As the end credits rolled on the screen, I was numb. My hands and feet were shaking. That is the kind of impact Black Friday had on me and on most of the audience present in the plush Los Angeles auditorium. I have not seen a hard-hitting and realistic movie as this in a long long time. I fail to recall the last one of this genre which rattled the depths of my heart and mind.
Black Friday is brilliant. In every sense of the word. Being absolutely true to the actual happenings of that fateful March afternoon, BF narrates the tale as it happened. No interpretations here. And no "These characters have no resemblance to any person living or dead.." in the beginning of the movie as well. BF is about real people. About a a real incident. Or rather series of incidents. The characters on screen have real names. Right from the police, to the criminals and even to the politicians. No one has been given a shield to hide behind.
Authenticity is its biggest USP. Shot in real locations across Bombay, BF successfully manages to create the 1993 era. When no one had a cell phone. When hoardings on the street were not as huge and daunting as they are today. And when names plates of vehicles were painted, white letters on a black background instead of the vice-versa of today. Such is the kind of detailing and research that has gone into the movie. And it shows. Also the locations - all of them - the blast sites, the hideouts, the obscure by-lanes of Bombay, the dense maze of slum dwellings which served as hideouts and a whole lot of other places. BF's camera captures them absolutely realistically.
The story(!) itself is pretty engaging from the word go. Right from the first scene where one guy at a police station dramatically confesses, "sahab, sheher mein bomb fatne waale hain" it has you hooked. Totally. The events, the people - Rakesh Maria, the DCP, Tiger Memon, the mastermind, Badshah Khan, one of the main executors, Dawood Ibrahim, the don - and a motley crowd of people - each acting as the missing piece of the jigsaw. Their interactions have to be seen to be believed.
Besides focusing on what actually happened, BF more importantly tries to capture why things happened in the first place. Of how the seeds of a revenge were sown on December 6, 1992 with the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Of how Muslims had to pay such a heavy price in the riots of Dec 92 and Jan 93. Of how they were just wanting to take revenge, or jehad (if you please) against the Hindu community. And of how, all of this boiled down to the conclusion of - target Bombay. The rationale being that if Bombay was brought down to its knees, the entire country and to an extent the rest of the world as well would sit up and take notice. It is pretty frightening to see. Especially when you see some of the law enforcers themselves being a part of the entire process. Scary. Very scary.
The story moves from Bombay, to Dubai, to Delhi, Calcutta, Rajasthan, UP, Islamabad - and then returns to Bombay. One thing which majorly stood out besides the authenticity of the movie is its non-linear narrative. The editing style is refreshing, starting a few days before the blast and moving back and forth in time in a manner which keeps the viewer at the edge of his seat. Wondering what is coming next. Right into your face, that too.
Indian Ocean's music is an added bonus. All tracks and music pieces fit well into the situations. The track 'Bandeh' stands out!!
Performances are very good. Kay Kay Menon as Rakesh Maria is convincing. Pawan Malhotra, the old war horse, is menacing as Tiger Memon. A role made just for him. But for me personally, Aditya Srivastava as Badshah Khan was the best amongst the lot. His body language and facial expressions of helplessness when he realizes what has he got himself into remain with the viewer much after the movie has ended. The rest of the cast, a mix of theatre and TV actors, lend good support.
Above all, it is Anurag Kashyap who deserves heaps of praise for attempting what I think would be the most daring movie ever made. Handling a sensitive topic with extreme sensitivity, AK has succeeded in not pointing fingers to a particular community or religion. All he tries to say is that these are the people who were guilty, with more than enough evidence, and that they are still roaming freely. Tells a lot for the law and order situation of our land. As a writer, adapting the book must have been an hugely challenging task. And he comes out with flying colors in retaining the real flavor of the city, the happenings and an objective point of view towards them. And as a director he scores by executing all of this to near perfection. A director to surely watch out for in the future !!
A movie every Bombay-ite must see. This one is as good as it gets!