The movie starts with a love story peppered by communal tension. Both the protagonists are from different castes, Hindu and Muslim. Their family takes time to accept their love and keep showering each other's families with religious insults. Then the riots in Mumbai break out, in which the couple's twin boys get separated from them. One of the little moys asks innocently,
"Hindu ya ni kya?
Muslim ya ni kya??"
My mother asked me if I remembered anything from those times. And I have some very vague memories. My father and all the uncles in our building gathering in our flat above, with thalis and katoris, and maybe even glass bottles. Everyone stayed indoors and all the lights were shut off. My mother said that all the people in the entire society surrounding ours had decided to keep vigil in each building form the roofs and if any violence was seen near our buildings they would start clattering the vessels, the noise form one building would activate all the others and the cacophany would drive the trouble-makers away. When a procession of naked swords bearing men entered our lane, this plan was put in action which drew the violence away.
Around these days, I remember going for my dancing lessons to the building next to ours on the first floor at that time. Suddenly we heard shrieks from behind my teacher's home. When we ran to her back balcony, we saw that the house in the opposite building on the same floor, occupied by Muslims was being ransacked by some Hindus. They seemed to be in a daze, glassy eyed and faces twisted into a horrible knot of anger. The buildings were close enough for us to understand exactly what was happening there. And my teacher was too stunned by the violence to realize that a seven year old was witness to it too. But suddenly a larger man entered the house. He looked Hindu from his garb, and he took the frenzied men away with him.
Today my mother told me what had happened that day. She did not know till now that I had seen that scene, so she explained it today to me. The place I live in is a fairly gujarati area, and the society exactly behind us, adjacently so, is a totally Muslim populated area. Gujarati Muslims, or Boras. When the '92 riots broke out, the Muslim head and the Hindu head of both these socities had a meeting where they decided to abstain from violence. They would control each other's men and not let anything detoriate here. They would protect their own against outside violence. The Hindu's who were attacking those Muslims were from an outside area, Jogeshwari most probably, and were convinced by the Hindu head of this area to leave, since they had no part in the riots.
When those Muslim, sword bearing men had entered our society, even the Muslim society behind had joined in the thali and katori clattering routine to scare the men away. That's how we had survived unscathed. While my mother assures me that our suburb, Andheri, had relatively less violence, there were some horrifying storIes too. There was a Muslim pregnant woman who was turned away from a Hindu hospital. She had to give birth on the street. There was a major store on S.V. Road which was burnt to nothingness.
My professor of Journalism, had covered these riots and she told me that while the city burned outside, there was a hoarde of reporters at Bal Thackeray's residence. They clamoured to know when this would stop, and what the casualties were. He had a stoic reply,
"Everything is fine. There is peace in the city."
"But", they all stuttered collectively, "we can show you footage showing violence. Children are getting orphaned every hour. "
The film also potrays Bal Thackeray and his politicking ways. But I have heard that it went through a lot of cuts. The most revealing of his comments had to be edited. But still, the film does its work. It reduces the viewer to tears. It did that to me, and rarely can a film do that. The twin boys have acted beautifully.
"Those reports are rubbish" he retorted back with indignance, "I know my city"
Riots and violence move everybody I guess, but somehow its a topic I have always pondered about. Everytime I try to write a script or a story, it always has some riots in the backdrop. Whether its the Partition Riots, Khalistan Riots in Punjab, The'92 riots of Mumbai. The godhra Riots or anyother.. But the kind of justice Mani Ratnam has done to this film, leaves me spell bound.
After the movie finished, I suddenly heard the Bombay tune playing. I jumped, it was my phone. It is then that I realized that my phone's ringtone is the Bombay tone, the haunting flute which plays while the violence unleashes. And the ringtone had never moved me as much..
Aankhon mein ummedo ke kuch ho sapneAanchal ho man ka toh tan man mein aapne..Raatein ho gehri toh kya, aata hai aakhir ek din naya-Bombay theme tune