By Farzana Versey
19 February, 2007
we missed the blast!" I turned to look at the late entrant into
the cinema hall. He carried a rucksack and was with a friend; they appeared
to have just returned from college. They must have been around 18 years
The film was 'Black Friday',
touted as one of the most realistic films ever made in India. It traces
the journey from the bomb blasts of 1993 to the trail of the culprits,
the enquiries and the evidence. For the teenager, the "Shiiit,
we missed the blast" is not only about the first one shown on screen.
He missed the real one. This is history for him. History is irrelevant.
Taking top angle shots, shooting
at real locations among real people, showing the violence and bodies
does not translate into realism. This is controlled and manufactured;
it is edited.
Besides, why build up objectivity
as the highest virtue? Much of life is a bit of fact that fits into
our very own fictions. Am I being too harsh? Can all those critics and
a large section of the 'aware' audience be wrong? No. this is beyond
right and wrong, good and evil.
This is cunning cinema conniving
with the forces to appear balanced. It loses all credibility the moment
it starts with a quote of the Mahatma: "An eye for an eye makes
the whole world go blind."
No one turned blind on December
6, 1992, and that too for wanting to herald in a Hindu Rashtra. History
repeats itself as farcical tragedy.
Why does 'lex talionis',
the law of retaliation, not seem to apply to four centuries old vengeance
or for 'action-reaction' based riots?
The unfortunate hero in this
saga is Tiger Memon, who we see is devastated by the loss of his business.
Please note that hundreds of Muslim families lost much more and did
not retaliate. However, what comes through in this film is vengeance.
And because a few pieces of timber do not have a large epic appeal,
the film brings in the word jihad.
It sounds ridiculous as Memon
is picking his teeth and looking at some new recruits. His interrogation
of Badshah Khan is especially meant to be profound for the latter is
the perfect example of the misled Muslim youth.
"Do you pray?"
he asks Badshah. Badshah nods his head.
"Yes, I try to."
"Do you read the Quran
and know what it says?"
"Yes, of course."
Please let us cut out this
poppycock about this film not taking sides. The same stereotypes dot
the whole landscape. An innocent young woman who lived in the same building
as Tiger is asked about his and his family's whereabouts.
"Woh gaon gaye, (they
have gone to the village)," she says.
A woman who clearly does not know much about the world is talking about
Dubai as 'gaon'; 'gaon' here is more than merely a village; it connotes
colloquially in the Indian context one's 'native place'.
The training in Pakistan
is so silly. If we are being told that Muslims were an angry bunch with
jihad on their minds, does it not mean that they had the strength to
fight back on their own? Here a whole community begins to look like
sissies who don't even have a physical trainer forget adequate muscles.
And to think that the Indian Muslim population is larger than the whole
of Pakistan's population.
We are also shown a group
shouting slogans outside Dawood Ibrahim's house in Mumbai, "Dawood
Ibrahim Murdabad!" It is entirely possible that such a group did
go, but it is like neighbours complaining about broken window panes;
it does not mean that the whole community sought his help. He was sent
a few bangles to show how useless he was.
Amazingly simplistic. It
is a bit weird that Dawood would not have entered into the fray if it
was important enough; many of his lieutenants were Hindu. Can we forget
Chhota Rajan? If you bring in Dawood then Rajan has to be mentioned,
for the whole basis of the latter leaving the D-company was Dawood's
involvement in the riots. Did not the research check that out? Rajan
started portraying himself as a Hindu hero. This is what he had said,
"I am a Hindu, a true Indian. I was wrong to associate with him,
and I have made it my life's motto to fight him. I am first and foremost
He has also gone on record
to say, "My men have killed more Dawood members than the police.
I have always helped the Indian government."
The whole justification for
such claims now falls flat. The underworld is a close-knit group and
there are squealers. If Rajan was still a part of the Dawood gang until
the blasts, then surely he would have known his part in it. Now we are
being told that the Don was not responsible, so why did Rajan do what
Was he getting instructions
from certain important people in India? How did he escape?
We are given a wholly white-washed
picture of the police. Does anyone in his right mind want us to believe
that the same cops who were shooting innocents in bylanes by standing
on the roofs of houses, who provided no help to victims who had to take
their own family members and friends to hospitals in carts, who demanded
to watch television while they were 'protecting' the citizens, who joined
forces with the goons, who arrested anyone they could get hold of knowing
full well that they had the power of the terrible TADA, would within
a couple of months transform into paragons of virtue? Get real.
Sure, the realism does show
tough police interrogation techniques, but they are for the benefit
of society. Right? We are shown tired cops, hungry cops, disturbed cops.
The helplessness of the 'misguided
youth' in the form of Badshah just does not come through potently. What
happened to all his training in Pakistan, his brainwashing about jihad?
If a man can be tutored for one thing then he can use that for anything
After he turns approver,
we have the most bizarre scene where he recounts to the police officer,
Rakesh Maria, that Allah was with them.
The officer replies, "Allah
is with us now. If he was with you, then you would have been successful
in bombing Mantralaya and Sena Bhavan too."
'This' turns out to be the
turning point for the Muslim youth! He sits in prison and prays, and
then asks to meet Maria. It has struck him that indeed if god was with
them then there would be a cent per cent success rate. What utter nonsense
is this. The establishment too wants to lay claims over Allah. Has Allah
justified the arrests of innocents? Did Allah approve of TADA?
And this is authentic cinema
only because it depends on a book based on research? Only because it
takes real names of people? You can take all the names you want, but
when you have a position, then state so clearly. Do not do it slyly.
Stand up for it and stop this charade of objectivity. Newspapers mention
names. Nothing new about it.
Is this authentic cinema
only because it uses the cut-and-chop, no romanticisation format?
Then why is Dawood shown
in silhouette as an enigmatic individual? The director said somewhere
that it is because little is known about him. Really? For pete's sake,
he used to be shown on national television during the Sharjah matches
with film stars. Everyone knows where he lived in Mumbai, where his
sister lives, his other relatives live. His properties have been attached.
If you know his White House in Dubai, then the Pakistani press has already
told us about his abode in Karachi. We know his daughter is married
to cricketer Javed Miandad's son. We know how many mistresses he has.
We know about his wife. We know about his illegal dealings. Journalists
used to speak to him on the phone. And god knows who else continues
to do so. We know who his associates are and who his opponents. We know.
But I suppose this does not show up in research.
The film again ends with
that quote from Mahatma Gandhi. I would like to state here that if history
has to remember anything it is this: following the bomb blasts no Muslim
organisation or Muslim individuals in India called Dawood Ibrahim or
Tiger Memon their hero. Tell the world that, and then we will believe
this twisted authenticity.
(Farzana Versey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )
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