Monday, February 21, 2005

a black day for indian filmmaking

(This article appeared in Newsweek International in February 2005).

Feb. 28 issue - Indian director Anurag Kashyap expected "Black Friday" to strike a nerve. He hoped it would spark debate. After all, the film is the first feature to deal with the serial bomb blasts that devastated Mumbai in 1993, killing 300 people and injuring thousands. What's more, Kashyap's film seeks to explore the motives behind the attacks and attempts to show that India's opportunistic politicians—who thrive on a cycle of organized violence between Hindus and Muslims—bear a great deal of responsibility for the tragedy. But no matter how much controversy Kashyap anticipated, he was totally unprepared for the legal challenges by the alleged bombers that stopped the film's release last month.

Mushtaq Tarani, one of the men accused in the bombing case, moved the Mumbai High Court to suspend the release of the film, arguing that the dramatization of the crime would prejudice the trial against him. The court issued an interim stay, which the Supreme Court upheld, and now the filmmakers must wait for a ruling from the high court on whether the interim stay will be lifted. Tarani may have a point: "Black Friday" uses the defendants' real names. Tarani himself is shown planting one of the bombs, though Kashyap argues that the voice-over of a character undergoing police interrogation establishes the scene as just the point of view of another gang member. "It's based on a book that has been out there for two years," Kashyap says. "But [the court's] logic is that people don't read books but they do see films."

That's exactly why Kashyap and producer Arindam Mitra wanted to make the movie in the first place: to find out how Indians would respond to the idea that they, along with the politicians they support, are responsible for the Hindu-Muslim violence that culminated in the worst terrorist attack in their country's history. The question now is: when, if ever, will they get to find out?

—Jason Overdorf

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

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