The terror attacks on Mumbai on 26/11 will remain etched in our memory forever. The attacks, which were condemned globally, still send a shiver down my spine when I reminisce about it. The dastardly acts by a terrorist organization at multiple sites of the city, killing and wounding hundreds of innocent lives, evoked myriad emotions. One felt furious, powerless, empathetic, distraught and traumatized at the same time. Now relive the catastrophic attacks on the big screen…
The tragic event, which led to debates, discussions and candlelight marches, gets chronicled on the big screen. Ramgopal Varma’s THE ATTACKS OF 26/11 is a cinematic interpretation of the barbaric attacks on 26/11, with the maverick film-maker unfolding the attacks on Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Leopold Cafe, Taj Mahal Hotel and Cama Hospital. Also incorporated in this motion picture is the arrest of Ajmal Kasab, the sole attacker who was captured alive, and his execution by hanging at Yerwada Jail in Pune last year.
A 7-minute showreel of how the terrorists infiltrated into Mumbai — part of the promotional campaign of THE ATTACKS OF 26/11 — was spellbinding enough to generate incredible attention for the film. The challenge that RGV faced was to reconstruct the events, replicating the gruesome acts on celluloid. But, I wish to add, one relives the emotions while watching the horrifying events unfold on the screen — infuriation, distress, grief, helplessness. It leaves you stunned and traumatized, as if you, too, had been caught in the swirl of events that led to the inexpressible misery and carnage. Also, THE ATTACKS OF 26/11 makes you salute and respect the men in uniform, who fought the terrorists tooth and nail. That’s precisely why THE ATTACKS OF 26/11 triumphs as a feature film.
RGV restricts the film to the night of the incident, recording episodes between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m., when Kasab was caught at Chowpatty. The movie grabs your attention from the inception itself, when the terrorists hijack an Indian trawler, Kuber, kill the fishermen on board and compel its head to sail towards Mumbai. Though it’s impossible to chronicle the events in 2 hours, RGV films the brutal attacks with ferocious passion, conjuring up images that seem straight out of real life. The audacious shootout in the lobby of Taj [replicated at another hotel], the slaughter and mayhem at CST, the blood and gore, each and every sequence that unfolds on screen gives you the goose bumps [this could be a deterrent for those who get put off by too much blood and gore]. Especially the sequence at the interval point [a wounded child watching a cop cry his lungs out]. It is chilling!
It’s in the post-interval portions that the viewer gets to know what transpired at Cama Hospital and also gets an insight into the mind of Ajmal Kasab. The sequence when Kasab talks of his Aaka and the fight to save Islam is shocking. But it’s the sequence in the morgue — with Nana confronting Kasab and talking about jihad — which takes the graph of the film to an all-time high. It’s in these two sequences that you realize that the supremely talented storyteller is back with a vengeance.
RGV makes sure he doesn’t skip a beat while narrating the vital episodes. Sure, the skeptics may argue, we have read and seen it all through various forms of communication [TV, newspapers, online], but what RGV accumulates is beyond words. This is one film where the real-life episodes take precedence, while technique takes a backseat [unlike his previous endeavors]. The gimmicky camera angles are not there this time, since RGV goes about passionately reliving the horrific tale as it is. In fact, it won’t be erroneous to state that THE ATTACKS OF 26/11 rediscovers RGV, who bounces back with renewed enthusiasm.
The screenwriting [Rommel Rodrigues], the lines that the characters deliver [Rommel Rodrigues, Rashid Iqbal, Prashant Pandey], the cinematography [Harshraj Shroff, M. Ravichandran], the shootouts [Javed-Aejaz], the background score [Amar Mohile], the art direction [Udai Prakash Singh] and the edit [Sunil M. Wadhwani, Ajit M. Nair] add credence to the enterprise that attempts to portray the carnage. The impact leaves you stunned and traumatized.
Nana Patekar is exceptional. Such restraint and maturity in a performance is a rarity. He is super in the sequences when he disposes before the inquiry commission and electrifying when he confronts Kasab at the morgue. Sanjeev Jaiswal [as Kasab] is so persuasive that you can’t help but hate him and his on-screen actions. The brutality that dwells in some humans comes to the fore as Jaiswal intensely enacts the sequence at the interrogation centre. Saad Orhan [as Ismail] is equally convincing. Atul Kulkarni, Asif Basra, Ravi Kale and Ganesh Yadav make cameo appearances.
On the whole, THE ATTACKS OF 26/11 is akin to watching the barbaric act in rawest form. The film not only chronicles the terror attacks, but also pays homage to the sentiments of the people of India and especially the heroes and victims of 26/11. A powerful retelling of a regrettable event in history. Do not miss this one!