Television

The story behind Life OK’s Police Dial 100

Crime always sells, believes Shruti Anindita Vermaa who has now put on a director’s hat for the crime show, Police Dial 100 on Life OK.

Talking about her new initiative, Shruti says, “As a director what excites me is the newness of a genre. Spearheading interesting shows and innovative concepts has been my forte.”

Police Dial 100 is a unique show that tracks the life of cops on duty

With the urge to do something new and interesting, Shruti and her team conceptualised a show that had real cops in the place of reel cops, capturing on camera live cases with the police as opposed to reenactment of past cases.

Dissuaded initially by friends in the police, Shruti took the show as a personal challenge

“There are lots of shows abroad involving cops but for India this was new thinking and for the concept that we had, there was no format at all. There are no shows that one can connectPolice Dial 100 with. It is original and 100 per cent real,” she adds.

Life OK GM Ajit Thakur said he had never imagined that a media team could do this, but he said the series will make the people feel safer as it showed the police as it actually worked to combat crime. "Police forces have a tough job of maintaining law and order, especially in densely populated Indian cities such as Delhi and Mumbai."

"Police Dial 100 is Life OK’s effort to delve deeper into the functioning law enforcing agencies and capturing on camera the highly stressful lives our police forces lead. The one-of-its-kind show in India will showcase things that are often not discussed on camera. The series is not based on any script and will not feature dramatisation or enactments, but will only capture reality as it happens in the police’s world. We are confident that the audience will be thrilled to see our real life heroes on camera.” adds Thakur.

Police forces have a tough job of maintaining law and ordersays Life OK GM Ajit Thakur

The making of Police Dial 100…….

A show that breaks away completely from the existing crime shows, we take you to the journey of Police Dial 100, produced by Endemol India.

Shruti discussed the concept of doing a crime show the way she envisioned it with Endemol India managing director Deepak Dhar, who was not very sure that the police would agree with her idea. Taking it up as a challenge almost eight months ago Shruti explored the various routes that would make her team’s concept into a reality on television.

An eight month long journey…………

Dissuaded initially by friends in the police, Shruti took the show as a personal challenge. She met the Mumbai joint commissioner of police Himanshu Roy and narrated the concept to him. An impressed Roy was completely sold on her vision for the show.

Next Shruti approached the Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar with the idea. Kumar immediately accepted the concept without even looking at any powerpoint presentation. “He said that everyone is out here to criticise the police. So if I meant what I was promising to do, he was there to give me all the support,” reveals Shruti.

Police Dial 100 team has been permitted to sit in the control room at the police headquarters to better understand the functioning of the case

Flushed with success, Shruti returned to Mumbai. Now she needed to have a channel on board. Dhar and Shruti discussed a couple of ideas for the show with Life OK general manager Ajit Thakur who said his channel would air it if she got permissions. “Ajit liked the idea but was not very sure if we would be able to pull it off,” says Shruti.

Making a pilot that was great and acceptable was a major challenge.

Even as Shruti started looking out for cases to highlight and track for it, 16 December happened. 23 year old physiotherapy intern Jyoti Singh Pandey was brutally gangraped, assaulted in a moving chartered bus by a gang of hooligans, and finally left on the streets to die with her intestines torn out.

The media went berserk and everyone was lambasting the cops for their alleged gross inefficiency and disregard for what was going on.

A skeptical Neeraj Kumar asked Shruti if she still wanted to go ahead with the show which would only track the police on their job (rather than be judgemental as the media was being) when she contacted him. She of course replied in the affirmative.

Everyone is out here to criticise the police says Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar

Neeraj Kumar asked the then DCP of Delhi South Chhaya Sharma - who was the main investigating officer on the Jyoti Singh Pandey case - to permit Shruti to sit with her and capture each and every move for the next 72 hours. She was reluctant at first but finally agreed on the commissioner’s insistence.

And it was during the course of this that Shruti got to witness first hand the efforts put in by the police to hunt down and then book the perpetrators; she tracked the protests at India Gate, the police handling the family of the rape victim as they silently saw their daughter fight for her life. She also followed the capture of the last rapist.

Talking about the police’s determination to do their job, she confesses: “The police team in South Delhi was busy filing charge sheets and ensuring that Jyoti Singh Pandey got justice. My commitment grew stronger following this. I knew what I wanted. I spent 10 days with Sharma and her team, had lunches and dinners in their canteen and sat in their Gypsy vehicle as a silent spectator while they went about on their night patrol even as the temperature dropped to near freezing.”

Now there was no way she was looking back. She was determined to make her show.

But things got stalled after that. “I left Delhi to come back again in January and yet again it was a case of wrong timing. 26 January preparations were on and once again the city was quiet... I had come to shoot action but the cops had none. And finally I got my first case that not only became my pilot but also became the opening story of my series. A kidnapping case that took place at Lodhi Colony in New Delhi” says Shruti.

Her team rushed to Lodhi Colony and shot everything from zero hour. The case was cracked in two and a half hours. The team came back with the shoot and edited the story and presented it to Life OK.

They are more comfortable with us and our presence does not irritate them as much as it did earlier says Shruti about cops

Above (L-R) DCP of Delhi South Chhaya Sharma, Inspector Rajendra Singh and Shruti Vermaa

Says Shruti : “I did not have a format to refer to or a show to follow. It was just pure conviction that worked. Deepak Dhar and I took the pilot to Life OK and Ajit Thakur and his team gave us a standing ovation.”

She admits that it has not been easy. “In terms of difficulty that we had during the pilot, well, Delhi is a huge space and when we actually started shooting, the cops were not comfortable with the idea of a camera encroaching upon their privacy. So the commissioner’s permission initiated a conversation, but the task was to win their confidence. Gradually, they started opening up and were supportive.”

How the Police Dial 100 team works….

The Police Dial 100 team consists of more than 100 people. It includes a creative director who is responsible for what goes on when the filming is happening and a creative head who looks after the post-production, six cameramen, three associate creative directors, reality producers, sound engineers and a support production team on ground.

Director Shruti has been on the streets of Delhi and Mumbai in the freezing nights following the cops investigating the cases

Besides, there is a large post-production team with six editors and six assistant editors-cum-post producers. The team generally shoots with a simple HD camera, but depending on the kind cases, they use GoPros, cameras mounted on cars, pen cameras, button cameras and watch cameras as well.

Additionally, there is a team that has been permitted to sit in the control room at the police headquarters. So whenever there is a case, Shruti gets a call from the police control room.

Once she decides to follow a case, she sends a team to the police station after a conversation with the station house officer so that the team can capture events as they unfold from the crucial zero hour. And this Endemol bunch continues to be with the police team that is following the case till it is solved.

Every night the team views the footage together and also plans the way forward. Once each case is shot and the no-objection certificates of all the concerned people are in place, the entire docket along with a log sheet reaches the Mumbai office where it is edited.

A script is written, a voice over laid and then the graphics and the music are added. The episode is then handed over to the channel which plans an interesting promo for each week.

A team of more than 100 people are documenting real life cops on the field; quiet a refreshing change from the other crime based shows

“There are times when after two days of shoot we realise that the story is not going forward. We bounce it off and move on to the next case,” reveals Shruti.

She explains how each episode is put together. She says: “It is the case that is most important. We start following many case files because it is difficult to figure out at the call level the intensity or layering of the case. And the camera just follows the action as it unfolds. It is not scripted at all because there is no space for that. Direction is mainly limited to directing the cameras how to operate and also the ACD gives direction on the pitch one needs to take.”

Shruti believes Police Dial 100 will maintain its freshness for a long time; there’s no question of staleness setting in. She explains: "Police story telling is also like film story telling. Every case has a different narrative. No

Every night the team views the footage together and also plans the way forward

two murders are the same, no two kidnappings are the same, the suspects are different, their backgrounds are different, every crime has a different modus operandi. So there is no chance of duplicating ever. A major part of an episode is made on the editing table because it is here that the narration is planned and scripted. The post team is huge. There are more than 20 people working round the clock to meet deadlines and maintain quality."

Shruti’s team includes award winning director Sohail Tatari, Amitabh Varma who handles scripts, Bapi and Tutul are in charge for music, Himanshu looks after graphics.

When asked how much say the Delhi police have in each episode, Shruti asserts that everything is based on mutual understanding. “They trust us and we trust them,” she confesses. "So we know when to switch off the camera and they know it pretty well. They are more comfortable with us and our presence does not irritate them as much as it did earlier. The only thing they do is direct us to follow the legalities of what can be shown and what cannot. The idea is to create a great show by highlighting the work of the cops and not create a problem in the case."

Endemol India Deepak Dhar MD and CEO says, "For the first time in the history of Indian television we present a show that explores the real world of cops and crime. Our cameras have captured the activities of the police force, working to solve a case in real time." He said this was real TV, not reality TV.

Current scenario…

The show hit television screens on 22 June at 7.00 pm on Life OK.

At the time of writing, 12 episodes have already been shot in Delhi. Both Life Ok and Endemol have an initial 13 week telecast schedule. Shruti however has been extremely pleased with the response the first episode has receieved. She says: “Superb. I got almost 900 messages from my friends and relatives. So I know that apart from the making of the show I am also contributing to its TRP. But I know we have made a path breaking show and with a social purpose as well. So I am very satisfied with Police Dial 100.”

"Endemol has always broken the mould when it comes to new and innovative programming", says Deepak Dhar

A short note on Shruti Anindita Vermaa…..

Shruti has been a TV professional for two decades and has a varied experience on a variety of programming formats with a clutch of production houses. Amongst these figure: Balaji Telefilms as the head of non fiction division, with Gajendra Singh as a creative director, with Miditech as a creative director and supervising producer and with Applause Entertainment as the head of non-fiction and events. She has spearheaded shows like K for Kishore for Sony TV , a very prestigious project called South Asian Superstar which is a parallel version of Indian Idol on a bigger platform with five countries participating for the final title. She worked as creative director for Antrakshari and Voice of India for Star Plus, and as a senior creative director for Raaz Pichle Janam Ka for NDTV Imagine for both the seasons. She has also worked as the production designer for the National Award Winning Film Antardwand that was released last year by PVR.

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