We are in the golden age of content creation. Whether it’s short films, animation, documentaries, feature films, or long-form series. Streaming services like Netflix allow us to see content from anywhere in the world, and for everyone in the world to see content from India. This has never happened before.
A lot of people have asked me why I think Delhi Crime won the International Emmy for Best Drama Series. I cannot definitively say why the series resonated with audiences around the world. What I can examine is what went into the making of it, and perhaps allow the reader to formulate her or his own response to the first question.
When I first zeroed in on the research and story of Delhi Crime, via the generous support of officers in the IPS and Delhi Police, I got to know a handful of them. They spoke openly to me, began to trust me, and after years of this, I made a solemn promise to preserve the integrity of what I had heard and understood, as they had confided in me about their personal lives, their viewpoints, and their feelings. These promises guided me through the process. In a sense, they were vows, and if I had been forced to break them at any stage, I would have halted the project.
I believe the final work preserves the integrity of these promises, and audiences perceive this.
I also made a decision early on to never show the crime, and to not linger on the darkness of the incident. I didn’t have to. Everyone knew what had happened, save for the unfathomable details, which is why simply mentioning them in dialogue would suffice. But what I did want to focus on was the humanity of everyone involved, from the officers - female and male; to the bystanders; the protestors; the husbands and wives of those involved; the media; and yes, even the suspects, in the limited screen time they occupied. I had to constantly remind myself, and the viewer, that they also had mothers and wives, and were human, regardless of what they had done.
I believe the humanity of the characters shines through in the final work, which audiences perceive.
I also made a decision that, having earned the trust of these principled and courageous women and men, that I would see this project through with the strictest quality control - the best I could find in the film world: from cast to crew; from shooting to editing; from scoring to sound mixing. And this was not simply a question of budget (there have been many more expensive series in the Indian sphere, before and after). But a commitment to ensure that not a single shot was poorly framed or lit. Not one actor was hastily chosen, nor a single performance compromised due to schedules or resources. Not a single edit felt awkward, and not one musical note was misplayed or haphazardly mixed. For this I needed the best talent in the world. And unable to fully afford them, they had to buy into my previously mentioned promises and goals with the project. I was lucky that they did (without exception, from the producers, to every department head, artist, craftsperson, production personnel), and we all worked tirelessly to ensure the highest quality. Indeed - everyone demanded it of themselves, because they had their own personal reasons for wanting to work on this.
I believe the quality of the shooting and finishing of this series is apparent in the final work, which audiences perceive.
We are in the golden age of content creation. Whether it’s short films, animation, documentaries, feature films, or long-form series. Streaming services like Netflix allow us to see content from anywhere in the world, and for everyone in the world to see content from India. This has never happened before. What do audiences want? In my opinion - unique, relevant, well crafted, honest, subjective, authentic stories, wrapped up in entertainment.
Of these, the most difficult qualities to achieve are honesty, relevancy, and authenticity. And it is these qualities we must continue to fight for and support. We can label them as artistic freedom, but it’s more than that. It’s allowing the space for an artist to discover what they feel about something, why they wish to discuss it, and then find the best way to project it into the public sphere.
Its media companies, the industry at large, and the public who can allow them the breath and space for those discoveries, so that we have more work that traverses the cultural story-telling barrier, because of its honesty and integrity.
Creators need time, space, and liberty to give Indian and global audiences what they crave: a true reflection of the complex, flawed, troubling, yet deeply humane world around us.
(About the author: Richie Mehta is the creator of International Emmy Award winning series 'Delhi Crime' on Netflix)