The horrific wave of terrorist attacks on key Mumbai landmarks on November 26 2008, killing 166 people, get the Bollywood treatment in director Ram Gopal Varma’s (‘Satya’, ‘Rangeela’) latest misfire.
‘The Attacks of 26/11’ opens with the subsequent inquiry in which the then joint commissioner of police (Nana Patekar) recounts his role on that tragic night. In flashbacks we’re shown the attacks, the police response, the capture and interrogation of Kasab (Sanjeev Jaiswal), the only survivor of the 10 Pakistani gunmen and his eventual hanging in 2012.
Alas, Varma is not interested in addressing any of the issues raised in the aftermath of the attacks. His film fails to tackle criticism of the police response to the tragedy, especially in relation to the stand-off at the main target, the Taj Mahal Hotel, which lasted several days. This prolonged siege is brushed off with one line of dialogue: ‘The operation ended successfully.’ It also ignores the role of ‘live’ Indian television coverage may have played in inadvertently aiding the gunmen inside the iconic Taj, who would have been able to watch what was happening on the outside.
Instead, Varma attempts a realistic cops-and-robbers recreation of the events. This is frequently filmed in slow motion with lengthy, violent bloody set pieces accompanied by a pounding patriotic ‘Jaws’-inspired score. The opening credits state that the Mumbai 26/11 attacks were ‘far more shocking than 9/11’, but the film refuses to illustrate this. What’s really shocking is that a talented director like Varma has used a real-life tragedy to produce Bolly-gore porn while passing it off as serious cinema.