New Delhi Times Film Cut by Mitrajit Bhattacharya

Editor Pande raises questions the role of a journalist covering a bloody riot he has just witnessed, whether journalists sometimes forget to empathize with the tragedy they are covering in their quest for that perfect story or photograph. His photographer Anwar replies, empathy happens but only when it is the first time.

New Delhi Times- a movie well ahead of times- is a rare pure genre film dealing with journalism, a beat missed by mainstream Bollywood altogether. The movies deal with honesty the subject of political corruption, backed by convincing storyline and screenplay, based on credible research. Gulzar, who wrote the film’s screenplay, is clearly at play to provide an authentic framework, the film so needed.

The movie takes a look at the dirty nexus between politics, media and business, through a newspaper editor’s eyes into a political assassination. Vikas Pande, brilliantly portrayed by Shashi Kapoor, goes to Ghazipur, his hometown to find himself amidst a communal riot that has broken out. He soon uncovers a political assassination, falls prey to a corrupt system; stumbling upon a deadly plot that upholds the unholy nexus between politics, media and business.

Allegedly triggered by two rival politicians- Chief Minister Trivedi and an ambitious MLA Ajay Singh, played by the brilliant Om Puri, the riot ends up killing close to 50 people. When Pande accidentally meets his colleague and photographer Anwar, played by M K Raina, he asks him what he’s doing in a small town in eastern UP. Anwar replies, “I came here for the story.”

Filmmaker Ramesh Sharma is able to convey the fundamental duality that plagues all journalists- the thrill of chasing a ‘good story’ that is also a human tragedy- in one conversation between the two colleagues when Anwar says “Yahaan aaya toh pata chala dange ho rahe hain, mazaa aa gaya… bas camera le ke toot pada”. Pande is puzzled, asks, “Tumhe riots mein mazaa aata hai? Anwar explains, “Tumhe ek achchi story mil gayi, mujhe kuchh achche photographs. Bas.

 

Much of the film rides on the authentic portrayal by Kapoor of Pande, the middle-aged upright, hardworking and hands on-editor of the newspaper. Kapoor’s nod to play the role was half job done as it was unusual those days for stars of his stature to pick out real, almost deglamourized roles like these. He lent dignity and credibility to Pande’s character. New Delhi Times remains a milestone in his career and Hindi cinema. Kapoor remains among the rare leading men in Bollywood who was willing to look beyond mainstream and support projects that needed to tell an important story. Indian cinema will be indebted to him forever.

 

In the important role as his wife Nisha, a lawyer, Sharmila Tagore advises her husband, unsuccessfully though, to stop pursuing the case. The lucky break at the end comes through Nisha, when she is approached by an old man looking for his missing daughter. Pursuing the story, Pande confronts Ajay Singh. But there is a twist in the tale.

Sharma and Gulzar were sublime in dealing with a complex subject set on the backdrop of gritty UP politics. Common in today’s OTT programming, New Delhi Times at the time of its release clearly dealt with an unknown genre, that too with utmost clarity. The technical aspects of the film- cinematography by Subrata Mitra, editing Renu Saluja and music by Louis Banks stood out. The efforts of the team were paid off handsomely with the rich haul at the National Film Awards.

 

Watch on YouTube.

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