Cast: Kay Kay, Pawan Malhotra, Aditya Srivastav
Direction: Anurag Kashyap
It rocks because it’s real -- a shock reminder of the fanaticism that ripped the city apart by its roots. Although much is said about Mumbai’s survival spirit, there is little doubt that besides the staggering body count, a part of everyone died during those unimaginable days.
Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday re-opens the wounds of the ’93 serial bomb blasts. The outcome is a Samson-hard blow on anyone’s face who has forgotten the tragedy in the city of Eastman Colour dreams.
How the hell did he do it? Defiantly uncompromising, writer-director Kashyap has fired a salvo at the gutless powers-that-were who just laughed all the way to their cushy homes to watch the carnage on TV. And it also slams the perpetrators of the shameful blasts, looking at them with the stealth of a compassionate reporter – look, this is what they did.
The docu-drama structure is so skilfully employed that you’re gripped. Even if there’s a somewhat staple scene, like a blast suspect being chased through the meanest streets, it’s superbly enacted and shot. If the out-of-wind cop requests the criminal, “Slow down yaar,” that moment is as believable as the police force’s use of bestial brutality.
In fact, the ‘human’ asides like the hungry investigating officer pinching a banana from a suspect’s fridge is entirely plausible. Ditto the cold reality of the D-gang shivering in their pants during the heinous bomb-blast operations and the impotence of some of them on being denied visas to an El Dorado in Dubai.
The absence of a plot with a beginning-middle-and-end is a brave gambit. What could have become a banal thriller is an in-depth inquiry – recreating the various blasts from the Share Market to the Juhu Centaur and blending that with multi-media archival footage. Commercially this is dicey. But artistically and politically, Kashyap fills in a deep void.
Obviously, he is no stranger to dynamite stick cinema like Gillo Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers (1966), Fernando Solas’ Hour of the Furnaces (1968) and Costa-Gavras’ Z (1969). Not surprisingly, his camera swoops vulture-like into the smoking debris and wings off to hide-outs in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and the Middle East. Maximum authenticity is obtained from what seems like a shoe-string budget.
From the first frame, the all-too-real drama is on. A tortured prisoner cries that a deadly blast operation is being planned. The warning’s ignored by the cops; Mumbai blows up. Slivers of clues point to Tiger Memon and his cohorts. A hide-and-seek game commences which hasn’t ended to this day.
As much as could be told and more has been articulated by Kashyap, explaining the film’s two-year freeze. That it’s finally before you – to agree or disagree with – is a triumph of freedom of expression, delayed but not denied completely. Of late, Mr and Mrs Iyer, Amu and Parzania have been eloquent pleas for communal harmony. This infinitely more raw and rough effort also belongs to the must-witness-and-value category.
On the tech front, S Natarajan Subramaniam’s photography (never mind the excessive red filter prison scenes) and Aarti Bajaj’s editing chops are first-rate. The near three-hour length and repetition of docu-material could have been avoided..but well to each his own.
Kashyap’s direction is unbelievably mature and searching. If you have any arguments, it’s about the sketchy quality of some of the characters. Kay Kay Menon as the investigating police officer is first-rate -- but pray why dunk him in a mini-bath whenever he feels oh-so-horrible? Pawan Malhotra’s Tiger Memon is passable. The most impressively nuanced performance comes from Aditya Srivastav as Badshah Khan, a criminal confronted with a no-exit.
So there it is, the heart-rending Black Friday -- compulsory viewing any day of the week.