Shefali Shah: If we raise our sons right our daughters would be safe

Netflix series ‘Delhi Crime’ revolves around the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape. Seasoned actress Shefali Shah who essays the role of Vartika Chaturvedi, DCP talks about her character in the show

Shefali Shah (Photo by Abheet Gidwani)
Shefali Shah (Photo by Abheet Gidwani)

Murtaza Ali Khan

Q1. How did you get associated with the latest Netflix films original series Delhi Crime?

Richie Mehta met me and shared his vision about the project. And within three minutes I said ‘Yes’. It was really a no brainer. I had to do it. Late when he sent me the script I was busy with some other thing and so I told him that I will get back in about 4 - 5 days. When I started reading the script I got so hooked that I finished reading all the episodes in about an hour or so. So I immediately called him and told him how much I liked it and that’s how we got started with the journey. I am so glad and so proud of being a part of the project. 

Q2. You play a police officer in the series. How did you prepare for the role?

There is a lot of preparation that all of us had to do. Richie had done research of 4-6 years on this one. He had the blueprint ready. So he knew the investigation through and through because of the police case files and because of his interactions with the actual persons involved. So I had a very strong background to begin with and then of course I had to add in my emotional quotient, my interpretation, my perception and my representation of what I wanted to do with the character. How I understood her.

What I thought the way she would react, the way she would feel through it. Also, a lot actually came from my instinct and my thought process based on my interpretation of the script. Since I play a cop there is also a technical side to it. Like there is a protocol with regards to the uniform which I didn’t know about. There is a way of behaving with your superiors that I didn’t know about. Another major challenge was to keep a track of the time. You see the series is timed according to the 16th of December 2012.

It shows five days of investigation and everything had to be timed as per the actual occurrence. Like at what time my character goes to the hospital? For how many hours has she been awake? What was the last interaction she had and with whom? If four episodes ago she talked to her daughter how much of that conversation gets carried forward four episodes later? What else has happened during that time? So there was a lot of work that went into it and it was a constant work in process.

Q3. Did you have any references for the role?

A. The Character that I play, Vartika Chaturvedi, had to be real. And so the only reference was Chhaya Sharma, the police officer who cracked the case. I didn’t want to model her on any other character that’s been played earlier. The vision we had was to come up with something original. We didn’t want to make something that came across as a dramatization or a fake account of what actually happened.It had to look real and everyone involved worked towards achieving that. Richie Introduced me to Chhaya ma’am. During my interaction with her I asked her various questions. It allowed me to have a better understanding of the character I was to play.

Q4. The series is inspired by the 2012 Delhi gang rape. How Much of it is based on the real incident and how much of it is fiction?

It is a fictionalised account of the event. But the investigation has been put together from the police files. So that could not be compromised. Such as at what time the call was made and at what time the PCR van reached there, etc. And all this is in the public domain and so it had to be absolutely precise. However, the personal relationships of the cop such as her daughter, that’s an amalgamation of various cop stories

Q5. How has the situation changed in the country with regards to women safety since the Nirbhaya gang rape?

Improvement Is a constant process. There is no end to it. After the Nirbhaya incident the entire outlook towards crime against women gained a fresh perspective. A lot of laws were passed which were in favor of women. So we cannot deny that. But the fact of the matter is that we what we are trying to deal with is not just crime. It’s important to understand from where this crime originates. It’s about generations of patriarchy, misogyny, class, caste, and creed differences and whatnot. It is easy to blame the system but what are we doing as a society?Isn’t the responsibility equally ours? At the end of the day the sanctity of any place is maintained by the people. Now, I am a mother of two sons.

What I Strongly believe is that if we raise our sons right our daughters would be safe. It’s not about telling girls not to go out. It’s about telling our boys to respect people. And that’s something I made very clear to my sons starting from when they were 7 or 8. I told them once and for all that if they ever messed with a girl they would first have to deal with me. It is ultimately about changing the mindset of the society we live in.

Q6. Tell us about your upcoming projects

There are a lot of offers but as of now nothing is finalized. What I am really looking forward to is the second season of Delhi Crime. We will start working on it in a couple of months. I think it should be out by next year.

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