ScrewWasseypur. No, seriously. The sheer amount of pop culture references that were born after two-part familial crime saga is enviable. Each time a fan goes on and on about its delicious humour laced with expletives, a part of me cries for Black Friday. Wasseypur deserves the praise it gets, but it isn’t anywhere close to being as riveting as Anurag Kashyap’s first release. The word ‘hypnotic’ gets thrown around in reviews quite loosely these days, but for me Black Friday was one of those rare Hindi movie experiences where I was mesmerised by the aura of a film.
Everything from the monochromatic interrogation scenes, the long and expertly-crafted chase sequence inside Dharavi, near-perfect casting of its 30 odd characters, meant Black Friday would blur the lines between a documentary and a dramatised Bollywood film. In an era where Madhur Bhandarkar sold his films with the ‘realistic’ label attached to it, for Kashyap it seemed like a prerequisite for telling the story as accurately as possible. He didn’t seem to be flaunting the language, the setting and the environment to ‘feel’ authentic. It was authentic and it was a non-issue.
And that helps significantly, because as a viewer it helped me immerse myself completely into the film. I vividly remember the day we went for ‘a movie’ on the weekend looking ‘to be entertained’. Released after a lengthy court battle in 2007, the choice for us was between Black Friday and Namastey London. Kashyap’s reputation preceded him, as the maker of the unreleased Paanch which was rumoured to be explicit in its portrayal of sex, drugs and language. Raised in a middle-class Bengali family, I was wary Black Friday would make me shift uncomfortably in my seat if I watched it with the folks. And therefore, I suggested we go for the ‘harmless’ Akshay Kumar film.
My father being a film-buff himself, vetoed that we go for the Kay Kay Menon-starrer instead. Three hours later when I came out with my head blown off my shoulders, I felt gratitude. Gratitude you only feel after having witnessed something spectacular. I looked at my father, and I could tell he understood it because even he had a sense of awe on his face. And that’s when the power of great cinema dawned upon me.
The amazing thing about the movie is how Kashyap places nuggets of glorious cinematic moments all the while keeping his eye on the bigger picture. He integrates nuanced observation with the high-voltage spectacles. So even though your eyes pop at the way he shoots the bomb blast sequences, he adds a realistic touch by showing an injured bystander stuffing a gold chain in his pocket in the aftermath. As a tea-seller near the Bombay Stock Exchange helplessly stands with his dead son in his arms, Kashyap accompanies the blood-soaked visuals with a deafening silence.
Kashyap knew exactly how to keep the viewer invested throughout its three-hour running time. And that’s where he deserves credit for weaving together almost a dozen story-lines in a coherent yet intriguing manner. The non-linear screenplay is nearly flawless in the way that it unravels the inter-connected stories which eventually led to the 1993 bomb blasts in Bombay.
One of the primary reasons why Black Friday is such a potent film, is because of its brilliant actors. Kay Kay Menon playing ACP Rakesh Maria, Pawan Malhotra as Tiger Memon, Aditya Srivastava as Badshah Khan and a myriad of exceptionally written characters carry the film. Kashyap’s need to recreate the actual event as faithfully as possible is clearly visible when Vijay Maurya makes an entrance as Dawood Ibrahim on screen. The similarity is eerie, and Kashyap shoots the whole scene in a reflection giving the audience an almost outside perspective on the underworld don.
Badshah Khan is the soul of the movie and gets the most terrific scene of the movie. Having just been informed that his passport has be burned, he gazes into a distance as a puppy is teased with a tennis ball. If there was ever a more accurate face of someone wronged in the history of cinema, I haven’t seen it.
Another thing which I love about the movie is its razor-sharp sense of humour amidst the gloom of the film’s subject material. As a police team lands at Tiger Memon’s residence with regard to the investigation, their neighbour informs the police that the Memon family has left for their gaon. Where is the gaon’asks Kay Kay Menon’s character and she says ‘Dubai’, sheepishly explaining how people in Mahim translate ‘hometown’ to ‘gaon‘. There’s another chase sequence in the shanties of Dharavi where both a policeman and a suspect are exhausted after some time, when the policeman practically pleads with suspect to stop running.
Black Friday in many ways Anurag Kashyap’s angriest film till date, and that angst is particularly visible in the scene where ACP Maria confronts Badshah Khan with “Dharm ke naam par chutiya ban gaye tum sab.” The angst is also audible in Indian Ocean’s score, as they use a clarinet to encompass the gloom in the film’s main theme. And ‘Bandeh’ so calls out to the conscience of the lost souls, who are left to rot after the blasts.
It’s been exactly a decade since the film hit the big screens, and we need to take this opportunity to celebrate Anurag Kashyap’s best film. He might continue to make interesting films, but there is a high chance that he won’t match up to the searing honesty of this one. We need to laud this ‘Bollywood film’, we don’t do it enough.