How Netflix's Delhi Crime Season 2 Subverts the Queenpin Trope – MovieWeb

Netflix’s Delhi Crime does a stellar job of breaking away from the typical tropes associated with female characters in crime fiction.
The biggest achievement of Netflix’s Delhi Crime lies in how the show disrupts the treatment of feminine stereotypes in crime fiction. Even though it tends to glorify the very real Delhi police, who have a contented relationship with activists and student protestors in the city, the show itself can be counted as one of the best-made police procedurals in recent times. Season two may lack the same depth and finesse as the first season, but it is every bit as gritty and enjoyable a ride.
Written and directed by Richie Mehta, the first season (which won an International Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series) focused on the aftermath of the gruesome 2012 Delhi assault. The show meticulously builds up the formidable hero cop DCP Vartika Chaturvedi (played by Shefali Shah) while trying to delve into the psyche of men who commit heinous crimes against women. With the Tanuj Chopra-directed second season, the show further probes into the psychology of criminals and prejudices held up by the upper echelons of Indian society that only widens the rift between the economic classes. From dismantling notions of the “perfect victim” in the first season, the second season takes a shot at dismissing preconceived and classist constructs of “born criminal.”.
From survivors of abuse to inflictors of violence and arbiters of justice – the three pillars of any good crime dramaDelhi Crime does a stellar job of breaking away from the typical tropes associated with female characters in crime fiction even in its second season.
In season two, the character of corrupt cop Viren Chaddha acts as a foil to Vartika Chaturvedi’s good cop. Chaddha is not only a bigot, but he is bad at his job as well. He spends most of his time chasing imaginary phantoms concocted by his bigotry instead of investigating the case at hand. He rounds up members of denotified tribes, who were deemed “born criminals” by British colonialists. This practice started with the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 and was only repealed by the independent Indian government in 1992. Even though the laws have been modified, the stigma remains, as depicted on the show.
Chaddha’s character is emblematic of everything wrong with the police force. Once his character has served its purpose and gets ousted from the investigation, Shah’s Chaturvedi takes over. Shah started her journey in the Hindi film industry way back in the 1990s and still continues to be one of the finest performers the industry has to offer. Be it her performance in Ajeeb Daastaans, Jalsa, Delhi Crime, or Darlings – Shah is spectacular every time. A rare breed of actor who knows how to react rather than merely act, Shah’s successful ventures in recent years are also a testament to the changing times in the world of entertainment.
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Shah gets to play women who often have delectable shades of grey, and Delhi Crime capitalises on her acting prowess flawlessly. In a world full of over-the-top hero cops like Singham and Sooryavanshi, Shah’s Vartika Chaturvedi is a realistic breath of fresh air. She follows the rules, bending them where absolutely necessary, and gets the job done without any need for theatrics or violence. She is a woman of a logical mind. The male cops of Bollywood can keep their flying cars and machismo.
As Chaturvedi teams up again with Rajesh Tailang’s Inspector Bhupendra Singh and Rasika Dugal’s IPS Officer Neeti Singh, together they stumble down a rabbit hole trying to capture the culprits – the notorious Chaddi Baniyan Gang, who target wealthy senior citizens living in posh localities of Delhi. The members of the real Chaddi Baniyan Gang wear underclothes (chaddi in Hindi means underpants, and baniyan in Hindi refers to undershirts), which is how they get their moniker. The name may sound funny, but there is nothing amusing about what they do. What shocks and scares the city is not that the gang target the wealthy or the elderly but the brutal way in which they murder their hapless victims. The crimes are so gruesome that very few would imagine any of the perpetrators would be a scrawny, little woman, as is the case in Delhi Crime.
Tillotama Shome’s Lata Solanki, alias Karishma, is the queenpin of the Chaddi Baniyan Gang. She could’ve gotten away with it all and built a fearsome empire, even, if not for her blatant and ultimately myopic ambition – which is treated with a modicum of respect without glorification. Her ways are berated by the story, but not her daring to dream big or her legitimate vexation at not being born privileged.
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Through Solanki’s character in Delhi Crime, two more tropes are knocked down. It is often considered that women are inherently more nurturing and more innocent than their male counterparts. But that’s not the case with Solanki. She leaves behind a child she never wanted to embark on a path of self-fulfillment, no matter the cost. Even when her partner shows her mercy, she has time for none. But the hammer is yielded on her cronies only when her authority is challenged, and she is threatened. She knows she needs her flunkies till she doesn’t.
The audience is barely given any space to feel any kind of sympathy for the character. It is amply indicated that, like most criminals, Solanki is an unhinged psychopath. Her being a woman has nothing to do with her transgressions, nor how and why she commits crimes. When she is denied something, this queenpin doesn’t incite fear or deference. She elicits pity. On the one hand, she is cold and heartless, but she cries and sulks like a demented child when she is kept from what she wants, thereby breaking away from any boxes you can put her in, at least for a while. The only one who doesn’t seem to be surprised that Solanki, a woman, is the mind (and muscle) behind the abominable Chaddi Baniyan Gang, is Chaturvedi.
While the men on the investigative team seem convinced that Solanki wouldn’t defy her motherly instincts, Chaturvedi knows there is no such thing inherent to women just because of their biology. Chaturvedi is the voice of reason in a sea of men who reflect the biases of our world.
Film & TV Writer and Critic. Also worked for: Vagabomb (Scoopwhoop), iDiva (The Times of India), The Indian Express, Tree of Knowledge, Juggernaut Books, Indiannica, Jagran Prakashan Limited, among others.


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