Film: Mumbai Diaries 26/11
Director: Nikkhil Advani and Nikhil Gonsalves
Cast: Konkona Sen Sharma, Mohit Raina, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Mrunmayee Deshpande, Natasha Bharadwaj, Satyajeet Dubey, Tina Desai, Prakash Belawadi, Indraneel Bhattacharya
Recreation of the horrors of Mumbai terror attacks on November 26, 2008, has been attempted many times. So, it’s natural to think that that central theme of the eight-part series—Mumbai Diaries 26/11— streaming on Amazon Prime, is the ghastly events that unfolded on the four days of coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai.
Yes, those nights are why this story is, but Nikkhil Advani and Nikhil Gonsalves have weaved it from the point of view of a government hospital that’s low on resources and filled with victims. How the doctors, nurses and the rest of its staff go beyond their means to perform their duties on the ghastly night of 26/11.
Having said that, we can’t call it just a medical drama as the makers have incorporated a fair share of action around cops, terrorists and media as the hospital turns into a battleground.
When the show opens, we are taken to this dilapidated hospital’s emergency room where its maverick trauma surgeon Kaushik Oberoi (Mohit Raina) passionately flouts all protocols because his job is to save lives. His three resident trainees Ahaan (Satyajeet Dubey), Diya (Natasha Bharadwaj) and Sujata (Mrunmayee Deshpande) on their very first day of job are put to test for their skills and their sensibility. Here, we are also introduced to all the main characters and even the supporting cast. Be it Konkana Sen as the social service director Chitra Das or Tina Desai as Ananya (Kaushik’s wife) or for that matter the nurses and ward boys, the annoying cop Mayank Bhat (Akshar Kothari), and of course the Dr Mani Subramaniam (Prakash Belwadi) as the hospital director. We have an idea each one of them is a hero of the story.
Visuals of the buzzing Leopold Café, The Palace Hotel and the Metro Cinema heighten the tension that ensues in the forthcoming episodes. Back stories of all the characters too are splashed around in the narrative at various pauses from the chaos and tension of the bloody action.
Right from the first episode, the series grips your attention and that doesn’t change till the end. But in parts it even tires you because you feel there is too much packed in it. Shots of wounded patients and people spread across the corridors and staircases of the hospital are gut-wrenching. The multi-layered thriller is fast-paced and almost non-stop, yet it manages to throw in reference of caste bias, sexism, Islamophobia- but subtly.
While every performance is praise-worthy, Tina Desai as an F&B manager who is at the thick of action at the Palace Hotel steals the show. Mohit Raina, Konkana Sen Sharma, Prakash Belawadi they are all marvelous. Equally strong is the production value of the show where be it the graphics or the sound, it blends to bring out the dark, relentless tone of that night with such perfection.
On the night when the spirit of the city that never sleeps was being crushed, its citizens fought the unprecedented war. Beyond terrorism and national conflicts, the take-home remains that humanity has the strength to overcome every challenge- like it did back in 2008 and countless other times. A universal truth!