New Delhi Times Movie Review: Shashi Kapoor’s Hard-Hitting Drama
The Showman Raj Kapoor might have coined the term 'taxi actor' for Shashi Kapoor owing to his focus on quantity of films rather than quality, but the fact remains that Shashi Kapoor was one of the most solid performers of his time and his 1986 film New Delhi Times is a testament to the fact.
When it comes to exploring corruption in the media, very few films have taken up the responsibility of exposing the rot within and New Delhi Times is one of such films, which is relevant even today (No wonder the film bagged three National awards!)
The film, which has been directed by Ramesh Sharma, revolves around Vikas Pande (Kapoor), an upright executive editor of a daily 'New Delhi Times', which is run by an honest businessman Jagannath Poddar (Manohar Singh)
When Pande decides to investigate the murder of a MLA, which seems linked to a bigger political conspiracy, the incorruptible journalist is dragged into a quicksand of lies, deception, political manipulations and murder.
All evidence leads to the dynamic political leader Ajay Singh (Om Puri), but politics is rarely ever so simple, a fact that Pande learns the hard way as he goes on unraveling the mysterious murder case.
At a time when middle-aged actors did not play lead characters, Shashi Kapoor, who was conferred the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award, plays the upright editor with a mature dignity. Gone is the baby-faced younger brother, who had said Mere paas maa hai with an endearing naiveté in Deewaar. Shashi Kapoor's Pande is a man of the world, who nevertheless has not developed a cynical streak despite the surrounding environment. Shashi has played the role with dignity and gravitas, reminding us once again that he is not just a performer, but a superb actor as well.
Sharmila Tagore plays Pande's supportive wife Nisha and though she does not get to do much in the film, her practical attitude comes across as a breath of fresh air after Pande's burning idealism. The film also stars another gem-Om Puri, who is impeccable as ever in his role as Ajay Singh, who becomes the focus of Vikas Pande's investigations.
Apart from exploring the politics-media nexus, New Delhi Times also raises questions about the impartiality of the media and whether it is possible for media-persons to detach themselves from the tragedies that they cover.
In a poignant scene, Pande gently chides a photographer for enjoying shooting a riot and the latter says candidly that such things used to affect him when such incidents happened rarely but not anymore, when riots and law and order situations are something that he ends up covering so regularly.
The film is also worthy of mention because of its realism and simplicity. There are no long-winded speeches about truth and justice or passionate soliloquies, considering the fact that the film is a drama. The dialogues are quite real and the protagonist is not 'heroic' at all, just a media professional going about his job with a quiet idealism that come across as more believable and relatable.
For fans of Shashi Kapoor and realistic films, New Delhi Times is indeed a double treat.