From real to reel, Delhi’s crime stories inspire films

Team Udayavani, Aug 18, 2019, 7:05 PM IST

New Delhi: “Delhi Crime”, “Batla House”, “No One Killed Jessica” have a common link. They are all based on sensational stories that hogged national and international headlines and are a key part of Delhi’s crime files.

In the last few years, there has been a spurt in the number of films and web series being set in NCR, including Delhi.

“Delhi Crime”, a Netflix series, was based on the Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case, and showed how the investigators were running against time to solve the heinous case while also battling political pressure and public outrage.

“Batla House”, which released this Independence Day, tells the story of the encounter that took place on September 19, 2008, when a team of the Delhi Police Special Cell raided a flat in Batla House in south Delhi’s Jamia Nagar on a tip off that the alleged terrorists involved in the September 13, 2008 serial blasts in the national capital were holed up there. The film also explores the aftermath of the encounter.

While these may be recent examples, there have been other films that have recreated or drawn inspiration from some cases in Delhi.

“Talvar”, which released in 2015, was based on the Aarushi Talwar-Hemraj murder case while “Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye” was on the shenanigans of ‘Bunty Chor’.

Filmmakers believe that crimes in Delhi get international attention and people are aware about them.

“Delhi has had these incidents which have struck everyone, have captured people’s imagination, like the Jessica Lall murder case which needed to be told on the big screen,” said Raj Kumar Gupta, who was behind the critically-acclaimed movie fronted by Vidya Balan.

Former Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar, who was the story consultant for the series “Delhi Crime” concurred with Gupta and said crimes in the national capital receive worldwide attention.

“Everyone across the globe knows about the Nirbhaya case. The major crimes happening here are known elsewhere and not only in India,” he said.

However, “Talvar” director Meghna Gulzar differed with Gupta and Kumar and called it an “unfortunate coincidence”.

“I honestly think the geography is a coincidence. It is a coincidence that the headline grabbing crimes are happening there or were happening there. It’s an unfortunate coincidence,” she opined.

Gulzar is currently busy with “Chhapaak”, which is based on the life of Laxmi Agarwal, an acid attack survivor who was attacked in 2005 near Tughlaq Road here.

Those who have been associated with such projects say that while making these films, they have to tread a fine line between sensationalism and realism.

“Of course there are a lot of factors involved in making such films. ‘No One Killed Jessica’ was very sensitive and the responsibility was much more. There are a lot of things that are in public domain that might have happened or might not have happened.

“I spent time with Sabrina (Jessica’s sister) and many other people and went through court orders while researching for the subject,” Gupta said.

Gulzar, on the other hand, felt thankful that the trial was going on when she was filming “Talvar”, which helped in ensuring that audience got to know what was authentic and what wasn’t.

She said the challenge involved in bring the case was that there was not a conclusion to the case. The challenge was the dichotomy of a single case — it had one set of victims but two sets of perpetrators, two different murder weapons and theories and neither of them was conclusive enough to be able to seal the case.

“We met both the CBI teams and their representatives and trial was going on, everything that made it to the news was getting vetted. That was very helpful. we followed the trial meticulously,” she said.

The filmmaker said the treatment of such stories depends a lot on the intention and sensibility of the person behind the project.

“Once you have decided to tell a story that kind of paves the way for its execution. If you want to tell the story because you feel it is an important reflection of our times you will approach it with a different sensibility and if you are going to write it in a sensational way, you are going to do it with a different sensibility. The main point is why a filmmaker is telling a story,” she said.

Nikkhil Advani, who has directed “Batla House”, had earlier told PTI that the most challenging bit about making the film was to try and let go of his own biases and really examine the encounter in all its complexity.

There are many films that have shown references to Delhi’s infamous cases. “Jolly LLB” was inspired by the 1999 Sanjeev Nanda hit and run case. Nanda, grandson of former naval chief S M Nanda, had mowed down six persons, including three policemen, with his BMW car in 1999.

Even “Dev D” had references to the Nanda case and the MMS scandal at a high-profile school involving two students. Films like “Pink”, “Maatr” and “Mom” have highlighted how women are not safe in the national capital.

TV shows like “Crime Patrol”, “Savdhaan India” and “Gumrah” have portrayed crime stories from the national capital while a show “Police Dial 100”, made in 2013, showed Delhi Police live in action.

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