In conjunction with its release on January 6, Netflix debuted the trailer for Mumbai Mafia: Police vs The Underworld, a new documentary feature that will explore a volatile period during the 1990s when gangsters ran riot in the city of Mumbai. This lead to the formation of elite police squads that were essentially given shoot-on-sight orders to rid the city — India’s financial capital and the home of the Bollywood industry — of violence, using violence.
The trailer features loads of archive footage of significant events, like the bomb blasts of 1993, alongside talking heads of the cops at the center of the battle, and other experts. Among the most prominent figures of that era was the don Dawood Ibrahim, who remains at large to this day. Ibrahim was the head of the D-Company crime syndicate, and is the prime accused in the Mumbai blasts case.
Such was the state of affairs, we are told in the trailer, that the authorities allowed the cops to shoot first and ask questions later. This practice came to be known as “encounters” — a staged murder of suspected criminals, conducted under false pretenses. This became such standard practice — and in many ways, remains prominent in India even today — that it made the cops local legends. Soon, the cops began to keep score of how many people they’d killed, almost as if it were a sport, with a leader board and everything.
Speaking of police’s violent response to crime, “The press was there, the TV, the human rights lot, courts… Nobody objected,” someone says in the trailer. Police brutality is largely a non-issue in India, and the kind of violence that would spark protests in Western countries is so common that it has sadly been normalized. To make matters worse, some of the biggest movie stars in the country have played violent cops in films; and these characters are often shown as mavericks that are idolized by the public.
The 90s era also inspired several Bollywood gangster movies, ranging from mainstream “masala” entertainers such as Company, Shootout at Lokhandwala and Shootout at Wadala to the grittier Satya and Black Friday. Netflix itself released a crime drama focusing on these “encounter specialists” in 2020; the film was titled Class of 83, and it starred Bobby Deol as a veteran cop who trains an elite squad of young policemen, who are given a free rein to cleanse the city of Mumbai.
Netflix has been expanding its true crime slate in India, which launched properly in 2021 with House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths and Crime Stories: India Detectives. In 2022, the streamer released four editions of the Indian Predator series — The Butcher of Delhi, The Diary of a Serial Killer, Murder in a Courtroom and Beast of Bangalore.
Directed by Raaghav Dar and Francis Longhurst, Mumbai Mafia is now streaming on Netflix. You can watch the trailer here, and read the official synopsis down below.
This feature documentary follows the battle for the future of Mumbai which raged on the city’s streets between police and organized crime through the 1990s. On one side: D-Company – an infamous group of gangsters known for being a ruthless, violent operation who use extortion, racketeering, drugs and finally terrorism to hold the city in a bulldog grip. On the other: A rising band of Encounter Specialists – a team of maverick mustachioed police officers tasked with taking back control of the streets. In this immersive and cinematic feature documentary, visceral interviews with the officers at the heart of the fight will drive the police narrative, untangling the psychology behind their tactics as the situation on the streets escalates.