Richie Mehta: 'Wanted to dispel myths with Delhi Crime'
Indo-Canadian filmmaker Richie Mehta does not seek validation from his International Emmy win for his web series, Delhi Crime, but by audience response. He says the real point of pride was when people resonated with everything that he was trying to convey with the story.
Last month, his web series Delhi Crime won the Best Drama Series award at the 48th International Emmy Awards. The show became the first Indian programme to win an International Emmy.
Overwhelmed after the win, Mehta said, "It's the culmination of years of work for me and for hundreds of people."
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The web series opens the files of the notorious December 2012 gangrape in Delhi that shook the world. The case made headlines around the world, and also started having a ripple effect on the image of the country. That bothered Mehta.
"It is also a kind of gratification that you can take a subject, which is as dark as what we have tried to tackle, and turn it around and make something that is actually hopeful and positive. A lot of people around the world started to define India based on crimes like this, and that made me very uncomfortable," he added.
The filmmaker continued: "Because they were missing the point that for every crime like this -- and there are so many of them, which is awful -- there are also people all over the country, especially women, who are trying to deal with it and tackle it, and people who are honourable and courageous. You have to look at both sides. So, to me, this was a kind of gratification that a story about that resonated globally."
Soon after the win, along with congratulatory messages on social media, a section of users called out the filmmaker for glorifying a crime, and questioned how a show about a horrific incident would be a source of pride and celebration.
Asked about his reaction to such views, Mehta said: "I feel either they didn't see it, or maybe they missed the point."
He explained: "The first episode is very valuable, each second counts, because you can lose the viewer, especially in the first half an hour, viewers can turn it off and say ‘this is not for me'. And in the first episode of ‘Delhi Crime', I use half an hour of screen time to show the backstories of these cops. That's a very valuable time and I don't show the crime."
"To me, this show is not about crime. It's about the people who we ask and demand to solve it for us. It just so happens that these people, especially the women, have been spending so much time in that darkness that they've figured out what causes it. That's what I wanted to get into the show. That is what the show is about. If you think it's about the crime, then why didn't I show the crime?"
The Netflix series is a fictionalised version based on the horrific December 2012 Delhi bus gangrape case and follows the investigation by the Delhi Police. It captures the complexities of the scrutiny, and the emotional toll on the investigating team.
For Mehta, more than the award, the response by the audience is a validation for his work.
"Validation was the fact that people were responding to it. The awards are amazing, because they are emblematic of something else, that there's a critical response and an international critical response," he pointed out.
Giving words to his thoughts, the director shared: "To me, the real point of pride was that everything we tried to do resonated with people who were watching it. Critics' response is a bonus. As a filmmaker and a communicator, you just want to know that the message you are trying to convey is landing with people that they're getting it and they are ingesting it. They are not just forgetting about it the next day. That's the real validation."
According to Mehta, the global coverage of the case became a bridge connecting people with the emotions and complexities of the story.
"The subject had something to do with it. Everyone around the world heard about this. So they knew and had some point of reference, and I took advantage of that in terms of (that) I wanted to dispel the myths of what people had heard and thought they understood. There was nobody around the world who I think watched the show and didn't have some basic understanding and a very strong emotional reaction already (about it) before they pressed play," said Mehta, whose first feature film Amal released in 2007.
Mehta, who has tried his hand at short and feature filmmaking, as well as the documentary format, spent over six years of research while making the series.
"The responsibility for me in writing this was to make it accurate, emotionally accurate as well reflect the promises I had made to the people to preserve their integrity," he said, adding: "That responsibility extended over the course of six years of making the show. The first four years of writing and research that I did, I never resolved in my head that I would make it. I would just keep proceeding, and then stopping and taking a month or taking a few months and evaluating whether this should even exist."
"That was part of the responsibility. When I decided it should, I was so adamant about maintaining the integrity of the good people that I had met -- the family, the cops, these types of people," he stressed.