Hotel Mumbai Movie Review: Revisiting one of India's most brutal tragedies

Updated: Nov 26, 2019, 18:39 IST | Vinamra Mathur | Mumbai

Anthony Maras' Hotel Mumbai is a jolting cinematic experience that succeeds in transporting you to Mumbai's worst encounter with brutality.

Anupam Kher and Dev Patel in a still from Hotel Mumbai. Image courtesy: Youtube
Anupam Kher and Dev Patel in a still from Hotel Mumbai. Image courtesy: Youtube

Hotel Mumbai
Director: Anthony Maras
U/A; Drama, History, Thriller
Cast: Anupam Kher, Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi
Rating: Rating

The horrific attacks of 26/11 may have jolted the entire city of Mumbai, but never crippled it. There aren't many cities in the world that can rival Mumbai's swiftness in getting back to its feet. Anthony Maras' take on the barbaric night in the form of Hotel Mumbai is a jolting cinematic experience that transports you back to 2008.

Before this, Ram Gopal Varma attempted to narrate the same story keeping Ajmal Kasab at the centre of the narrative. And on the other side of the plot was Nana Patekar as Rakesh Maria. Their investigation scenes gave us an insight into Kasab's psyche and why he did what he did, what compelled him to choose the path of terrorism. In this movie, we get a more meticulous portrayal of the same tragedy.

Check out the trailer here:

Maras introduces other key characters that were instrumental in the attacks like Imran and Abdullah. There's a scene where one of the terrorists has a phone conversation with his family, we sense his panic, he's crippled with the fear of being gunned down by the forces, but we also know he has been brainwashed by his boss, The Bull, into picking up the gun. Unlike a majority of the Hindi film thrillers, Hotel Mumbai attempts to give such characters an arc.

It has also helped that barring Anupam Kher and Dev Patel, Maras assembles an ensemble of largely unknown faces that further adds to the film's authenticity. The cinematography by Nick Remy Matthews is as real as it can get; Mumbai, right from the opening credits, becomes the film's central character and sucks you into its brisk life. Matthews and Maras shoot the attacks with realism and expectedly succeed in creating palpable fear among the audience.

A large portion of the background score is the sound of guns blazing, and the editing prepares you for the tragedy waiting to happen in advance. It's all very genuinely done, and the film never feels like a laboured attempt in emotional manipulation. The performances are hardly performances; Kher and Patel deliver what is arguably their most real and restrained outings in recent times. And the same holds true for all the other actors. Their trauma becomes your tragedy.

But we don't see much of Kasab and Maria; Kasab's capturing and subsequent investigation is handled with haste, and we don't see Maria's tireless efforts to bring the perpetrators to what they deserve. Maybe Maras wanted to focus more on the hostages in Hotel Taj, and how 1600 out of 1700 escaped successfully. Just like Mumbai, Hotel Taj in Colaba is also an integral character of the film, and it had to be since it's based on the event that unfolded in that very building.

Hotel Mumbai isn't an easy watch, it's jolting and discomforting, but it's good to see an attempt that doesn't feel like propaganda or manipulation. It's a piece of work that will continue to remind us what Mumbai went through that night, and why it came back to its feet within three days. It also reminded us that Mumbai is a city that can be shaken, but never shackled.

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