The devastating terrorist attacks on Mumbai on November 26th, 2008 will always remain as a scar in the history of India. One of the most extensively covered occurrence, the 26/11 attacks have had various representations in the past including a detailed documentary and a small time shoddy feature film on the same along with a televised series too. After all of that and five years from the time of the attacks comes Ram Gopal Varma's big scale cinematic depiction of the callous happening. Whether this turns out to be soul-stirring or not, let's find out.
The story takes off with Joint Joint Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria's (Nana Patekar) chronilogically narrating the occurrence of the ill fated day. Cut to the sea where a group of armed terrorist tries making its way to the shores of Mumbai. The make their way into the city through Colaba and within no time wreck havoc in the 12 most prominent spots in Mumbai. Although in RGV's interpretation, we only are witnessed to the brutality of the attacks on places like Cafe Leopold, CST station, Cama Hospital and Taj Mahal hotel. How the trained terrorist hold city hostage for 60 hours is what follows through the rest of the plot.
After a few minutes into the film you feel as if Ram Gopal Varma may have sat down with a check list of the sequences in order until the time of Kasab's death penalty for the film presents pretty much just that.
It's only in the West that one gets to see what went behind a devastating event like in the case of Oliver Stone's WTC or Paul Greengrass' United 93 or even the nail-biting and extremely gripping representation of a mission to set the nation free from a threat like in the case of Katherine Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty. In our nation it only gets down to a mere reenactment of the event with no other angle to it.
Call it the lazy effort or the lack of interest in bringing out any other dimension to the series of destructive episodes, RGV clearly falters in doing justice to the horrid day that scarred not just the city but the nation forever.
Moreover, RGV resorts to some blood curling, blood spewing means to show the crude violence of that night in a thorough Tarantino style. Instead of paying his tribute by celebrating the heroic episodes of the people to rose above to bring order in chaos, he celebrates the violence backed with background score fit for horror films.
Worse still, one also gets a long-drawn preachy lecture on Jihaad, 'Mussallam Imaan', Jannat and various other terms used conflictingly by terrorists, which has been a fodder for many jingoistic films for more than a decade. The non-linear narrative with the help of Nana Patekar's languidly spaced out dialogues in chaste Hindi only makes matters worse. It's also in those moments you see that even a brilliant actor like Nana Patekar can ham if not directed properly.
The characterisation of Ram Gopal Varma is nothing to rave about either. Except for Patekar who gives fleeting glances of his acting brilliance and the crackling debut of the Sanjeev Jaiswal as the 20 year old terrorist Ajmal Kasab, the rest of the cast appears highly caricaturish. Atul Kulkarni gets thrown in the melee too for a 2 minute scene; a total waste of good talent.
Although flawed, the film also shows some positives, the biggest being the camera work. Known for his recent rogue cinematography techniques, RGV represses his fancy and sticks to a much decent camerawork that at least doesn't spin your head.
Some of the sequences in the film stand out and leave a lump in your throat, for example, the ones where the general public comes to the aide of the victims of attacks outside Leopolds Cafe. Also the sequences of the attacks inside Taj Mahal Hotel. Even the police's inability to control such a grave and looming occurance is brilliantly depicted.
Ram Gopal Varma's The Attacks of 26/11 doesn't do justice to the shocking brutality of the ill fated day but doesn't thorougly disappoint either. The film has its soul-stirring moments but they are very few.