August 19, 2015 By Ali Ahsan

A Black Friday in Bombay: Film Review

A critical appraisal of Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday (2007) in the aftermath of Yaqoob Memon’s execution for his alleged involvement in the Bombay blasts, which the film purports to narrate.


An adaptation of the book by author/journalist S. Hussain Zaidi, Black Friday, released in 2007 took three years to see the light of day. It is a movie that sets out to leave no stone unturned on the investigations that followed the 1993 Bombay blasts. Director Anurag Kashyap deserves plaudits for the sheer persistence with which he has adhered to his work. It is a sensitive topic and by the end of the movie, the bitter truth leaves the viewer with a lump in his throat. The serial bomb blasts that tore the city of Bombay into shreds was a repercussion of the bloody riots that preceded it during December 1992 and January 1993. The riots left around 1500 people dead and increased communal tension. Just when the city was recovering from the trauma, a series of 13 bomb blasts around the city on the 12th of March 1993 led to what is now called as, Black Friday. It left more than 300 people dead and over 1500 people maimed or injured.

The movie begins with Gul Muhammed, one among the trained bombers, wanting to see his brother released in return for the confessions he makes. The police takes it to be mere bluff. Three days later, there are multiple blasts in different parts of the city. The first scene at the crowded Dalal Street depicts Bombay in all its bustle. Normal life is thrown into utter chaos at mid day when the first bomb explodes at the Bombay stock exchange. More blasts are to follow through the fateful afternoon near Shiv Sena bhavan and other major locations around the city. The findings from an abandoned Maruthi Van and the readymade clues found inside it at one of the blast sites throws the investigation wide open.

Tiger bhai or Tiger Memon (Pavan Malhotra) as he is known, the mastermind behind the attacks upon directions by underworld don Dawood Ebrahim takes off to Dubai on the day of the blasts. The rest of the members who were involved in the mission are soon asked to flee from the city as news of the inroads made into the case reaches their ears. The investigation picks up pace with the appointment of Deputy Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria (Kay Kay Menon). The arrest of Tiger Memon’s manager, Asghar Muqadam (Nawazuddin Siddiqi), the owner of the scooter with a bomb that refused to go off gives direction to the case. Evidence points to the use of RDX with shrapnel in the making of the bombs. The casting in the movie involves the use of bit part actors with useful roles assigned to each of them.

The arrest of the accomplices involved in the crime is a little drawn out but comes out necessary since this is the only attempt at a little humour throughout the movie. Most of the accused are forced to live a life of anonymity and secrecy. The film’s ability to extract the best out of each character is its strong point. The long ordeal involving the arrest of Badshah Khan (Aditya Srivastava) is the last piece of the puzzle. The turmoil inside Badshah Khan when he realises the complex position he finds himself in is exposited brilliantly by the director. The interrogation of Badshah by DCP Maria inside the jail with a reddish tint is one of the most intense scenes in the movie. The scene binds together the two characters and gives vent to their frustrations that developed during the course of the events.

The movie has a documentary style of film making, a cinéma vérité where the truth behind the events and objectivity of opinion is of prime importance. The background score by Indian Ocean does justice to the storyline. The running time of 2 hours 23 minutes is a tad too lengthy but one may consider the heavy research and the number of characters that have been portrayed in the film.

The last chapter winds the movie to a close in stunning fashion. The reason behind the retaliation by Tiger Memon and his personal vendetta against the political leaders of the time and the state machinery is elaborated here as a prologue. The detention of Yakub Memon (Imtiaz Ali) who returns to India to aid the investigation and provide evidence against his own brother is the irony of it all. The movie lays bare facts in a platter. Anybody who ever wondered what exactly goes into the making of a ‘terrorist’ should go watch the movie. However, it has to be said that in the context of debates and dialogues generated by the execution of Yaqoob Memon, the film, by sharply focusing on the black Friday and the blasts and by excluding the narratives of riots preceding it (the pre-text of black Friday), does not move beyond images of Muslim villains. So it hardly helps us deconstruct the logic of shrouding Bal Thackeray’s corpse-mastermind though he was of the Bambay riots-in Tricolor, while ‘the accidental villain’ is publicly denounced.


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