Here was a new type of script, with a story that moves in a certain manner in the first half and has a very different style in the second half, but then it comes together in the end. Also, it wasn’t like the family dramas – of an elderly parents and their youthful children – that we were used to. It would require someone with confidence to read that script and be willing to make the movie. And Joshiy and Mammootty were confident and decided to go for it. It was an ‘extraordinary’ hit and heralded a change in the Malayalam industry.
This was cemented with Rajavinte Makan, which came a year later in 1987 amid several other films he wrote. It was a thriller with a difference; an action movie without too many stunts. It was a ‘super duper’ hit and revived the career of director Thambi Kannanthanam, who had made a few unsuccessful films, and also made Mohanlal a superstar.
Dennis went on to make several successful films with Thambi and Joshiy, including the 1987 record hit New Delhi. Mammootty was faced with a few films that had bombed, and this gave him a huge re-entry. Again, this was not an easy film, as a Central minister is an antagonist and the media is shown as being manipulated. There were a couple of stays ordered and it was uncensored, but producer Jubilee Joseph boldly stood by the film, and it paid off. The film was so appreciated that, like several of his films, it was remade in Hindi, Tamil and Kannada.
I had done a few films that had done fairly okay at the box office, with Mammootty and Mohanlal, and the former asked Dennis to write a script for me. He had already committed about 10 scripts, but when he says okay to a project, he delivers and that is how he wrote Kottayam Kunjachan for me. It was set in a Christian milieu, so I sat with him throughout the scripting to understand the nuances. It was a record hit of 1990 and today, you cannot talk about Mammootty oeuvre without mentioning this film, which had him in a bit of a comic avatar.
We worked well and did six more films together. Mammukka and I coaxed him to do Kottayam Kunjachan 2 and 3 – for which he would casually narrate the stories – but he was totally not keen on repeating his characters. Mani Ratnam had invited him to write and also do a negative character in his 1990 film, Anjali, but he turned down the offer.
There would always be about 20 industry people, from directors to actors and musicians, at his house for discussions and so on. And you could always find enough food to feel about 20 at lunch time at his place. But in the later years, he became reclusive because of personal issues, and also turned to religion.
Apart from being a brilliant writer, he was a good human being. He did not have a single mean bone in his body, and has always been helpful to new writers and actors. He wanted to see others do well. He has spent months mentoring and helping new scriptwriters working on my films. He gave a push to the careers of Suresh Gopi, whom he cast him in Rajavinte Makan and New Delhi, singer MG Sreekumar, composer SP Venkatesh and lyricist Shibu Chakravarthy. He was also a talented musician; in fact, he was supremely skilled in several things.
As told to Anna Mathews