Thursday, September 10, 2009

Black Friday

Calling Black Friday a bollywood film is possibly the worst possible remark you could make on a film that kicks open so many manholes on the tarmac of this dirt-road that's become of the Indian judicial system. Black Friday never made it to many theaters in India. But thanks to a bunch of movie critics, people like Anurag Kashyap who are passionate about film making, people who elevate it's status beyond that of plain simple entertaiment slash art included 'power' in its definition, and the Locarno International Film Festival, Black Friday reaches out to people like me three years after it was 'released', touches my heart, caresses it, toys it with some pitch black humour, then ceaslessly sticks needles in it and makes it bleed in agony.

I'm not a mumbaiite, haven't even visited the city. But there's so much I hear everyday about 'the city that never sleeps' of this part of the world, in every form of human communiqe possible. Media used in a loosely generalized term could be just one of them. When people refer to it as the cultural heart of india, I sometimes begin to think of it in literal terms. So literally in fact that a pinch of that heart might spew something so basic and human on your face. That definetly is not human blood. And I'm talking about enough whatever it is that floods the entire nation's capitals, inundate it's roads, turn corporate offices and government buildings, legislative assemblies and courts of justice, slums and prisons into swamps of humanity. Messed up, fucked up and jinxed, but amoebiac, and rolling along like a huge, crazy, magnetic juggernaut that draws everyone and everything in it's path towards that heart. Everyone is affected by something in it, rather than something in it affecting everyone. And that's exactly what turns it into that juggernaut fuelled by crazy cosmos. And those who we see in this film are definitely not a part of that. Or atleast, I pray they shouldn't be.

Black Friday's prologue is an interrogation sequence that's subtly hilarious at first. As the detainee begins to blabber something in disjointed sentences, you find yourself horrified at the fact that you know what he's blabbering about. You suddenly begin to understand very clearly what the policeman is seemingly incapable of understanding. Naturally he considers all this nonsense and continues beating him, while we whisper to ourselves 'holy shit, why doesn't the motherfucker listen?'. The following scene is the scene of the blasts moments before the blood pours. Things seems so normal like as if you're watching 1993 Bombay through a CCTV camera panning these important places. The stuff that you see is every day's happenstance. The more you feel the normalcy, the more you get nervous. You know whats going to happen, because youre safe and comfortable in the future tense of this moment. You wait for it to happen, not wanting to be surprised but it succeeds in catching you unawares. A truly frightening moment in Indian cinema. And when it happens, a small part of you feels a sense of relief, while the bigger you cringes and sighs. Black Friday has descended upon Bombay. It's one-thirty in the afternoon, on the 12th of March, 1993. Curtains raise. Fire-extinguisher ready at hand, caution please.

Anurag has cleverly divided his film into chapters, as done in the book (by Husseini Zaidi) on which the movie is based. The labyrinthine police investigation, if treated in any other way could have otherwise started to feel dull, drab and dis-interesting to a movie audience more attuned to heroes, heroines, villians, fights and songs. Kashyap has just made it easier for you to digest the foaming truth. Clues, apprehensions, interrogations and confessions.. it's a huge bloody dossier by the time you re-witness the blasts towards the end of the film in a haunting epilogue. And to lovingly strip that dossier off any bureaucratic wrapper, there are the character portrayals that can challenge even the best performances of our very own, ridiculous, boringly annual film-fare awardees.

First there is Kay Kay as Inspector Rakesh Maria. He ain't your typical goody-goody-policewallah. Yet, he achieves what his role was intended for. Pressure. He makes the audience reel under the burden placed on his shoulders. So much that you feel like slapping that female journalist who glibly challenges him with human rights violation against the detainees in an interview.

Then there are Aditya Srivastava and Pawan Malhotra who portray Badshah Khan and the underworld don Tiger Memon (Spelled as Tiger Menon in the DVD for 'legal' purposes). At the beginning both these men infuse so much wrath into their characters, you begin to question after a while, the very essence of their humanity. You feel repulsed at the very notion of coming within proximity of these people. They then open their hearts out to you. You now touch your forehead and feel stupid for judging people with your conceptions. That's the purpose of these characters. Make the audience see what exactly is that which makes these people take that eye for an eye.

And finally, there is Vijay Maurya. Ah, if only there could be another film about the blasts, with a more surreal, hypothetical ending, I'd cast him as the feared Dawood Ibrahim once again and have him caned on-screen for every life the real don has cost us. Atleast that could be an empty, but visual treat for everybody. That is, in case the man himself dies a peaceful death without any remorse, far away from the eyes of the Indian judicial system. That's the effect Mr. Vijay has on you. He has a screen-time of less than five minutes. And in those minutes, you feel scared of him. You feel angry at him. You are horrifyingly awed by his power of prescence. And your body freezes as you realize the terror he so coolly, and precisely orchestrates over innocent human lives, all this a meagre by-product of the deadly commerce he indulges in. Snap. Just like that.

The camerawork is grainy, and efforts have been made to give the '90s Bombay' look to today's Mumbai. The interrogation scenes in fluorescent red gives an eerie, uneasy feel. The chase sequences are downright brilliant. If you've marveled at Danny Boyle's opening slum-roller-roaster ride at the beginning of Slumdog Millionaire, know now that those scenes were bases upon the 12-minute police chase through the crowded Dharavi slum that gets both hilarious and exhausting. That's because you're meant to feel exhausted. The film has no songs but is still as long as your everyday Hindi film. The pacing is fantastic though. Kashyap's direction, his witty lines, puns and his basic, obvious intention spews honesty for his work. He's proud of what he does, and why not?

The indian cinema industry holds an annual farce fete called the Indian Filmfare awards. They have curious categories of awards like Best Action, Best Dialogue, Best Scene of the Year, Best Story and of course, alongside all this, an entirely unique category: Best Screenplay. Beats me, who the fuck started this all shit. Not that I really care for these awards, but the amount of recognition and money it garners for movies that could be churned out of a rickety roadside potter's wheel of clay. All that is denied for movies like Black Friday. I mean, for example if Aditya Srivastava was ever nominated for his performance, god bless him, he probably wouldn't have won even if he wore a tux sewn out of currency notes. It's because of the fact that the very people who we witness in this movie, still rule is land, or rather whats underneath that.. with fists of iron.

Thankfully, less polluted lands like Cannes and Venice choose to honour people like Mr. Kashyap in their recognition of quality film making. Kashyap was a member of the jury at the Venice Film Festival in 2004 and once again this year.

By Fazil []


  1. The movie was incredibly shot and was very courageous too. I saw this movie a long time back and had written a review then. You could go through it

  2. good review
    long time back i saw this movie.