words, so what then is the value of a movie? An infinite number of words? I raise this point because writer-director Anurag Kashyap's motion picture BLACK FRIDAY remains banned in India while the book upon which it is based -- S. Hussein Zaidi has been in print for more than four years. So if someone can go to a bookstore and purchase the book and read it, why then can they not go to a movie theater, purchase a ticket and watch a very well-made adaptation of the same material?
I've read that it has something to do with the legal trials that are still winding their way through the courts some 14 -- that's right FOURTEEN years after the incidents depicted in both the book and the film. Some of the figures involved also remain at large and perhaps there is some fear that the film will taint their court proceedings -- assuming these men are ever caught and brought to justice. For whatever reason, audiences in India and the United States finally had a chance to see BLACK FRIDAY.
Tensions between Muslims and Hindus can be traced back centuries but the matters really were exacerbated by colonialism. As with any sect, the more radical practitioners have twisted the core beliefs to suit their need. BLACK FRIDAY details events that grew out of the Bombay Riots of 1992 and 1993 during which Hindus demolished the Babri Mosque in December which spurred Muslims to riot and the deaths of Hindu workers in the Dongri section of Bombay in January which led to Hindus rioting. Many hundreds of people died, properties were damaged, and unspeakable violence was meted out all in the name of religion.
Much as a certain Saudi named Osama bin-Laden would issue a jihad against American interests (recall that the first attacks on the World Trade Center also occurred in 1993), a cadre of Muslims led by Dawood Ibrahim (portrayed chillingly in the film by Vijay Maurya) -- and who reputedly has ties to bin-Laden and al-Qeda -- and Tiger Memon (Pavan Malhotra) among others, crafted and executed a plan to set off numerous bombs around the city which form the core of the story for the film.
But Kashyap's film is much more ambitious in its scope. He skillfully moves the action back and forth between the police investigation led by Rakesh Maria (Kay Kay Menon), the recruitment and training of those involved, many of whom lost family or friends in the riots, and the actual unfolding of the events on the fateful day of March 12, 1993 -- BLACK FRIDAY.
There's a lot of material covered in the film and its structure of flashbacks and flashbacks within flashbacks requires an audience to pay careful and close attention. But Kashyap keeps the action moving and the overall movie turns out to be engrossing and detailed.
He and cinematographer Nataraja Subramanian have created a palette that ranges from shooting the police interrogation and torture sequences with blood red filters to the natural beauty of the landscape of rural India as some of the participants in the events are on the run. One particular conspirator Badshah Khan (Aditya Srivastava) receives a great deal of screen time as the audience sees him on the run and the psychic toll that it takes on him. There is one scene where he is told that shedding blood is wrong and the words appear to take root and gnaw at his conscience but a long time passes before they take root.
I would imagine that for Indian audiences this film is akin to the various American-made movies about the attacks on the World Trade Center, whether they be the TV movies PATH TO POWER or FLIGHT 93 or the feature films UNITED 93 or WORLD TRADE CENTER. Although some were not willing to embrace these works, they did make it to the marketplace and those who did see them were rewarded with quality work.