Delhi Crime on Netflix toys with another dark subject in its second season. A subject similar to the first that questions morality. What is good and what is evil? It destabilises you, destabilises norms, the kind of subject that the new showrunner of the show, Tanuj Chopra, instantly gravitates towards. “I like things that shake up what we perceive as normal. This is what I look for in performances, in stories. What I look for in the tone of the show. I try to get characters in uncomfortable situations if I can, because when they react, you see something unique.” Tanuj is from the Silicon Valley who studied filmmaking at Columbia University School of Arts. He formally started his journey back in 2006, with his debut film, Punching at the Sun, that made it to Sundance. Here, we speak to him about running the second season and the challenges he faced along the way.
It’s funny because I was at Sundance when the first season premiered there, but I had something else going on. I actually didn’t get to see it until I was offered a chance. I’ve known Richie [Mehta] for a long time and I couldn’t believe that he would take a case like this. And from the filmmaking standpoint, it was so well made. It was both bold and also a bit scary to take on that kind of a story. I questioned “Is it right or wrong?” but ultimately, you watch these actors and their great performances, and that is really what sold me on the show.
There was a lot to talk about in terms of the case, and specifically, the Kaccha Banyan gang and the communities that they’re from, but what fascinated me early on in the research was the way that these gangs were organised. On the surface, they look like savage, brutal murderers, but when you probe into their methods and modes of operation, you realise they are very methodical people, and these are very thought-out, planned crimes. I thought that was a big learning for me.
In terms of references for the show, obviously we already had season one as a pretext. That was the template. However, I also had references from beyond Delhi Crime that I felt could find their way into the show. At one point, I even had Wong Kar-Wai as a reference just because of how some of his images look or made me feel. References are always such a strange and ethereal thing.
We lost our creator [Richie Mehta], and after that it was a whole new team taking on the show. So you have to not only learn the visual language of the show, but learn the characters, their back stories. That was the first challenge — how do we keep it the same as before because the characters are coming back. And then, trying to make a story that Richie had started working on was another challenge. It’s a writing challenge. How do we make a compelling story? That took a lot of back and forth with writers and producers, until we finally got to a good place. Then of course, the big challenge was the physical side of production.
The pandemic made it tough, because sometimes we shot a lot in a very small amount of time. In one single day, I sometimes shot from episode one and then episode five, so you had to heap the whole storyline in your head. I think in a normal OTT shoot, you would do maybe two episodes at once, but shooting four or five episodes is a tremendous amount of story to keep together. It’s always an endurance test, and fortunately, our crew was very strong and there are a lot of really good artists involved.
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Text Hansika Lohani Mehtani