Film: Hotel Mumbai
Cast: Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Jason Isaacs, Anupam Kher, Nazanin Boniardi, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Nagesh Bhosle, Natasha Liu Bordizzo
Director: Anthony Maras
Co-written by debut feature director Anthony Maras and John Collee, this Australian–American–Indian co-production spotlights the 26/11 Lashkar-e-Taiba attacks on Mumbai and pays tribute to the brave hearts who risked their lives to save others. Conducted by 10 young footsoldiers of a Karachi-based evil mastermind on a round the clock remote control, the attack took place over four days and left 166 dead and over 300 wounded. Of the 34 who were massacres at the Taj, 17 were employees. Anupam Kher plays master chef Hemant Oberoi.
It is a substantive and bloody re-enactment embellished by archival footage which captures the horror of the onslaught on CST station, the Trident (Oberoi) Nariman Point, the Chabad Centre at Nariman House Colaba and Leopold Cafe which culminated in the bloody siege on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel nearby which is the setting for most of the film.
Maras retells the tragedy from multiple perspectives unlike the first feature on the 2008 attacks, Nicolas Saada’s shut-in Taj Mahal, which focused on the claustrophobic viewpoint of a panic stricken French teen trapped in a room.
Maras also serves up India’s cultural complexity from sacred cows to the belief in fate/ destiny as exemplified by the backpackers who flee from Leo’s only to be slaughtered at the Taj by Pakistani terrorists who are told at one point: “There is no fear in your heart. I am with you. God is with you. Paradise awaits.”
But Maras believes in mercy and the power of prayer as evidenced by the Muslim woman Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi, beautiful), who is married to American architect David (Armie Hammer) with whom she has just had a baby. These characters are fictional albeit based on real life people, for example; the infant’s nanny (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) is inspired by the real life character of Sandra Samuels, the brave nanny who saved toddler Moshe, whose parents were shot dead in the Chabad Centre.
For me, the most memorable characters are Dev Patel’s brave Arjun, a Taj kitchen worker who’s worried about his pregnant wife and child, and the hard drinking, womanising Russian Vasili (Jason Isaacs, terrific), who dies like a hero. No, this is not a spoiler and yes, he reminded me of Sidney Carton in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.