Monday, March 23, 2015

Black Friday (2004)

Director: Anurag Kashyap
Writers:  Anurag Kashyap, Hussain Zaidi
Cast:       Kay Kay Menon, Pavan Malhotra, Aditya Srivastava
Language: Hindi

Black Friday is a film about the investigations following the 1993 serial bomb blasts, told through the different stories of the people involved-police, conspirators, victims, middlemen. It is based on the book, 'Black Friday- The True Story of the Bombay Blasts', written by Hussain Zaidi. Widely considered as Anurag Kashyap's masterpiece, it was not allowed to be released in India by the Censor Board for two years. 

The film begins with a quote from Gandhi: 'An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind'. It is then followed up with the actual bomb blasts on that particular day and the investigating officers gets an immediate breakthrough by getting hold of a few un-exploded vehicles. The suspects are drawn up pretty quickly and rounded up one by one. This part of the film is problematic for me because of the slow pacing coupled with the fact that I really didn't care much for the stream of names that they come up with since they are just foot soldiers involved in execution. It also involves a 12 minute foot chase to capture a suspect through the slums and this scene is said to have inspired Danny Boyle while making a similar foot chase in his Oscar winning shitfest, Slumdog Millionaire. I found Anurag's intentions on this scene just to be as a show-off since we are not at all emotionally invested with any of the characters involved, be it the Police or the suspect, to actually care about it. 

The film picks up with the introduction of the character, Badshah Khan, who is another one of those foot soldiers. He takes a north Indian tour under the orders of his boss, the chief schemer. Over the course of it he falls out with him as he gradually come to realize that his boss does not care much particularly about his fate and he finally gets caught by the Police from his village. This part takes significant screen time but it doesn't matter because we get emotionally invested with him and his frustrations give credibility to his decision to become a state witness. We get the entire planning involved in executing the blasts through him and details about the involvement of Tiger Memon. It then gets on to other characters who fills in on other details like how the RDX and firearms got into their hands and how Pakistan and ISI were involved with the same. The precursor to the blasts, the destruction of Babri Masjid and the ensuing riots in Bombay where Muslims were killed in large numbers by Hindu mobs, are shown in the final sequence. The bomb blasts were retaliation for the same and the film manages to condemn both sides in an ambivalent fashion without going overboard. The quote from Gandhi is shown again at the end and the message seems to be that there are around 600 million Hindus and 200 million Muslims in India. You don't have much of a choice but to coexist peacefully unless you want to fulfill the said quote. 

Overall it is good watch but the first hour of the film is really poor and uninteresting. He could have easily made it in about two hours and seemed to be just lazy with the editing since two and half hours is not that long by Indian film standards. I had the same problem with Gangs of Wasseypur as well. The performances are very understated, which is good, and the scenes involving Dawood Ibrahim were kick ass. The lead investigating officer is the main character in the film and his performance is particularly excellent as is the case with the guy who plays Tiger Memon. Good on Anurag Kashyap to humanize all the characters involved. The docu procedural style does not work uniformly well but the second half of the film largely salvages it by compensating for the drab first half.

Rating: 3.5/5