Friday, June 6, 2008

The lesson of heroes and villains. Black Friday.

It's difficult to write about this movie, because ultimately I feel like my thoughts are uninteresting and not of great value compared to two other stories; the one in the film and the one of the film. The first, of course, being the story of Mumbai blasts in 1993 and the investigation that proceeded - the events that created further tension between Hindu and Muslim groups, a tension that exists to this day and has since resulted in several outbursts of violence. The relevance and the significance of this are unquestionable. The second, the tale of how director Anurag Kashyap's docu-drama about these events got to be made and eventually, after much difficulty, released, is another very interesting one. It ties into all kinds of questions about the true nature of Indian film-making; the difficulties of financing films with challenging stories, the censorship, artistic realism and the politics.

The reason why my own thoughts feel slightly irrelevant next to all of this is simply because I don't feel like I know enough to tie my thoughts into these relevant issues the film highlights - or the controversies that rose from it highlight. But then, perhaps despite the fact that this is not the usual Indian film I view (very commercial, with stars and dance numbers to some extent at least), I should simply review it as such.

Black Friday portrays the story from two perspectives, the perpetrators and the policemen, the helplessness and immorality on both sides of the fence. The only actor I recognized and knew by name in the movie was KK Menon as the police officer appointed to lead the investigation. He does his usual good job, especially as the police result to drastic measures to get answers out of people. The struggle of the character is clear.

Another actor that stood out was Pavan Malhotra as Tiger Memon, the gangster-turned-businessman who pulls the strings of the entire blast operation and covers his traces with calculating ease. I don't know if truth is stranger than fiction, but reality is certainly scarier than tales of villains in films. Forget Gabbar Singh, the true big bad of modern day is fanaticism and the way it comes off from some of the speeches of the character - based, as all characters, on a real person - is frightening.

The film is overall solidly executed on all accounts. I adore the cinematography, making Mumbai out a dusty metropolis with slums and train stations, artificial lighting and crowded streets. The music and song lyrics compliment the shots perfectly and seem to convey the messages that the film otherwise avoids making. The chronology of the narrative is a little messed up - you basically find out the story as it becomes evident to the investigators, but the jumps in time can be confusing at first.

My only complaint with the film might be that the length and the narrative make the film slow-paced at times. Perhaps it's simply a trait of the genre; docu-dramas aren't usually the type of films that suck you in and fail to let you go, especially if you're not exactly too learned on the topic matter (I only knew the basics going in). I wasn't dying to see how the film ended, but wanted to get there anyhow.

As a finishing note, I am reminded of something I once read in a Bollywood online community: "Watching Indian films tells you about India as little as eating samosas does." While it's true that there is no way cinema can be a comprehensive, definitive source of information, it has to be said that films can guide one to find out about certain things and provide food for thought. This film is based on a book by Hussain Zaidi. Perhaps that's where I'll head next.


Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

I am beginning to really like Pawan Malhotra- he was one of the highlights of "DOn" for me, and the only part of "my nme is anthony" that was worth watching. I think I am going to watch Black Friday now- thanks!

ajnabi said...

I agree with you that films are a great catalyst to finding out more about tons of interesting subjects. If that book's available in English maybe I can find it here...

bollyviewer said...

Great post! Always meant to watch Black Friday since I realised Pawan Malhotra was in it. He was great in some of my childhood favorite DoorDarshan (Indian state television) serials and has another thoughtful movie with a similar subject matter - Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro. From your post its clear that I need to get hold of this movie, now! :-)

Nirvana said...


Visit my review of the movie at

And my blog at

Pawan Malhotra is an underrated star. Watch his other movie 'Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro'. He is an awesome actor



veracious said...

Shweta - Man I have no recollection of him in Don. Shame on me. :P

Ajnabi - I think the book is in English. That's what I always assumed, anyway.

Bollyviewer & nirvana - I'll check that movie out if I get the chance. Thanks for the rec.

kunalmistry said...

Well, this is a kind of movie where one needs to do some research before watching it to understand it better. If you are familiar with the basic information, it would be easier to comprehend.
The film was based on the book Black Friday written by S. Hussain Zaidi. The book includes much more than what is shown in the movie. The overall flow of the movie is backwards. First we are shown what was Black Friday and then the story goes backwards up to the point of its root cause i.e. demolishing of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. It is highly recommended that one should first read the book and then watch this movie.

Some tidbits:
- The movie release was delayed because of the stay order filed by those involved in the actual case since they felt that the movie may bias the court decision. The movie was released after the judgement was given for the case.
- The actor who is shown being interviewed (NEWSTRACK or something) during the last part of the movie is Imtiyaz Ali, the director of Jab We Met and Love Aaj Kal.
- The actor who plays Baadshah Khan is Aditya Shrivastav who also played a nice role in another Anurag Kashyap movie, Gulaal (another movie which needs some research before watching it).