Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

February 9, 2007

Bombay burning

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 7:10 pm

February 09, 2007

Cast: Kay Kay Menon, Pawan Malhotra, Akash Srivastava, Vijay Maurya

Director: Anurag Kashyap

This week I watched Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday, a film about the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai, and I’ve decided it’s one of the best films I’ve watched in recent years.

The film is based on journalist Hussain Zaidi’s heavily researched book by the same name, and what makes Black Friday so controversial – and the reason why it was such a battle to bring this film to screen – is because it takes names. It’s a brave film that documents exactly what happened, based on extensive research and interviews. No names have been changed, no imaginary characters have been created.

The film centers around police commissioner Rakesh Maria’s investigations on the blasts. We learn that the blasts were executed by Tiger Memon on the instruction of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.

The remarkable thing about this film is that the director makes a concentrated effort to provide us several points of view including those of Rakesh Maria, Dawood Ibrahim, Tiger Memon, and one of main bombers Baadshah Khan.

Now you need to understand, it’s never easy doing justice to so many viewpoints, it’s always tricky because you tend to suffocate the voice of some characters, while the others get a glowing presence. But that’s not the case in Black Friday. Anurag Kashyap manages to tell each character’s story quite well and he even succeeds in capturing what’s going on in their heads.

Just look at the way he translates the restlessness and subsequently the feeling of betrayal that bomber Baadshah Khan feels after he’s planted the bombs and fled from Mumbai. We tend to use the word ‘realistic’ very generously when we’re talking about films. We describe Madhur Bhandarkar and Nagesh Kukunoor as realistic filmmakers, but truth is most of their films are exaggerated to a great degree to create drama.Now of course that’s not a bad thing, because it’s the drama that grips you and engages you in most of their films.

But if you want to see what realism is really about, then Black Friday is the perfect example because Anurag Kashyap shoots the film in actual locations and he shoots it in such a natural, everyday manner that you feel like you’re watching the news and not a feature.

It can’t be easy recreating the Bombay of fourteen years ago, before the mobile phone revolution, before the satellite invasion, before the city was plastered with hoardings. But Kashyap does it all so well. He takes these crane shots in a manner that you’re looking down at the goings-on in these chawls and these bastis, he uses lighting so well, especially in those mono-chromatic interrogation scenes.

The actual blast scenes are shot in such a languid style, exactly the way a bystander would have experienced it – a sudden explosion disturbing the everyday routine of life in that location.

One cannot say enough about the actors cast to play all the central roles in this film. Kay Kay Menon as Rakesh Maria is just spectacular, as are Pawan Malhotra playing Tiger Memon and Akash Srivastava playing Baadshah Khan. The resemblance that Vijay Maurya bears to Dawood Ibrahim can only be described as frighteningly close, and the scene in which Dawood is first introduced to us in the film, is nothing short of genius. To be honest, it’s not just the leads, but every single actor even in bit roles who bring so much to the film.

Kashyap uses music magnificently, and the haunting rhythms of Indian Ocean truly reverberate, especially in the film’s closing credits.

You know, very few films are able to balance solid content with technical superiority, and Black Friday is definitely one of those rare films that succeeds in transporting you to its world while you’re in the cinema watching the film. The real success of Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday lies in the fact that unlike some other very good underworld films, it doesn’t sensationalise, nor glorify crime and violence. The director doesn’t shoot the film dramatically, yet there is so much drama in the plot that it feels like a roller-coaster ride.

Remember, it’s a film that doesn’t shy away from pointing fingers. Now although much of the credit for that must go to the source material – Hussain Zaidi’s book – you cannot deny that film brings to life that horrible incident so much more effectively than words on a page. If there is a problem that I have with the film, it is the fact that it is too long. Post intermission, Black Friday drags its feet and you find your attention wavering. About a half-hour shorter, this film would have been magnificent. As it is, in all its two-hours-forty-minute glory, it is still quite fantastic.

Believe me, no film yet has brought me so close to giving it a five out of five rating, but because it’s just a little short of greatness, I’m going to go with four of five for Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday. Please don’t dismiss it as a boring art film, don’t confuse it for a documentary, it’s a dramatic feature that will rock your boat. This is the kind of film to send to the Oscars. This is what we need to show, we’re capable of.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

1 Comment »

    In this movie about Hindu-muslim rage,
    You will find it hard to believe that the
    people depicted in this movie are real.
    You’ll find it hard to believe that the lines
    spoken by these people are real. You’ll
    find it hard to believe that the events
    depicted in this movie are real. You’ll find
    it hard to believe that human beings can
    turn into ruthless animals in the name of
    religion are real. Right from the start,
    Anurag Kashyap keeps to the edge of the
    seat unraveling the dark side of the 1993
    blasts and the hindu-muslim clashes.
    Right from the Babri Masjid incident to the
    bombay blasts, Anurag Kashyap taps all the
    chain of events that made that passage of
    time the bloodiest event in the history.
    Though shot in a non-linear structure of
    flash-backs and flash-forths, the director
    never looses the grip and tone of the
    movie at any point of time.
    i don’t remember watching an indian
    movie with so many spine chilling
    moments till i watched this movie. The
    entry of Dawood Ibrahim is one of those
    moments. The backdrop of Mumbai itself is
    a big help for this movie. One can wonder
    how the director was able to re-create the
    Mumbai of 1993. The execution of the
    blast scenes are so realistic that, the
    viewer can almost himself as a by-stander
    on the spot, experiencing this blast.
    So much of this movie also belongs to the
    cast and the fantastic casting itself. Every
    single actor brings so much life to their
    respective real-life characters and their
    performances are nothing short of
    perfection. The characters of the ruthless
    don Tiger Memon and the confused
    terrorist Baadshah Khan are the life lines of
    this movie. So, are their potrayals thanks
    to Pavan Manhotra for his ruthless
    performance as tiger memon and Aurag
    Srivastav (Abhijeet of CID) for brilliantly
    displaying all the emotions ranging from
    loyalty to confusion and frustration to self-
    introspection. Get ready to drop your jaws,
    for you see the striking resemblance of the
    actor Chandra Mourya who plays Dawood
    Ibrahim with Dawood Ibrahim itself. Kay
    Kay menon plays police commissioner
    Rakesh Maria with required
    professionalism and stature in his Body
    But the Ultimate Master of this Master
    piece is the Director Anurag Kashyap
    Himself. Never does he lets this movie
    stray on the tracks of a dumb bollywood
    formula Movie. Nor does he gives a
    Documentary feel or an art movie feel to
    it. He just makes a fantastic Drama, So
    realistic and So gripping, neither you’ll find
    a documentary, nor you’ll find any other
    source of media, that can describe those
    chain of horrors that happened in Mumbai
    in those dark days of 1992-93. Am quiet
    sure it would have bought India It’s first
    best foreign movie oscar if it had a proper

    Comment by Mohammed Najeeb — February 19, 2013 @ 11:51 pm

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