Mohit Raina, Konkona Sensharma starrer Mumbai Diaries 26/11 is gut-wrenching but too stretched to make for a gripping watch.
Mumbai Diaries 26/11 is set in a Mumbai government hospital where the victims of terrorist attacks are brought in on the fateful night of 26/11. The series brings to light the challenges faced by the medical staff of the hospital and also the first responders in Mumbai who were dealing with an unimaginable crisis. The series is filled with drama and suspense. It gives each character their own backstory even as the staff tries to save others and themselves.
Sometimes deadlines don't let you choose work over your emotions, no matter what situation you get entangled in. When the trailer for Mumbai Diaries 26/11 dropped, the 15-year-old Mumbaikar in me started recalling the shocking news flashes. The visuals of terrorists blazing guns without blinking their eyes and attacking innocent lives got into me all over again. In nearly 13 years of the incident, Indian cinema, as well as international filmmakers, have narrated the incident in a fictionalised format from different angles.
But what about the people at the Cama Hospital (Bombay General Hospital in this series)? Nikkhil Advani took the matters into his hands and showcased a deep fictionalised version in his latest web series Mumbai Diaries 26/11. Having only a few hits in his filmography, the filmmaker has ventured fully into web series format. After The Empire (read our review here), Mumbai Diaries 26/11 can be called a much better job.
Having watched a stupendous series like Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story, one could have, should have and would have not expected this kind of fiction format for a true story that shook the nation. Yes, every individual has their own story, be it in any circumstances, but sometimes that shouldn't overpower the narrative of the true incident.
Mumbai Diaries 26/11 has its heart in the right place but the execution goes haywire at multiple places. The eight-episode-long series could have shortened its runtime which could have made it a better watch without testing the viewers’ patience.
The trailer excited me to watch Shreya Dhanwanthary donning the role of a journalist once again after Scam 1992. But...but...but... such a badly written role! She is shown as a nightcrawler who leaves no stone unturned in getting breaking news before the rival channels. However, it looks very caricaturish as she injures herself to get an entry into the hospital for the sake of getting the ‘biggest story of the night’. It's demeaning of sorts, although, knowing that journalism has shown no limits in the coverage of several 'breaking' news in the past few years. Sadly, Shreya's unabashed attitude and performance don't help in making her character arc better.
The best performance in the show also takes time to grow on you eventually and they are the lead actors Konkona Sensharma and Mohit Raina. They are not impressive from the first episode but as the show progresses their characters develop amazingly. The good thing about Mohit's character as Dr Kaushik Oberoi is that the makers hardly show sequences of his past, instead, they make it a part of him narrating it.
Meanwhile, Konkona, who is among the best talents in the country, has heavy baggage from her past marriage in the series which has been beautifully blended in her character.
Although the supporting characters try their level best to grab attention and they do, but only a few manage to stand out. Mrunmayee Deshpande plays a Dalit and Satyajeet Dubey is seen as a Muslim trainee doctor. Both the actors did a fab job in playing their characters as doctors who deal with bigotry, casteism and also nepotism despite being under terrorist attacks.
There's a scene in which a cop holds a doctor at gunpoint for doing his job, i.e., saving the life of a terrorist after he 'fails' to save the ATS chief who succumbed to the injuries. The constant dialogue of 'a doctor's job is to save lives' becomes dry as dust. The act of saving the life of a terrorist was not to praise them but can be for different reasons, such as to know who is behind the attacks. Witnessing the gospel truth of 'yeh aadmi hume zinda chahiye' as seen in many movies earlier, seems to be of no importance in this series. Wherein it should be of utmost importance.
After 13 years and knowing stories on a first-hand basis from many survivors, the imaginations of people would have gone to the next level. However gripping and gut-wrenching the series is, it's execution is chaotic and doesn't match up to what the conceptualisation may have been.
Barring a few episodes and incredible performances, Mumbai Diaries 26/11 is long-ish and chaotic with a lacklustre execution.