Real-life crimes provide stories for web series

Real-life crimes provide stories for web series

‘Delhi Crime’ is the latest in a string of wellmade shows that document horrifying crimes

The Crown chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) from the 1940s to present times.

When ‘Conjuring’ first hit the screens in 2013, it created a buzz for all its regular horror flick elements, so well-made that even the cliches were frightening. But the appeal of the movie grew exponentially when the makers began promoting it to be ‘based on a true story’.

The fascination for films based on true events has now spilt over to Netflix and viewers are going gaga over stories that are supposedly giving us a glimpse of real life. A welcome change from over-dramatic soaps and cringe-worthy reality shows, these well-made series/films also respect the viewers’ intellect.

The latest in these series is ‘Delhi Crime’, a gripping narration of the brutal gang rape of a nursing student in Delhi. Directed by Richie Mehta, it follows the city police’s investigation and subsequent arrest of the men behind the 2012 Nirbhaya case that shook the nation’s conscience.

'Delhi Crime’ has Shefali Shah, Rasika Dugal, Adil Hussain and Rajesh Tailang in lead roles.

Unlike highly dramatised crime-thriller shows, Delhi Crime gives us an insight into the way the police functioned and cracked the case. It is a fresh portrayal of the force and sensitively shows the processes they had to follow and the hurdles they faced.

‘Singham’ and ‘Simbaa’ fans are in for a disappointment when they see DCP Vartika Chaturvedi (an excellent Shefali Shah) following protocol and not randomly throwing chairs at the suspects (even though the makers have clearly painted her frustration and anger while dealing with the unapologetic rapists).

The screenplay of the series does justice to the fact that it is showing us the behind-the-scenes of a shocking crime. At the same time, it does not compromise on the element of entertainment.

Another series that was a hit on Netflix was ‘The Crown’ - the mother of all ‘based on true events’ series. Can anything be more intriguing than a detailed story of the British Crown that has ruled over almost the entire planet? The makers have tapped into this curiosity and the third season of The Crown is slated for a release this year.

The last two seasons of The Crown showed us Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne, her marriage to Prince Phillip and the turbulent global environment. The second season made us sit up when it hinted at Prince Phillip’s extra-marital affair.

The series showed us the humane side of the royal family, otherwise described as cold and distant. For instance, the scene where Queen Elizabeth has to choose between being a sister, a wife and the Queen of England (‘Gloriana- episode 10, season 1) gives us goosebumps; proof that the audience empathises with the Queen’s battles and turmoils.

A bit shocking was the obsession of viewers over a series on serial killer Ted Bundy — ‘Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes’. Though viewers agreed that it was so terrifying that they couldn’t watch it alone, many started swooning over the charming and handsome Ted — who killed almost 100 people in the 1970s. So much was the attention that Joe Berlinger, the maker of the series, went on to make a feature film about the serial killer (played by Zac Efron).

The rising popularity of these web series is a welcome change from scripted reality shows and give the viewers a wholesome experience.

We spoke to M K Raghavendra, well-known film critic and scholar, to ask what he thinks of web series based on true crime stories.

What makes reality-based web series so popular?
They deal with sensational crimes which have received a huge amount of publicity in the media. A realist aesthetic has already been created by cinema through Anuraag Kashyap and films like ‘Titli’ which deal with the criminal underbelly in the cities. The audience that responds to this is the educated class which also devours new TV like Netflix. I think they are on a winning ticket. Nirav Modi’s is another story that should have done well but Indian filmmakers and audiences haven’t learnt the art of dealing with white collar crime or following the intricacies of a story based on it.

Does this keep readers in touch with reality?
I don’t think it is educational in any way. The shows sensationalise and don’t try for political or social analysis. For instance, the Nirbhaya affair was a complicated issue and why it happens needs speculation. The TV series will simply deal with it as an extreme case of violent crime without going further.

Any recommendations?
I think ‘Wild Wild Country’ was very interesting - although it was fully a documentary. ‘Narcos’ was addictive too. I am looking forward to more Indian stories. One wants to see what we read in the papers enacted as docufiction. It doesn’t tell you much or enlighten you but it is riveting.