Filmmaker Ayesha Sood on making the true crime docu-series ‘Indian Predator: The Butcher of Delhi’ – The Hindu

Ayesha Sood | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
For someone who grew up on Agatha Christie stories, crime has always been one of Ayesha Sood’s favourite genres. She was, hence, excited when she got the opportunity to direct an Indian true crime docuseries produced by Vice India and Netflix. She had a pool of cases at her disposal, but the one that intrigued her the most happened in her hometown, Delhi. It was about a man, Chandrakant Jha, who had committed brutal murders between 1998 and 2007, and taunted the police to catch him. But despite living in Delhi, she had not heard of the case; she decided to narrate this compelling-yet-brutal story. 
( Also read: ‘Indian Predator: The Butcher of Delhi’ review)
At the time of writing (July 25), Indian Predator: The Butcher of Delhi is among the top 10 TV shows in Netflix India. Ayesha feels vindicated. Because, two years ago, she was unsure if the show would get made at all. 
There were obstacles aplenty. “Firstly, we went through one of the harshest lockdowns in the world, and air travel was not possible. Soon after the initial lockdown, the farmer protests started in Delhi. So, there were night curfews. Most of our shoots were late at night or early morning, and we couldn’t fly our drones because of security issues. We filmed during December, in one of the harshest winters ever. After which, we had the Delta wave of COVID! Our team had to overcome all these things… but, here we are,” she says, relieved that her team’s collective effort has paid off.
Ayesha also spoke about her fascination for true crime and the various aspects of making a series in the genre. Excerpts from a conversation:
I grew up with Agatha Christie. So, crime was one of my favourite genres. The Aarushi Talwar murder in Delhi was the first real case I closely followed in India. So many things happened during the course of that case, and I was drawn into its various narratives. I later worked on a podcast about it as well. Syed Modi’s case was something that I was quite intrigued by as well.
I think crime is a really interesting way to understand so many things around us, like relationships, family, culture, and society. Criminals and victims are a part of society. They are people with families, they exist within a system. When you start to unpack and dissect a crime, you get some interesting questions like: Why do people commit crime? What makes a murderer? How does somebody’s background influence their life? Is it nature or nurture?
We had an amazing clinical forensic scientist, Dr SL Vaya, who we have interviewed in the series. She shed light on a lot of things with respect to this case.
Though the crimes, cases, and the systems I knew from popular culture were from another world, I was familiar with them. When it came to our own justice and police systems, I knew little. So, working on this series taught me a lot about how cases are fought, how they go back and forth between various trial courts, who has the responsibility of proving the evidence, and things like that.
I think this story is so fantastical, huge, and brutal that if it was a movie, people would probably say, ‘Nah, that would never happen in real life.’ But it actually happened. And I thought it was important for people to see the reality of it.
We wanted to tell less and show more. We didn’t want to move from one talking head to the next. Very little archival of that time was available. So, the way to show these things that happened in closed rooms was through dramatised visuals. If you see some of the popular documentary series from different parts of the world, which don’t have archival footage, they too end up relying on reenactments. Having said that, there is a line you cannot cross, of course. You need to make sure that you do not dramatise just for the sake of glorification. But you are also responsible for telling a story to keep your audience hooked till the end; it’s about maintaining this balance.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2022 10:00:25 pm |


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