Mumbai Diaries 26/11 on Amazon Prime Video tells a fictionalised account of one of the worst terrorist attacks India has ever faced, focusing primarily on the first dark night of the attack. There's been a handful of films out there based upon the same event, the major ones being The Attacks of 26/11 and Hotel Mumbai. However, the subject matter is such that no movie can do justice at aptly portraying all the horrifying aspects of those nights that brought the city that never sleeps to a halt. Mumbai Diaries 26/11 doesn't promise on doing that either, even with 8 episodes of storytelling on hand. That's precisely why the show works. It gives us an insight into the Bombay General Hospital, its doctors, nurses and victims.
The series has an outstanding cast of actors, almost each getting their personal character arc. There's Dr Kaushik Oberoi (Mohit Raina), who is best at what he does, inspite of his somewhat controversial and unorthodox methods. His colleague, Chitra Das (Konkona Sensharma) plays the head of the social service team, while dealing with her personal trauma of marital abuse and unfulfilled ambitions. There's the pugnacious hospital boss Dr Subramaniam (Prakash Belawadi) and the brave nurses (Balaji Gauri, Adithi Kalkunte). Lastly, there's three new trainees (Satyajeet Dubey, Natasha Bharadwaj, Mrunmayee Deshpande), who serve the story in the best possible way, tying the entire screenplay to its beam.
The show already would've seemed impressive on paper with its brilliant concept, promising on providing the audience with the kind of perspective that is hardly ever emphasized on in the mainstream Indian TV/film landscape. Mumbai Diaries 26/11 doesn't only make us root for these frontline workers, but makes us feel what it must be like to be working in an understaffed, dysfunctional healthcare system that's been run by years of bureaucratic mismanagement. Watching this post-pandemic takes on a greater meaning and depth, even if the events the show is based upon occurred 13 years ago. It fills our hearts with immense pride for these people, who have always had their priorities straight -to save lives.
The eight episode series couldn't have worked if it didn't have the factor of authenticity playing in. There's no sugarcoating the incidents or the horrifying gore of the events. The art direction by Vijay Ghodke combined with the production design by Priya Suhas creates an atmosphere that feels unnerving. Episode six in particular will make you feel like walking through a mission of some zombie survival horror game. The background score too, is not overdone for most parts and succeeds in hitting all the emotions. The long takes and tracking shots don't come across as ostentatious. There's also the brilliant acting talents of the cast, grounding the show in reality. Notice how certain characters move with their shoulders, the way they walk, with dark circles under their hooded eyes. Some supporting characters who would only talk in their native language in most instances, giving a sense of how Mumbai really is a place of colliding cultures with multiple ethnicities.
The title of the show may be misleading to some of its viewers. But once you tune into it, creator Nikkhil Advani along with writers Yash Chhetija, Nikhil Gonsalves and Anushka Mehrotra make sure that you know the world that they're portraying is partly fictionalized. At the same time, it all works because the message they're trying to get across remains true to its meaning and thus, impactful. Despite employing multiple elaborate plot points and cinematic tricks, the show does take some liberty by deviating from the facts. Some places have deliberately been renamed, for that purpose. The crumbling government hospital is symbolic of the crumbling, overwhelmed healthcare infrastructure. The writers make sure there's room to incorporate more timely themes, like religious bigotry, mental health and casteism.
Within the first episode, we're introduced to a character named Paramjeet Singh Kaur, played by Mohini Sharma. We're left wondering throughout the course of next few episodes what her purpose in the story might be. Then, through a flashback that feels thematically earned even if it doesn't make for smooth storytelling, we learn how her family was a victim of the 1984 riots. Her character acts as a beacon of hope in the show. A character at a certain point even refers this to her directly. Kaur acts like a glaring reminder to us, of how hate and violence sees no religion. She acts like a fragile link of wisdom, looking upon and thus, connecting different generations.
In the last episode of the show, a shot cuts from the sun rising over the vastness of Mumbai, to a shot of an open wound. Somehow even thirteen years later, the wounds that were opened on that night still remain fresh in the hearts and minds of thousands of Mumbaikars. It acts like a reminder of how despite every grave disaster, what keeps the indomitable spirit intact is the sense of hope and collective goodness in all of us. Mumbai Diaries 26/11 will hit you on all levels, because it shows how the attack wasn't just a fight for the victims present on the ground on that fateful night, but for all of India.