Show: Mumbai Diaries 26/11
Cast: Mohit Raina, Konkona Sensharma, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Natasha Bharadwaj, Tina Desai, Satyajeet Dubey, Mrunmayee Deshpande, Prakash Belawadi
Director: Nikkhil Advani and Nikhil Gonsalves
Creator: Nikkhil Advani
OTT: Amazon Prime Video
Rating: 4 Moons
26/11 is a date that brings back horrid and unpleasant memories for every Mumbai citizen, as it saw one of the most ruthless terrorist attacks of recent times. On November 26, 2008, a few Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists carried out 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks at key locations in the city- Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Oberoi Trident, the Taj Palace & Tower, the Leopold Cafe, the Cama Hospital, the Nariman House, the Metro Cinema, and in a lane behind the Times of India building and St. Xavier's College. There was also an explosion at Mazagaon, in Mumbai's port area, and in a taxi at Vile Parle. The attacks that started out on the morning of November 26 lasted until November 29, 2008, claiming the lives of at least 174 people and more than 300 wounded.
The mere mention of the attacks brings the chills to people living in Mumbai or those who were around the vicinity of the above locations. Now, Amazon Prime Video has brought in a fictionalized account of the dastardly act in its latest series Mumbai Diaries 26/11 that is a fictionalized account of what all happened at a government hospital which becomes an eventual battleground between the cops, doctors, terrorists and the establishment and stars Mohit Raina, Konkana Sensharma, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Satyajeet Dubey, Natasha Bharadwaj, Tina Desai, Mrunmayee Deshpande, Prakash Belawadi in lead roles. Mumbai Diaries 26/11 follows 4 feature films, 5 books and 3 documentaries that spoke about the horrific days that brought Mumbai to a standstill, what else could it offer? It offers a perspective that no one saw it from before- the medical staff that rallied to save victims, cops and terrorists alike, putting everything aside and doing what was expected of them and their profession.
The series opens with the most telling visual of the story, of terrorists spraying bullets on people at the Metro cinema signal from a moving Mumbai police jeep. The partly fictional tale adds more such gripping scenes as the show progresses, thanks to the writers Yash Chhhetija, Nikhil Gonsalves and Anushka Mehrotra. They are gripping and spine-chilling but also the bane of the story. Without much ado, we get to the point where the frontline workers enter the war.
Bombay General Hospital is the place where the action takes place. It is a character in itself with ancient rules, a tumbling system and yet surviving the storms one after another. We get to meet the doctors and their three new trainees who are both elated and petrified of what they have gotten themselves into. Mumbai Diaries 26/11 is not only about the terror attack but has equally interesting sub plots of class divide, nepotism, systemic oppression, gender gap, strained relationships, personal battles, pharmacy politics, corruption and more which brings out the beauty of it. Priya Suhas’ production design is a winner as the crumbling structure of the hospital is symbolic of the lack in our country’s healthcare infrastructure of the time that was unable to deal with an attack of this kind.
Nikkhil Advani’s and Nikhil Gonsalves’ direction is on point and manages to stir the cauldron of emotions inside you. The series is not presented as a documentary but as a gripping fictional story based on a real-life event which impacts everyone’s life in some way or the other. They present the show as dark with lots of blood, gore and grime which cannot be digested by the weak-hearted. Cinematographer Kaushal Shah’s work is commendable as he captures the stress and tension in extreme long-shots and portrays people’s hurry to save their lives with camera jerks and pushes.
The series has a sheer number of characters but most of them get enough screen space to bring out their stories. Mohit Raina is exceptional as the headstrong Dr Kaushik Oberoi. He holds the screen with his fiery and wild presence and the audience’s attention with his tendency to flout the rules. He is impulsive, impetuous and frequently runs afoul of the hospital management and its chief medical officer Mani Subramaniam (Prakash Belawadi) but is the man to turn to when a crisis emerges. He is a workaholic and his professional life is putting his marital life in jeopardy. Mohit’s Kaushik is a man in his element when it comes to scrubs and the scalpel but is at a loss when he is at his home.
Konkana Sensharma as the social services director, Chitra Das brings a sense of seriousness to her role. She isn’t one to be cowed down and supports Kaushik well in his stressful situations. While advising Kaushik once she says, “Be a woman and do all it takes,” and that’s saying something. However, there is a chink in her armour in the form of a bad marriage that has left deep scars on her heart and mind. Shreya Dhanwanthary plays a journalist called Mansi Hirani and portrays the mistake of media houses that they did during the attacks of giving live coverage. She plays the reporter with finesse but her character is such that one cannot empathize or like her. Her character is inquisitive, nosy, insensitive and juvenile.
Tina Desai as Ananya Ghosh and Kaushik’s wife is brilliant in her limited screen time. She is in charge of a major medical awards event being held in the hotel for Diya Parekh’s (played by Natasha Bharadwaj) celebrity doctor-father. She puts her life on the line to save her guests and is a character you would really admire. However, her marital life with Kaushik is not a bed of roses as the duo has grown apart due to the overworked surgeon’s hectic schedule that gives him no time to spare for his wife and a personal tragedy has widened this rift.
Mumbai Diaries 26/11 is a hard-hitting show but it does have its negatives. Too many subplots and backstories with too much drama and action make it a never-ending saga rather than a taut, crisp and at-the-edge series. However, it is gripping as it showcases real people facing unreal life challenges all in a day’s work without pitting one country or one religion against another and gives a fresh perspective and take to the terrorist attacks whose wounds are still not healed.
Mumbai Diaries 26/11 is gripping and top-notch, watch it keeping in mind that it’s a fictional tale.
PeepingMoon.com gives Mumbai Diaries 26/11, 4 Moons.