Film Reviews Reviews

Raanjhanaa to Fiza: 8 Bollywood Films That Depict Riots in The Right Way!

Written by Omair Alavi

From Kai Po Che to Kedarnath, here are eight Bollywood films which depict the Hindu-Muslim riots in India closer to reality.

By Omair Alavi Created: 5 March 2020 

Bollywood has always been the face of inter-faith harmony in a secular country like India. Be it as early as Dhool Ka Phool that revolved around the Hindu – Muslim conflict or China Gate that featured an iconic scene featuring legendary actors Amrish Puri and Naseeruddin Shah about violence during partition, most of the time it has been portrayed constructively. However, there have been films that have highlighted the issue in its truer sense, revolving around the difference in the two religions, leaving a mark in the audience’s mind with its closer to reality execution. For the sake of clarity, we have not included films that are plotted around the creation of India – Pakistan, and kept those that have featured violence between the Hindu – Muslim community for one reason or another. Read on:

Bombay (1995)

Although this Mani Ratnam film came out just a couple of years after the Bombay Blasts, it was enough to make the audience realize that inter-religious harmony in a country like India is the best way forward. Well-shot, well-edited and above all, well-directed, the film revolved around an inter-religious couple in Bombay (played by Arvind Swami and Manisha Koirala), the difficulties they faced before getting married and during the Bombay riots of the 1990s, and what happened to their family during the protests. As part of a trilogy against a background of Indian politics (Roja and Dil Se … being the other two), it managed to do well at the box office and was even translated into different regional languages, including Hindi.

Dahek (1999)

During the late 1990s, Bollywood filmmakers tried to cash in with films revolving around Hindu – Muslim couple; Dahek was one such film that had Akshaye Khanna and Sonali Bendre in lead roles. Directed by Lateef Binni, the film had a beautiful soundtrack composed by Anand – Milind and Aadesh Shrivastava but that wasn’t its unique selling point. The Hindu – Muslim riot scenes were so lifelike that the audience felt goosebumps when the film was released. Akshaye Khanna and Sonali Bendre (in a double role) were fantastic but the man who stole the show was veteran actor Danny Denzongpa who as Jabbar Bakhshi played the antagonist and terrorized the audience with his natural acting. Even twenty years later when you watch the film today, it will come out as something more from the present, than the past.

Fiza (2000)

Karisma Kapoor’s superlative performance as Fiza and a fresh-faced Hrithik Roshan as her brother were the reasons why Khalid Mohammed’s Fiza is still remembered after two decades. It revolved around a family that got separated during the Bombay Blasts of 1993 only to find out that the only male member of the family had become a terrorist during his time away from home. Both Karisma and Jaya Bachchan were nominated for Filmfare Awards and went home with their trophies, and the film’s depiction of the Bombay Blasts and riots were quite realistic, despite being the journalist-turned-director Khalid Mohammed’s first film.

Black Friday (2007)

Not even first-time director Anurag Kashyap would have known that his first Black Friday would have a delayed release; it was completed in 2004 but was released in India three years later after the intervention of the Bombay High Court. Based on Hussain Zaidi’s Black Friday: The True Story of the Bombay Bomb Blasts, it did well despite not having a star cast. From executing the bomb blast sequence to the investigation that led to the apprehension of a lot of people involved in the act, the film was first-rate and helped steer Anurag Kashyap’s career in the right direction. Each and every actor fitted the role perfectly, introducing a new style of filmmaking to the audience. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that the success of this film must be one of the reasons for the Gangs of Wasseypur franchise.

Black & White (2008)

Black & White was Subhash Ghai’s finest flick in the new millennium because not only did it promote inter-faith harmony, it presented Anil Kapoor in the role of a lifetime. He played a Hindu professor who taught Urdu as a subject and even argued with the Moulvis who interpreted the Quran incorrectly. Then there was Anurag Sinha who played a terrorist and becomes part of his family and impressed all with his acting. The film promoted religious harmony through a scene in which Anil Kapoor’s Rajan Mathur shows Anurag Sinha’s Numair Qazi how people belonging to different religions lived together as one big happy family, which is also the need of the time even today.

Kai Po Che! (2013)

Based on Chetan Bhagat’s The 3 Mistakes of My Life, Kai Po Che! was the story of three friends – Ishaan (Sushant Singh Rajput), Omi (Amit Sadh) and Govind (Rajkummar Rao), who had a common dream that turned into a nightmare. They wanted to start their own sports academy but due to the Hindu – Muslim riots that took place in Gujarat, they were unable to do so. From 2001 Gujarat earthquake to Godhra train burning incident, the film highlighted the reasons behind the riots; how it affected the three friends is what Kai Po Che! was all about. Directed by Abhishek Kapoor and featuring a fresh cast, it won praise from all over the world for the way it highlighted the religious politics and communal hatred.

Raanjhanaa (2015)

He was a Hindu boy, she was a Muslim girl and they knew each other for a long time. However, Dhanush’s performance on his Hindi film debut was mind-blowing as he portrayed a man in love, who loses everything but stays on his path, hoping that he would succeed one day. The film was banned in Pakistan because of its storyline despite having a song from Shiraz Uppal. Sonam Kapoor gave a mature performance and her transition from a young girl to a woman was appreciated by all. The scene where Dhanush’s Kundan asks Abhay Deol’s Jesjeet Singh to recite the kalma still gives the audience goosebumps for it changed the film’s storyline from a simple romantic flick to a drama that saw Sonam Kapoor’s Zoya lose not one but two lovers.

Kedarnath (2018)

Sara Ali Khan made a smashing debut in Abhishek Kapoor’s disaster flick that revolved around a Hindu – Muslim love story; here the guy Mansoor (Sushant Singh Rajput) was a Muslim, and the girl Mandakini (Sara Ali Khan) was a Hindu. They lived in a valley around the Kedarnath Valley where Mansoor was a porter who carried Hindu pilgrims on his back, whereas Mandakini was the Hindu priest’s daughter. When the two young ones fall in love, it creates imbalance leading to Hindu – Muslims riots that end when the Valley is submerged into water due to a natural disaster. Both Sushant and Sara acted brilliantly but the film’s highlight was the special effects that were so lifelike that it shocked the audience big time.

About the author

Omair Alavi