Mumbai Diaries 26/11, created and directed by Nikhil Advani and Nikhil Gonsalves, has its share of theatrical filmy moments, which sort of makes it the product of the Bollywood sensibilities. But having said that, there are some really commendable achievements in terms of the craft part of the series. At a time when jingoism feels like the go-to tool to play with the superficial emotions of the audience, Mumbai Diaries 26/11 refrains itself from entering that zone and focuses mainly on the lives of doctors during such a critical situation.
The story is the fictionalized version of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. The unprecedented attack shook Mumbai, and the focus of our story is on the events that are happening in Bombay General Hospital (Cama and Albless Hospital). Dr. Kaushik Oberoi is a workaholic and committed doctor. So on the day of the event, he is going through all the usual chaos. His friend Dr. Sahil comes there to visit him, and his new junior residents, Ahaan, Diya, and Sujata, are there to meet him. The situation changed drastically in a matter of hours when injured people of the shootouts, including a terrorist, were admitted to the hospital. The moral dilemmas and the way they handled the unprecedented situation is what we witness in this 8 episode long series.
What makes it refreshing is the fact that the narrative is coming from the side of doctors. It is a series about a major shootout in the country, yet none of the lead characters are holding a gun. And the show frequently puts most of its characters in a situation where they have zero experience. Doctors are familiar with injuries of the highest degree, but working under the fear of getting killed is unusual. And the writing tries to include elements like caste-based discrimination, islamophobia, depression, etc., into the plot. While some of it kind of stood out, in totality, they all blended in with the on-screen chaos. At times, the writing seems to be confused about shifting the focus point, which was a bit distracting since everything else was making us concentrate on the hospital entirely.
The cinematography of the show is truly spectacular. Kaushal Shah uses the darkish lighting to represent the poor condition of the hospital, and the decision to use a steady cam to capture the tension makes the series even more compelling. The cinematography style very much ensures that you won’t take your eyes off the screen as you are also trying to understand the space. It is almost like you know the floor map of the building by the time the series finishes. Patriotism is obviously one of the layers of the show, and obviously, there are times you feel that they are playing it for the gallery. But the efforts to keep it minimal are appreciable. Advani and Gonsalves make sure that the gravity of the situation is captured with authenticity.
As Dr. Kaushik Oberoi, Mohit Raina is the main character here, and he plays the role with great finesse. The character is your typical hero material, yet he is vulnerable. The contrast in the character traits could have made the performance look dramatic on-screen, but Raina was able to hold it together, and he transformed into a doctor in front of the audience with great conviction. Konkona Sen Sharma as Chitra Das gets a relatively less important character in terms of screen time, but there was enough juice in that character for her to perform. Stayajeet Dubey as Ahaan Mirza and Natasha Bharadwaj as Diya Parekh were memorable, while Mrunmayee Deshpande as “Doctor” Sujata Ajawale made the unseen struggle of her character look believable on screen. Sandesh Kulkarni as ACP Mahesh Tawde and Prakash Belawadi as Dr. Subramaniam were also really good in their respective roles. I hated Mansi, the journalist, and I guess that shows how effective was Shreya Dhanwanthari in that role.
Mumbai Diaries 26/11 in totality is a show that works. Instead of playing it for the gallery with too many dialogues, the intention of the makers is to give us a picture of the tension and decision-making that happened during those tough times. Occasionally you can see the narrative slipping into the typical Bollywood style of masala-coated drama, but it quickly moves away from that pattern to make it look like a gripping account of a real-life incident. With so many characters becoming easily memorable within a span of 8 episodes, Mumbai Diaries 26/11 feels like a show that deserves to be watched.
With so many characters becoming easily memorable within a span of 8 episodes, Mumbai Diaries 26/11 feels like a show that deserves to be watched.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended