After winning six prizes on Friday with his “Delhi Crime” series, Canadian-Indian director Richie Mehta is again making film project “The Price of Tea,” which was previously pitched in Macau, as his top priority.
Having attended the International Film Festival & Awards Macao’s project market with “Tea” in 2017, Mehta is back this year on the festival’s short film jury.
“Tea” is a China-set drama that follows a foreign visitor to Shanghai and takes place over a single day. The tourist makes a new acquaintance, is taken on a walking tour of the city, and engages in genuinely meaningful conversation. But after eight hours, he discovers that the whole thing is a commercial scam.
“The punchline, is my attitude towards the experience, how do you get start trusting people again? If you open up to people and take a hit, can you still open up again?” Mehta told Variety. He says that the original idea is derived from his own experience, albeit in another Chinese city.
Mehta had to put “Tea” on hold when the financing for “Delhi Crime” suddenly came together. The 7-part, fact-based series is produced by Golden Karavan and Ivanhoe Pictures, and played as a Netflix Original.
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“Delhi Crime” follows the police investigation into a brutal rape and murder that took place in 2012. Along the way it charts bureaucratic and political impediments, myriad human idiosyncrasies, and a determined team effort led by a woman police officer.
Lead actress Shefali Shai was among the prize winners at the Asian Academy Creative Awards ceremony in Singapore. And Mehta says Shah thoroughly deserves her award.
“That’s because when I first presented the story to her, and explained how I’d researched it, and would be directing it, I could still only go 50% of the way because of my gender, and my point of view. So, because it is the story of this woman, I’d need her to be principal collaborator on this,” said Mehta. “She’d need to lead, to take me to places I’m not capable of going. And she did.”
Ivanhoe and Golden Karavan now have a second season of “Delhi Crime” in preparation, to which Mehta is attached solely as an executive producer. “I won’t be directing,” he said. Mehta explained that he finds researching and preparation more rewarding that the process of shooting a movie.
Mehta is currently also researching another, clearly cherished project, about elephant poaching in India. “I’m trying to understand the issues, how it relates to criminal networks, and the value of wildlife contraband. It’ll probably end up being a series. I’m certainly writing it longform, as there is so much content,” Mehta said.
He referenced elephant poaching in the first episode of “Delhi Crime,” in a scene where a van full of tusks is pulled over at a checkpoint. Mehta calls the shot a “note to self.”