New York begins in the United States in 2008, with the arrest by the FBI of Omar (Neil Nitin Mukesh) after guns were found in the trunk of a taxi cab he owned. Omar, a young Muslim man originally from Delhi, is then taken into custody and interrogated by FBI Agent Roshan (Irrfan Khan) (also a Muslim man originally from South Asia who has been living in the United States for twenty years). Omar then discovers that he was set up by the FBI in order to force him to spy on a former college friend, Sam or Samir Sheikh (John Abraham), whom he hasn’t seen in seven years and who the FBI believes is a terrorist. In the process, Omar discovers that Sam has married Maya (Katrina Kaif), another college friend, and that they have a young son, Danyal (Aidan Wagner).
Roshan orders Omar to tell him everything he knows about Sam. The film then flashes back to September 1999 when Omar begins his studies at (the fictional) New York State University. He is befriended by his international student counselor Maya and learns that though she was born and raised in New York, she is fluent in Hindi because of her mother’s interest in Bollywood films. Omar also meets Sam, another Indian American who is also Muslim and fluent in Hindi due to the fact that his father is a professor of Indian studies. Over the next two years, all three become inseparable friends and gradually Omar falls in love with Maya. When Omar realizes that she loves Sam, however, he distances himself from them both. Their carefree days finally end with the onset of 9/11.
After finishing his story, Omar agrees to help Roshan, if only to prove that both he and Sam are innocent of the charges of terrorism which have been leveled against them. He reunites with Maya and Sam and stays in their house, all the while spying for the FBI. Omar learns that Maya is a civil rights activist who is helping one of Sam’s employees, Zilgai (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) overcome his experience as a former 9/11 detainee. Zilgai was eventually released due to lack of evidence and has been having difficulty adjusting back to “normal” life.
As time progresses, Omar feels satisfied that he can find nothing to warrant the FBI’s suspicions and is ready to leave when a series of events forces him to reconsider. In the process, Omar learns from Sam that ten days after 9/11, Sam was arrested and detained for a period of nine months as a suspected terrorist, a charge which everyone, including the FBI and Roshan, now agree was incorrect. Though he was eventually released due to lack of evidence, the impact of being detained and tortured permanently changed Sam in ways which are difficult for those surrounding him to understand, leaving him with feelings of deep resentment towards the FBI. Omar thus finds that Sam ultimately resorted to plans for terrorism as a means of revenge.
In addition, Maya is unable to help Zilgai resolve the trauma of being a detainee. After a routine traffic stop escalates and an NYPD police officer gives Maya a very rough full-body search, Zilgai becomes agitated. He drops Maya at her home and eventually kills the police officer the same night. After being declared a fugitive, Zilgai leads the police on a long chase ultimately ending in his suicide New York Trivia:
¨ New York was shot entirely in a 100 day single schedule in the US. It is the longest single schedule for any Hindi film shot abroad.
¨ John Abraham put Kabir Khan and Neil Nitin Mukesh on a special health diet in which all that they ate was steamed fish for lunch and raw Japanese fish (“Sashimi”- usually had at breakfast) for dinner for most of the schedule.
¨ Katrina Kaif felt intimidated by Irrfan when they did their first scene together. She had to walk to him and ask “it was you that day right?” And he was supposed to reply, “yes, that was me.” That’s it. She could not get that one shot as whenever she looked at him, she started giggling like a little girl.
¨ There is a scene in which John Abraham has to go down a 42 story floor building with the help of a rope. He refused to use a double and insisted on doing the action himself. When he started going down the wind would push him several feet off the building surface.
¨ John Abraham’s nude torture scenes were shot in a real prison when the temperature was minus two degrees. John actually went through the torture procedure called “Water Boarding.” Most people cannot tolerate water boarding for more than 5 seconds.
¨ John Abraham and Katrina Kaif were refused entry at a nightclub in New York City as they did not have an identity card. Everybody from the crew was allowed inside expect them.
¨ The crew was given special permission to shoot key scenes in a functioning jail and many a times the shooting would stop when the real prisoners had to be shifted from one part of the prison to another.
¨ John Abraham and Kabir Khan were having dinner in a Japanese restaurant which unknown to them is frequented mostly by gays. To their surprise they were approached and propositioned by a gay couple. The offer was politely declined.
¨ After its recent invitational screening at the Pusan International Film Festival in October where it was the only mainstream Hindi film to have been screened, New York was also selected as the opening film at the prestigious 33rd Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF), 2009.