Not Villains; Victims Of Circumstances – Hussain Zaidi Books And Movies

This post is about three Hussain Zaidi’s books and the movies based on them. For people who are not familiar with his background it needs to be mentioned that he worked as a crime reporter in Mumbai for a very long time. These three books are: Black Friday: The true story of the Bombay blasts, Dongri to Dubai : Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia and Mafia Queens of Mumbai. Out of these two have already come as movies. The name of the first movie is same as the title of the book directed by Anurag Kashyap. Dongri to Dubai was made into Shootout at Wadala movie directed by Sanjay Gupta. It was about the first recorded police encounter in Mumbai of Manya Surve, an educated gangster. From Mafia Queens of Mumbai book the story of Gangubai  Kathiawadi has been taken for the upcoming movie titled with the same name. She was sold into prostitution by her boyfriend Ramnik Lal and later she becomes the madam of a brothel in Kamatipura. Gangubai did a lot of work for the well being of the sex workers and also orphans. Famous gangster Karim lala considered her as his rakhi sister and gave the command of Kamatipura area to her. This film is being directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and is likely to be released in the later half of 2021.

Mumbai avengers

All three movies have taken only one chapter of those books respectively. Apart from the above mentioned there is also a  fiction book called Mumbai Avengers which was made into Phantom movie directed by Kabir Khan. The story of Mumbai Avengers is set five years after 26/11 Taj attacks on Mumbai. It is about how a retired Indian army officer Gen. Sayid Ali Warris masterminds an operation to kill the conspirators of 26/11 with the help of policemen, tech experts etc. But in the movie it was portrayed as a one man mission played by Saif Ali Khan.  

1. Black Friday: The true story of the Bombay Blasts

This book mainly deals with the bomb blasts that happened in the city of Mumbai on March 12th 1993, how the blasts shocked the entire nation, its aftermath and most importantly the backstory of why they happened. Black Friday begins off with people going about their business as usual completely unaware of the calamity. Afterwards we see a detailed account of the blasts and from there we move on to the incident of Babri Masjid demolition and how it led to the blasts. There is a lot that Hussain Zaidi packs in the book from police officers who would break the law in the course of the investigation to the innocent and illiterate young Muslims who were dragged into this. Hussain Zaidi writes all these things in an engaging manner and makes you understand the root causes for these blasts. 

Anurag Kashyap did absolute justice to the book with his outstanding direction. It also helped that the film had powerhouse performers like Kay Kay Menon, Pavan Malhotra etc. 

2. Dongri to Dubai: Six decades of Mumbai Mafia  

Dongri to Dubai is an attempt to chronicle the history of the Mumbai Mafia. It is a story of many gangsters like Haji Mastan, Karim Lala, Chota Rajan, Varadarajan Mudaliar and above all Dawood Ibrahim, a young man who took the crime route in spite of having a father in the police force. It talks about how Dawood Ibrahim was used as a pawn by the Bombay police and eventually how he became the nemesis for them. His story is primarily about a boy from Dongri becoming a don in Dubai. As earlier said Manya Surve’s life is a brief chapter in this book and this was expanded by director Sanjay Gupta in his film Shootout at Wadala which was a sequel to Shootout at Lokandwala. An interesting thing about Manya is that he was a graduate who was looking to lead a normal life but he gets falsely implicated in a murder. He escapes from prison with the help of a muslim friend and later rises to huge prominence. He was known for his strategic planning and daredevilry. Manya Surve’s encounter was the first recorded encounter in Mumbai, as mentioned earlier. The book is divided into two eras and writer Hussain Zaidi’s narrative style is very gripping and engrosses you thoroughly. The stories of all the gangsters are very interesting and through them the writer tells you about how they operated their networks with the help of police officials themselves. 

Shootout at Wadala may not be as satisfying as Black Friday but it is still an engaging commercial entertainer which manages to successfully capture that period. John Abraham as Manya delivered a committed performance. 

3. Mafia Queens of Mumbai

Mafia Queens of Mumbai talks about a few female gangsters who made their way up in the world of male gangsters. The book was a collection of stories both from Kamatipura and Dongri. Recently there was an interview of Hussain Zaid where he said while researching for the book he found that female gangsters are more courageous, brave and manipulative than men. This feels quite true when you look at some of the stories in the book particularly Sapna Didi and Gangubai. Sapna Didi was the wife of a gangster who worked for Dawood Ibrahim. After her husband gets killed by him she decides to take revenge for his death with the help of another gangster. She takes two months of training at the place of Hussain Ustara by learning to ride bikes, using gun etc. She plans to kill Dawood at a cricket stadium but gets betrayed in the last minute and it is said that her murder was the most brutal murder in the history of gangsterism. Though she failed in killing Dawood there is no doubting of her bravery and courage.

Champion of sex workers’ rights

As far as Gangubai she actively championed for the rights of sex workers and their empowerment. There is a famous speech of her on sex workers and she even had a conversation with Jawaharlal Nehru to discuss their problems. In the book there is a conversation between her and Nehru where Nehru asks her why she ended up in this business when she could have found herself a nice husband. If true, Gangubai’s reply to this is very bold. She asked him whether he would marry her. This leaves Nehru red faced and she goes on to say it is easy to preach but tough to practice. All  the stories in the book are very unique in their own manner and you never feel any boredom. It is one of those books which can be rightly called as a page turner. 

With Sanjay Leela Bhansali helming it and a talented performer like Alia playing the title role it is expected to be a solid film.  I would end by recommending both to read Hussain Zaid’s books and see the movies based on those books. The specialty of Hussain Zaidi is he never caricatures any of the gangsters. He in fact humanises them. Portrays them as victims of circumstances rather than outright villains.

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