Ram Gopal Varma’s The Attacks of 26/11 is a shabby, unfinished recreation that cannot capture the scale or the audacity of the attacks that shocked the world
The Attacks of 26/11 by Ram Gopal Varma is one of the very first cinematic versions of the most audacious and long lasting terror attacks on Mumbai that had the Island city under siege for three days. There has been a documentary on it, which captures the scale of the attacks brilliantly, complete with the call recordings of the masterminds from Pakistan, right until the terrorists are all shot and captured at the end of three days by National Security Guard commandos.
But this movie, The Attacks of 26/11, doesn’t throw light on the entire incident. It only plays from the time the terrorists enter Mumbai in a fishing boat, wreak havoc in the city, leave piles of dead bodies in half a dozen places, and it wraps up when Ajmal Kasab the only terrorist to be caught alive, is captured. The story is narrated in flashbacks by Nana Patekar, as he deposes before a committee which is investigating the attacks.
The movie, in so many places, seems stuck together with pins and duct tape. At its worst, it is shabby and careless. There’s hardly any finesse in the manner with which it is executed. At one point during the shootout at CST station, we can almost see the camera and lights in the granite pillars!
The casting is mediocre and it’s more about caricatures rather than characters. The story too is nothing that you already don’t know about and besides the obvious, the movie doesn’t go into details of the attacks. At its best, it is a gruesome orgy of music and violence until you want none of it; neither the extra dramatic background score that clings on to you like a pesky friend, nor the dead bodies. By the end of the carnage, one almost feels desensitised towards all the killings that have been going on. And since the Taj Hotel refused Ramu the permission to shoot in its premises, the most iconic scene of the Mumbai siege is just breezed past. But Café Leopold is featured, and its owner plays himself in the film, so we know that location was arranged!
Yet, Nana Patekar has given it his all – in the series of fiery monologues that he bursts into while he interrogates Kasab, the way he deals with pressure real time in such a hot situation – just the ease with which he performs those scenes is commendable. The film slips into confrontation mode towards the end of its playtime after Kasab is captured and interrogated by Nana as a sort of final act. It seems very much like putting the terrorist on trial just for the benefit of the audience. And there were hoots and whistles too in the theatre, from people who didn’t really know when the justice on Kasab arrived and swiftly passed them by as he was hanged unannounced three years years after his imprisonment.
For Sanjeev Jaiswal who plays Ajmal Kasab – full marks for the likeness. The directors couldn’t have found a closer replica of the hanged terrorist. Yet he is rather Gollum like in his mannerisms and the raspy voice he carries is two dimensional and flat. The terrorist-like brainwashed and fearless demeanour that he puts on is hard to accept and doesn’t seem to work. It’s as if the director is waving a flag at you that screams ‘this man is not human!’ It shows that RGV completely missed the point.
26/11 was a shocking tragedy, one that people have not yet fully gotten over. And The Attacks of 26/11 – the movie, doesn’t quite manage to wind it all up. There is no closure yet, neither in reality nor cinematically. The film, at its best a recreation of the tragedy, is definitely not the last word on the attacks that changed the city, probably forever.
Reviewed by Reza Noorani
**** Very good