New Delhi is a Malayalam film released 34 years back and that fact still amazes me. The production quality where the movie is shot in different locations on big canvas is breathtaking. The film consists of such a big cast with terrific performances from each and every actor. Joshi’s making and Shyam’s music all adds to factors on how New Delhi looks like a movie that has not aged after so many years. But at the heart of it is arguably the finest screenplay written for a Malayalam Action movie.
A look at how Dennis Joseph structured his script brilliantly in New Delhi. Rest in Peace Genius!
Today I look at New Delhi and think that it could have been a 10 hour TV show for today’s times ! A lot happen through the movie with so many important characters that each sub-plot could have been a different episode. How G.K ( Mammootty) becomes close to Ananthan(Vijayaraghavan) and Gang could be an episode. How Ananthan and gang along with Vishnu(Thiagarajan) escape from jail could be another episode. How this gang kill the Delhi Judge or the Angolian King could be other episodes and so on. But Dennis Joseph smartly packs all this to a 2.5 hour movie . In the first shot of the movie, he has established that Ananthan likes and respects G.K . You see Ananthan is seen more happy than G.K that latter’s name is picked among the inmates chosen for release. You don’t need a detailed backstory. With dialogues and quick scenes, Dennis establishes relationship between characters.
Ananthan, Vishnu and co are an integral part of the story that helps G.K take his revenge. At some point, you may think how could G.K realize that this gang would be faithful and loyal to him. Its achieved in this one scene, where Ananthan tells G.K that he is not only ready to take the beating. He adds that if he comes out , he doesn’t mind killing Shankar(Devan) and Panikkar(Jagannatha Varma). You take a look at G.K’s face and you realize this could be the first moment where he started devising the revenge plan in his mind.
Coming to the core conflict between the protagonist and antagonists itself, I haven’t seen another Malayalam movie where the hero’s motive to take revenge on the villains is so well developed. Even after spoiling his life in all possible ways, when Panikkar and Shankar arrive at the jail, they still don’t leave him alone. In this scene they are adamant that he should use his paralyzed right hand to take the sweet. ( that’s the hand that they only damaged). How do you get your viewers to have so much anger towards the villains ? Dennis Joseph starts his work in the first 5 minutes of the movie.
The revenge itself becomes satisfying for the viewers, because G.K waits and waits until he gets his right moment. He not only comes out of the jail and takes years to become a successful with his New Delhi Diary Newspaper, he also fakes his friendship with G.K and Panicker, before starting to hit back. How Panikkar starts listening to the tape is again smart writing. The tape starts with -” Namaskaram Panikkar chetta”. and then the tone immediately changes to -” Njan ellam marannu ennu karuthi alleda…” ( You thought I forgot everything ?). Dennis Joseph’s dialogue writing style is minimal and to the point.
Its also the focus on each and every character in New Delhi’s writing that makes it special. Even when the film is about G.K and his transformation to a heartless criminal minded media tycoon, Dennis Joseph doesn’t miss out on fleshing out his other characters. Maria ,portrayed superbly by Sumalatha, senses at each step what G.K is up to next. When she says the King was innocent and shouldn’t have been killed or when she requests him to not take his anger on Suresh ( Suresh Gopi) whom his sister (Urvashi) loved, it just tells us how Maria knows G.K like no one else.
…and that Maria gets to shoot Shankar giving closure to her part of the story is just the apt ending for the movie !
Think about how VIshnu ( Thiagarajan) has so less dialogues in the movie and yet leaves such a big impact. The character became so popular after the movie that Thiagarajan even went on to direct a solo movie in Tamil based on Salem Vishnu. Its the detailing that is the key. I still think about the moment before Vishnu dies at the end in the swimming pool. When Shankar comes in close at the pool to confirm he is dead, Vishnu picks up the gun and attempts to kill Shankar one more last time before the police shoots him down. You could remove that scene and there is no difference in the movie. But when Vishnu does that, it shows the character’s determination and loyalty to G.K and a small detail makes it a memorable character.
Suresh ( Suresh Gopi) is another well developer character even after coming in late in the movie. When Suresh and Uma (Urvashi) arrives at G.K’s office with their photos of the Angolian King’s murder , G.K hands them the next day’s first page with this same news. Suresh immediately knows what has happened. He meets Maria and expresses his anger on how New Delhi Diary and Vishwanathan gets all the news before others. He bets to Uma that her photos won’t be published in the next day. Its a less than 10 minute sequence, but Dennis Joseph had given Suresh his moments to score above others in this short period.
Even Uma (Urvashi) gets her moment when she is the one who tears their flight tickets (to fly out of DelhI) and finally approves G.K to start the newspaper after release from jail. Could G.K have not taken that decision? Maybe it was just Dennis Joseph’s way of making every character feel important !
Finally as an action movie demands, there is no dearth for thrilling moments in the screenplay. During a long well executed chase where Ananthan and Vishnu is behind Suresh, G.K decides to not kill Vishnu. He rushes and reaches the spot, but just as he shouts and warn Ananthan, VIshnu from the opposite side shoots at Suresh. G.K just gets a moment to express his dissent and realizes how he has failed his sister. But then watch out for how they immediately rush and flee away from the scene just before the police arrive !
Talk about edge of the seat writing, the entire sequence where Vishnu and co escape from the jail , go directly to kill the Delhi judge and when G.K gets his first edition ready at the same time is top notch writing for a thriller genre !
The portrayal of G.K and Maria’s relationship was quite different too. Maria continues to address G.K “Sir” after he releases from the jail. In the end, he finally tells Maria that all the revenge he planned was for both Maria and himself together. Nothing was for him alone. Does that make G.K more humane to the viewers after all the crimes he have done ? Maybe not. But Dennis Joseph had done his part.
Finally let’s come to G. Krishnamoorthy’s characterization itself. Mammootty had performed stunts in several action movies before and after. He had got swag slow motion introductions. He had done songs in commercial entertainers. But in the movie where he was acclaimed the Superstar and the movie which finally turned his fortunes after a series of flops, he doesn’t have stunts. He doesn’t have a stylish intro. He doesn’t have songs. What Dennis Joseph instead writes for Mammootty are terrific moments that completely taps the brilliant actor in him. Take the scene where after Panikkar’s death, G.K drinks alone, takes the newspaper , reads the title of his own story over and again and feel the pride in his victory ! They don’t make commercial movies like New Delhi now !