Man lies soaked in blood writhing in pain. “Are you okay?” a colleague asks. This kind of impervious kneejerk reaction is splattered all over Mumbai Diaries. The 8-part series purports to honour the medical professionals at a Mumbai hospital on the night of 26 November 2008 when a 4-day reign of terror was unleashed on the city that never sleeps. Countless film have revisited the 26/11 nightmare. Mumbai Diaries 26/11 adds nothing to the jostle of fictionalized recreations of 26/11 attack in Mumbai. Instead it pours in the clichés into the plot rendering the conflicts not just over familiar but also exasperatingly overdramatized.
Three interns Sujata (Mrunmayee Deshpande), Diya (Natasha Bhardwaj) and Ahaan Mirza (Satyajit Dubey) arrive at the hospital on the day of the attack. We all know why one of them is a Muslim. He gets a chance to set right the imbalance caused by Jihadis. To his credit Dubey as the token reasonable Muslim presence, manages to flesh out a life for his character beyond the tricks of tokenism.
Not too many of the plethora of players are able to go beyond the trite conventions. The talented Mohit Raina as the kahin-bhi-shuroo doctor Kaushik Oberoi (he performs life saving surgeries in the hospital corridors) looks like he would burst a few blood vessels. Every character carries the heavy burden of a back story. Abused wives, breached marriages, parental intervention, even the 1984 riots(!!!)….Writers Yash Chhetija, Nikhil Gonsalves, Anushka Mehrotra and Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh pile on the drama at a high-risk rate often diluting the main crisis with subplots’ that seem to have been inserted only to keep the series going for 8 episode of more than 40 minutes each.
If the plot had restricted itself to the terror attack the length of this engaging but overlong plot could have been reduced to a watchable dimension. Instead we have characters begging to be rounded off, none more so than Konkona Sensharma. Playing the social worker and resident-busy body Chirtra Das, Konkona wears the same sullen expression throughout the series which I’ve seen her sporting for the last 12 films. Lady, loosen up.
Equally obnoxious is Shreya Dhanwanthary the scoop-obsessed news journalist whom someone should have spanked on her tosh-tosh ages ago. Her antics while people are sprayed with bullets all around , are insensitive enough to qualify as psychotic.
And the terrorists? They speak and behave as if they are in this bloodbath for the fun (which they probably were).What cancels out the series’ excruciating excesses is the police-terrorist confrontations in the corridors of the hospital. They are illustrative of the limited manpower and unlimited courage that the police force demonstrated that night to contain the terror attack.
Sandesh Kulkarni as ACP Tawde delivers the series’ most sincere performance. Every inch the fire-fighter ,Tawde saves the day. Among the rest of the cast Tina Desai as an events organizer at the ill-fated Taj (here for reasons best known to the producers named The Palace Hotel) tries to put up a brave show in the midst of a growing sense of doom. Not unlike what I felt during several passages of the craggy series which is salvaged by an innate deference for the frontrunners who risked their lives to save Mumbai from terrorist.
Now who will save us from the never-ending fictional accounts of what happened that night?
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