**Disclaimer** This is a FILM REVIEW and is not a DECLARATION OF FAITH or IDEOLOGY or INTENTION. The ideas expressed in this piece are no pointer to how the author would think or behave in the past or future.
New York is the Godfather of terrorism films. It takes a complicated subject and simplifies it into a series of gut check reactions framed in a fast paced thriller. You end up cheering for the terrorist protagonist in this complex sensitive piece of counter propaganda that took its time coming(has it been eight years after sep 11 already?). The other comparisons you draw are to the HBO miniseries with no end – “The Wire” and the Fredrick Forsyrth written Fred Zinneman directed 1973 film “The Day of the Jackal“.
This is the power of popular cinema. It is entertainment, propaganda and a reinforcement of your core beliefs- in the people you love, in country and in yourself, most importantly in yourself. You cheer for the taxi driver that kills a cop(who did no wrong), even if you know it is wrong to do so. You feel the rage of the protagonist being interrogated using bush Administration tactics and you sympathize , when you discover he’s planning a bombing. Poor Irfan Khan , is the ugly face of law enforcement speaking the unpalatable truth to the audience that is in no mood to listen.
Bollywood gets it right, this is a movie that could only have been made by an Indian, spoilt as the billion of them are in the delights of a democratic civil society, the privileges of eastern and western education and steeped in beliefs about fundamental human rights and justice in the world . Liberal (G8) western democracies behave like gated communities with conspiracies of silence. Their movies reflect this. Much of the Judeo-muslim world is ruled by tyranny. France , mired in it’s own racial identity problems, seems too busy sucking up to Studio Hollywood which itself behaves like a Chinese despot cloistered away in it’s own middle heaven of computer animated fantasy .
And in midst of all this, the Yash Raj film(and brand Bollywood) seems to ask the global Indian “who’se looking out for you?”.
Forget the fact that the producers are located (at least culturally) in Switzerland out of the sparsely populated Chopra Lake preoccupied with chasing bollywood booty, forget the fact that Bollywood is so busy selling out to Industrial magnates (think BIG) and Hollywood studios. Forget the fact that John Abraham and Katrina Kaif come from the dumb model school of acting. This is entirely a Director’s film. Kabir Khan (and Sandeep Srivatsava, writer ) bring in their conversant familiarity with the post September 11 2001 plight of Brown skinned Caucasians from asia to make a tenable thriller about an US created terrorist. The illegal detention/ torture depicted in the film could have happened in practically any gated community(liberal western democracy) , it only appears to be an outrageous violation of civil rights in the US(which is idealized as a model to strive for in such half educated tyrannies as iran and china). In most other countries(the UK, France, Germany, Australia…) this thuggery by the state against immigrants is routine and almost expected.
New york is also a definitive film for the genre called Bollywood, And after much navel gazing , the industry seems to have decided that the studio money is all very fine but , really, they’re not going to toe any ideological line set by Hollywood. Bollywood’s message to the west has been consistent from its earliest efforts in the mid ninties(pardes) . The American dream is not enough. The white picket fence is stained with blood of innocents (as it always has been) .and we remember in text through New York.
While a debate over the power of cinema to influence society has been had, and done to death on the left bank in france most of the billion Indians don’t know any deatails of this, and it does appear incorriguous to be having it in in popular film, we are happy that films in the language are not completely insensitive to the preoccupations of their core audiences.
New York is a must watch , not only because Katrina Kaif look like edible milquetoast inlayers and tanks, but also , one suspects, from the facts in it that it will be required reading/ watching in every south asian cinema course on university campuses in the years to come.