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Monday, February 12, 2007

Review: Black Friday

Black Friday (thriller)
Cast : Kay Kay Menon, Pavan Malhotra, Aditya Srivastava
Direction : Anurag Kashyap

Fourteen years later, India — and the world — can still feel the reverberations of the blasts that ripped apart the fabric of our ostensibly secular, seemingly tolerant, somewhat cosmopolitan society. The hammering of the pickforks atop the moss-laden dome of the Babri Masjid followed by the boom of kala sabun (black soap, the underworld code for RDX) in the overcrowded streets of Mumbai made sure that the scars of Indian misgovernance would never be forgotten. May be that is why Anurag Kashyap’s films don’t seem dated... despite taking up an incident that happened so long ago; despite remaining in the cans for almost two years since its completion. On the contrary, the menace still seems so real and so very frightening, almost like one more bomb waiting to explode in the face of our complacency. The penultimate shot of Tiger Memon (Pavan Malhotra) scowling down the Mumbai horizon as he flings his unstubbed cigarette over the city-line declaring: akkha Mumbai ko jala dalega , the vacant stares of the foot soldiers of politico-religious wars and the counter-terror tactics of the state (read police) that arbitrarily picks up suspects and tortures them through the cold red night light, rubbishing all claims to human rights violations, fills you with a chill. Who says the lessons of history have been learnt? The terror is still palpable. The peddlers of the politics of hate are still active. And the Indian state is still clueless as Black Fridays, Thursdays and Saturdays increasingly become a part of world and national politics. It was indeed a difficult film to make, yet the director has managed to grapple with all the loose threads and put them together in a composite whole. So much so, the film moves like a taut thriller, without ideology colouring the sepia frames. The camera penetrates through the dark and grimy interiors of a city which is quite literally a tinderbox, waiting to implode anytime. The plot of the 1993 bomb blasts is painstakingly recreated and the long list of characters in the transnational drama are given body and form. The ones that remain as key players are the investigating cop (Kay Kay Menon), Tiger Memon (Pavan Malhotra), the kingpin and Badshah Khan (Aditya Srivastava), his lieutenant who becomes an archetype for the misled, unemployed Muslim youth that is currently mushrooming in mofussil India. And yes, looming in the shadows, you can also ferret out the sepulchral silhouette of Dawood Bhai as he towers over his native city from distant Dubai. It's powerful, pointed and hard-hitting cinema that needs to be seen. Not for entertainment, but for soch-vichar. And no, let’s have no state, city, town, village, panchayat, self-appointed moral-political custodian acting as a super censor, this time please.

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