthralling enough as a whodunit cum police procedural drama for the first three episodes as we go along with Chaturvedi and the others in their hunt for the killers. This part of the series, accompanied by some fine on location filming, is layered better than season one looking at class divides and the biases against communities like the denotified tribes. In a weak moment for her, Chaturvedi lashes out at one young woman from the tribe, generalizing all of them as no good, before realising she had no right to lose it and apologizes to the young woman. It is one of the strongest scenes of the series. The hagiography towards the Delhi cops, too, is thankfully reduced as we are exposed to their bigotry through Chaddha’s vile character and at times, a total sense of loss amongst Chaturvedi and her entire team as to how to proceed with the case. This makes the series far more palatable as we know by now how the Delhi police treated those involved in the anti CAA protests or the Delhi riots – events that took place in Delhi following season one of the series.
However, at the end of episode three, the makers introduces us to the criminals. And this is where the series starts its downward journey as it shifts perspectives unconvincingly to the perpetuators. This weakens the story as none of them are particularly interesting for us to invest so much in them. Though Lata/Karishma (Tillotama Shome) might have her reasons to be stifled as a woman, nothing justifies her sociopathic behavior and methods to break free from her claustrophobic life. Her fleshing out doesn’t quite work and somewhere, Shome has overplayed the part, perhaps relishing far too much the opportunity to play a different character. With giving so much time to her and the gang, the case then appears to be wrapped up rather hurriedly and a mite too conveniently in the last two episodes. As it is, the rhythm and pace of the series is not helped with the vast different running times of the individual episodes of the series.
The series emphasizes the shortage of police staff in the city of Delhi. We see the police force is naturally overworked, working round the clock and so the series focusses much less on their personal lives. Unfortunately, most of the tracks appear half-baked and far too easily resolved, especially the track with Chaturvedi’s daughter, now studying in Canada. We have no idea what she’s up to there, a conflict is set up due to her bunking classes and then the issue between the mother and daughter is settled through WhatsApp texts regarding Chaturvedi’s issues. Perhaps the only personal track given more importance but still works a mite too predictably is that of Neeti (Rasika Dugal) and Devinder (Aakash Dahiya) and the downward spiral of their marriage.
The performances are efficiently good rather then being rising-above-the-scripts. The actors try hard but there already is a familiarity to them and there is nothing fresh or surprising in their acts. Of course, actors cannot really be blamed for this as in any TV or OTT series (or in sequels of films), the true challenge is to keep the characters equally interesting after the initial instalment. Delhi Crime: Season 2 falls short here.
All in all, Delhi Crime: Season 2 gets its atmospheric mood right, has its share of moments and is intriguing enough for most of its running time. In the end though, for all its strengths, it has its share of flaws too and falls short of ‘being there’.
Hindi, English, Thriller, Drama, Color