Mumbai Diaries 26/11
Creators/Directors: Nikkhil Advani, Nikhil Gonsalves
Writers: Yash Chhetija, Nikhil Gonsalves, Anushka Mehrotra, Sanyukhta Chawla Shaikh
Cast: Konkona Sen Sharma, Mohit Raina, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Tina Desai, Prakash Belawadi, Mrunmayee Deshpande, Satyajeet Dubey, Natasha Bharadwaj
Cinematography: Kaushal Shah
Production Design: Priya Suhas
Art Direction: Vijay Ghodke
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
What captivates you throughout this 8-episode series is the brilliant cinematography by Kaushal Shah and performance by Mohit Raina. Both are in top form. Mumbai Diaries 26/11 is a fiction inspired by the events of 26th November 2008 terror attacks that shook Mumbai. The narrative focuses on doctors and medical staff at Bombay General Hospital which is attacked by terrorists. Family members of two doctors are stuck at the Palace Hotel which is also under attack by the terrorists. The message here is ‘insaniyat’ (humanity).
The characters in the series hail from all walks of life. The dividing factors are of course, religion, caste, and class. The day of the terrorist attack happens to be the first day for three trainees. One belongs to a lower caste, other is Muslim and the third one is the granddaughter of a man who had funded the hospital back in the day. At the centre of the drama is Dr. Kaushik Oberoi (Mohit Raina) , the best doctor any hospital could have. He has unconventional methods of treating patients, given that the general hospital does not have many facilities or ample resources to treat cases which vary from fever to gun shots.
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We are introduced to Dr. Kaushik with a thrilling scene of him operating a young boy who has had an accident. Such unconventional treatment attracts police attention, which we come to know is a common scenario at a packed hospital such as this. Mohit Raina gets into the skin of the character. I hear his father is a doctor. There’s a lot of medical terms and jargon which all the actors get remarkably on point. Konkona Sen Sharma plays Chitra Das, a doctor who can’t practice. She is dealing with personal trauma of her own. Dr. Kaushik and his wife Ananya (Tina Desai) are going through marital problems.
The trainees Sujata (Mrunmayee Deshpande) and Ahaan Mirza (Satyajeet Dubey) have faced discrimination all her life and continue to do so. Diya (Natasha Bharadwaj) is struggling with depression and validation from her father. And there are numerous supporting characters who have stories of their own. It’s pretty chaotic – the narrative and the setting of a hospital. But the creators and directors Nikkhil Advani and Nikhil Gonsalves have crafted this series skillfully. The conflicts between characters play out organically. The messaging doesn’t feel contrived.
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Much of this credit also goes to three other departments – cinematography, production design and art direction. The series is mostly shot handheld. The camera gives the experience of the naked eye ably supported by a detailed art and production design. You feel like you’re witnessing the events first hand. There’s also a finely done track of media reporting; the irresponsible job done by the media by broadcasting the rescue operations live on TV and enabling the masterminds and handlers of the attack in Pakistan monitor and advise the terrorists to cause more damage. All of this because every channel wants a ‘killer story’. Well, the media circus still continues.
Talking about the actors, Konkona Sen Sharma doesn’t get much to play with, and almost gets lost in the last two episodes. All the supporting actors chip in with their sincere best. Satyajeet Dubey, Mrunmayee Deshpande, Natasha Bharadwaj as trainees, Sandesh Kulkarni as ACP Tawde, Balaji Gauri and Pushkaraj Chirputkar as the members of medical staff make a solid impression. Prakash Belawadi as the Dean of the hospital is at his effortless best.
It’s been 13 years since the attacks but the memories are still unsettling. The series is released during a time when again the doctors are at work 24×7 because of the pandemic. The series is created with great sensibilities and manages to captivate you for eight episodes straight.