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Mumbai Diaries: 26/11 Web Review: Gripping account of a horrific night in the city of dreams

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Mumbai Diaries: 26/11 Web Review: Gripping account of a horrific night in the city of dreams

Vijayalakshmi Narayanan

Director : Nikkhil Advani, Nikhil Gonsalves

Genre : Thriller

Our rating :

A staff member at the Bombay General Hospital succumbs to her injuries. Her immediate senior, a leading surgeon, announces the time of death and quips, 'The bodies haven't stopped coming in. Let's get back to work.'

This heart-breaking scene in Amazon Prime Video's latest feature, 'Mumbai Diaries: 26/11' is a stoic reminder of how frontline workers across the board deny themselves a moment of privacy because the nature of their job disallows them to hold anything higher than their duties and responsibilities.

Directed by Nikkhil Advani and Nikhil Gonsalves, the eight-episodes long web show is perhaps the most intuitive, honest retelling of a night nobody wants to remember. Written by Gonsalves, Anushka Mehrotra and Yash Chhetija with dialogues by Sanyukta Chawla Shaikh, the premise is mostly set at Bombay General Hospital (Cama Hospital) and The Palace Hotel (The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel) where the city's commoners are going about doing what they do on a daily basis with no idea about how their worlds are about to change overnight. The city is rocked by a series of terror activities, reported from South Mumbai's major attractions including Leopold Cafeacute, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Metro Cinema. The bodies start piling at the hospital and the sense of emergency kicks in. The staff, including Chief Medical Officer Dr. Subramanian (Prakash Belawadi), the leading surgeon Dr. Kaushik Oberoi (Mohit Raina), Social Services Director Chitra Das (Konkona Sen Sharma), three new resident trainees (Mrunmayee Deshpande, Natasha Bharadwaj, Satyajeet Dubey) who would never want to recall their first day at work and the nurses, are tasked with attending to the wounded and finding their calm, despite their own lives being endangered by the horror unleashed in the city.

The technicalities of the web show are top-notch. The writers smartly weave their narrative to infuse social critique, thereby addressing multiple elephants in the room. Workplace sexism, misplaced hatred, the class-divide that even dictates the course of rescue operations, the crumbling infrastructure that periodically fails our men and women in uniform, the makers go for them all. Aided by cinematographer Kaushal Shah and Priya Suhass' production design, the tension and intrigue created is palpable. You'll find yourself walking through the dilapidated corridors of the government hospital, routinely thanking your stars for not having to frequent these premises. Action director Mohammad Amin Khatib skillfully mounts gut-wrenching altercations between the terrorists and our task forces, leaving you teething in rage yet helpless. Ashutosh Pathak's original score allows the protagonists and the viewers to ponder and pause when the blazing guns quieten briefly.

What's worth marveling is that despite the presence of far more established actors in the cast, nobody in the show is a hero. The show has no interest in putting anyone on a pedestal. Casting director Kavish Sinha succeeds in picking the right choices for even the smallest parts. From Raina and Sen Sharma to the actors playing the security guards at the hospital, not a single character is miscast. Raina masterfully discards his likeability to play an impulsive surgeon whose reputation precedes his routinely irresponsible actions, a personality that is an outcome because of his own internal conflicts. Watch out for him in a scene where he has to take a tough call between saving the life of a terrorist over a wounded, decorated officer. Sharma represents every woman who survives and performs on instincts, overcoming internalized doubt. Tina Desai as Ananya Ghosh, the FampB manager at The Palace Hotel, essays composure, standing tall in the midst of panicked patrons. Shreya Dhanwanthary as the headline-hungry journo Mansi Hirani is the character you'd want to detest immensely but the actor coaxes you into understanding her cause. Deshpande, Bharadwaj and Dubey playing the first-day medical trainees evoke curiosity, wonder, confusion and kindness in their parts. Belawadi as CMO Subramanian and Sandesh Kulkarni as ACP Mahesh Tawde display authority and empathy in their respective parts.

'Mumbai Diaries: 26/11' is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Some of the visuals are triggering but as a content consumer, it's an extremely arresting watch. Largely, it will make you question your privilege and urge you into reflecting upon your approach towards the frontline warriors.

Surely, an apt watch given these adverse times.

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