‘We were as invested as police in finding the criminals’

Express News Service

Netflix’s Crime Stories: India Detectives just blew open many doors for the true crime genre in India. The four-part docu-series follows the criminal investigations of the Bengaluru police department in real-time. In a country, where the workings of the police are relatively unknown, the access the makers of the docu-series have had is quite astonishing. The extent of the access is such that the pilot episode of the series, Murdered Mother, was blocked by an order from Karnataka High Court stating that the series could create bias in the investigation.

Directed by Jack Warrender and N Amit, the series deals with murder to kidnap with a pique into the lives of the investigators and the suspects. In a conversation with Cinema Express, the series’s producer Claire Chaill opens up about the challenges, criticism on the series, and more.

Excerpts from the interview:

Tell us about the genesis of the idea for Crime Stories: India Detectives?
Minnow Films, the production of the series, made a true crimes series called The Detectives about the Greater Manchester Police, which is one of the biggest police forces in the UK. It was popular and well-received. So, we just brainstormed where else would be an amazing place to make a series like this.
 I have traveled to India, and I love the country. We were all keen to explore the possibility of making a similar series here. From there, it was a series of open conversations with everyone involved. To make something like this you need a lot of trust, and it was a long trust-building process. Unlike the West, in India, we associate the word detective with private investigators and not the police. So, I found the title a bit oddly intriguing The title was a collaborative work of Netflix and Minnow. We know that detectives don’t have the strongest resonance in India, but globally it has quite an attraction, and we wanted to bring in a global audience to the series.

How did you get that kind of access within the Indian police department which is pretty much impenetrable?
It was definitely not something we did overnight. I first came down to Bengaluru in 2018 exploring whether there’s an interest and appetite to make a series like what we have made. As the relationship between Netflix, Minow, and Bengaluru police grew, we embarked on months of research and made people know what we were doing. We spent months in each police station, and we made sure that the officers knew that we were as dedicated as them in solving the crimes. It was a series of long and very open conversations. And it’s the police we are talking about, and these are sensitive matters. It is reassuring when I have to have more conversation for access because then we know they care and want the right people that are going to be filming it.

Since it is more or less the first-of-its-kind show in India, did you have any reference points at all?
While making something for which you can write the script, you can go in with a clear 
picture. But with a series like this you don’t know what’s going to happen – you can’t predict the crimes. So, it all came down to being patient and hoping that we will find characters and narrative. We camped at the stations (laughs), and I should thank my team because we all put in some serious hours. Also, even the police realised that we were as invested as them in finding the criminals.

The series was criticised for being high in praise of the police while not delving deep into issues like police brutality and lock-up deaths…
People are within their right to be critical about the series. However, we have shown the work of the police and the way the investigation is done fairly. It is a fair representation of how they work, and the series offers a rare insight into what it is to be a police officer, and I think it is rare to get that perspective.

Will there be a follow-up like in cities like Chennai or Delhi?
(Laughs) That is not a question for me; I can’t answer that. But it will be wonderful to do that.

Claire Cahill talks about the challenges, the unprecedented access, and a bit more in this conversation with CE

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