This is the film which Indians deserved after a slew of bad movies from Bollywood. For movie buffs who were dejected after watching really bad films which were churned out in the past 2 months, this movie can offer you the much-needed solace in the form of a drama (inspired by real-life events)which grips you like a python. Special thanks to Zee Cinemas for making sure this film has a theatrical release in India.
Since this is an international film, I didn’t expect it to have many cultural or colloquial references. During the first 10 minutes itself, I heard- Victoria Terminus Station, Café Lilopal (Leopold) and Colaba. I was really taken aback on the groundwork done by the debutante director, Anthony Maras. The gaalis we hear from the terrorists sound like the ones uttered by Punjabis. It makes sense because Punjab is really close to Pakistan and the dialect spoken would’ve been almost the same.
While this unfortunate incident happened in 2008 and there was not much the crew could do to create the Mumbai of that period, we witness Black Ambassadors instead of the Hyundai Santros being driven around in South Mumbai nowadays. These little things just add on to the authenticity of the film and make for a better cinematic experience.
Dev Patel plays, Arjun, an innocent staff at The Taj Hotel who would go on to save 40 people from the deadly attacks. Anupam Kher plays the head chef of the hotel in his own classy manner. Armie Hammer plays an architect who visits Mumbai with his wife (Nazanin Boniadi) and baby accompanied by a nanny. Jason Isaacs plays a very convincing former Special Forces officer of the Russian Armed Forces in what was a memorable performance. Hotel Mumbai is a film about how innocent lives are affected because of a terrorist attack based on skewed religious beliefs.
I particularly liked how scenes shifted from rustic to regal many times during the film. Just as we are shown the opulent interiors of the hotel, we get a scene-shift and we’re shown the claustrophobia-inducing chawls in which Dev Patel is ready to go for work.
The film would’ve made sense even if it was marketed as a horror film. We see the terrorists wreaking havoc without any inhibitions and scaring the daylights of the people. Certain shots in the hotel are so unnerving that I heard people gasping for breath at the sight of terrorists in the film. We see many aerial shots in the lobby of the hotel where the hostages and terrorists are playing cat-and-mouse. It leaves you at the edge of the seat and heaving a sigh of relief whenever someone makes a narrow escape at being killed.
Since there are so many movies that made this tragic incident into a movie, we don’t unearth facts which are new. This is why some scenes (very few) seem like a drag and should have been weeded out at the editing table. Dev Patel seems to have the same expression for grief, sadness, desperation, frustration and happiness-eyebrows raised with pauses in between and a frightened voice. I wasn’t particularly impressed with his acting and felt that there was a huge room for improvement. This film definitely had the potential to do better had the director showed us something beyond what we knew already.
Apart from that, this movie might just be the most factually-correct and authentic film on the dreadful 26/11 attacks. Not disregarding the films previously made on those attacks but the amount of detailing and rawness in the film makes me think so. Head over to a cinema near you to witness spine-tingling scenes around your favorite areas in Bombay which will leave you wanting for more.