Black Friday

2005, Movie, NR, 143 mins


Writer-director Anurag Kashyap dramatizes the aftermath of the Bombay bombings of March 12, 1993, in this nonmusical thriller that owes more to films like MUNICH (2005) than mainstream Indian commercial spectaculars. Adapted from crime reporter S. Hussain Zaidi's book about the investigation, it suggests that though the bombers were Muslim and claimed they were avenging the brutal violence of the 1992/1993 Bombay riots, calculating underworld crime lords were as much to blame as religious fervor.

March 9, 1993: Indian police interrogate a prisoner about recent riots triggered by the destruction of Babri mosque by a Hindu mob; the riots destroyed Muslim-owned businesses and left hundreds dead. The prisoner's warning about an imminent plot to bomb multiple locations in Bombay is ignored, and three days later 12 sequential bombs tear through the stock exchange, hotels, shopping malls, the passport office, a movie theater and other crowded targets.

The investigation, headed by Inspector Rakesh Maria (Kay Kay Menon), quickly leads to Muslim underworld figure "Tiger" Memon (Pavan Malhotra), who's already fled to Dubai and is holed up in luxury with fellow gangster Dawood Ibrahim (Vijay Maurya). The actual bombers, frustrated young Muslim men whose inchoate anger at anti-Muslim violence and discrimination was manipulated by Memon, have scattered, believing Memon will help them escape the country when things cool down. As the police gather information by whatever means necessary — the film's depiction of Indian police procedures vividly argues for avoiding arrest at all costs — the increasingly desperate conspirators shuttle from place to place, running out of money, worried for their families and increasingly afraid that Memon, a fellow Muslim, has callously thrown them to the wolves.

Screenwriter turned director Kashyap's second feature was suppressed in India as being prejudicial to defendants whose cases were still making their way through the courts more than a decade after the bombings, and his script closely follows the source material. Opening with the Mohandas Gandhi epigram "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind," it humanizes the bombers without excusing their actions, blaming Ibrahim and Memon for using them as pawns to settle their own festering grudges — especially Memon's fury at having lost property in the riots. The film assumes knowledge of the bombings (which took place shortly after the first attack on the WTC) and familiarity with various Indian and Pakistani law-enforcement organizations that few Americans have at their fingertips. But in the aftermath of 9/11, its assertion that religious terrorism is about more than simply faith is food for thought. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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