Saturday, November 20, 2021

A quick (and belated) note on Mumbai Diaries 26/11

I don’t usually post the (very) tiny “reviews” I do for Reader’s Digest – thought about writing expanded versions for the blog, but no energy now for that sort of thing. Still, it makes sense once in a while to share something about a film or series to provide information about its existence (for those who might not have heard of it in this OTT-clutter age). Among the ones I liked in recent months was Mumbai Diaries 26/11, a medical drama set on the first night of the November 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai. The main location is a south Bombay government hospital where doctors and nurses (and three interns, on a first day that is much more memorable than they would have liked) must cope with the influx of wounded patients, and with a possible threat to their own lives.

There are a few slack threads here and there – not every character or back-story is compelling – but on the whole this was a well-paced show. Among its visual signatures are many long takes and a constantly moving camera in relatively congested settings – this sort of thing can be dizzying and not to all tastes, but it catches the chaos of the night and the constant confusion and fear of the characters. Hospital staff like Chitra (Konkona Sen Sharma) deal with their own personal demons, a doctor’s wife (Tina Desai) tries to keep guests in the Palace Hotel safe from the terrorists, an ambitious journalist (Shreya Dhanwanthary) causes trouble for everyone.

Ironically the story became less gripping for me at the point where the hospital itself comes in the line of fire, with a couple of terrorists infiltrating it to get to one of their group who has been admitted as a patient. When this happens (around episode 5 or 6) Mumbai Diaries 26/11 begins to play like a more conventional, gunfire-in-the-corridors action show – as opposed to what it was earlier, a story about the frenetic goings-on in a place that was at the centre of the storm but insulated from the actual violence.

Also: I actually began my tiny RD piece by mentioning how impressive Mohit Raina is as the bandana-wearing trauma surgery chief Dr Kaushik, and how long my mind took to process that this was the same actor who played Lord Shiva as a beefcake in the TV show Devon ke Dev…Mahadev. (I have never watched that show, only seen snippets here and there, but I remember Raina’s Shiva from a couple of scenes in the Star Plus Mahabharata of 2013-2014, such as the one where he interrupts the Bheeshma-Parashurama fight and sonorously Godsplains to the traumatised Amba. Wouldn’t have imagined him in the Mumbai Diaries role.)

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