When you watch this film you can’t help feeling three things:
1. That’s its too soon to watch a reenactment, even if partially fictionalized, of the heinous attacks on Mumbai a little over four years ago.
2. Cheated by filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma’s denial that he was making a film on the event when he has chastised for visiting the Taj Mahal Hotel the day after the terror strike ended.
3. Extreme disappointment in the tacky production, unashamed jingoism, insensitive handling of the subject and sheer audacity at playing to the basest of emotions.
Varma’s recounting of the events of 26/11 is apparently a mix of fact and fiction. Unfortunately the audience won’t necessarily know how to make a distinction between the two. But we are all familiar with the face of Ajmal Kasab and he becomes the funnel for channeling all the angst, ire and aggression against the perpetrators.
The film flashbacks as the joint commissioner of police (Nana Patekar) faces an inquiry panel for the way the event was handled. We know Patekar is playing Rakesh Maria. At the end of the film, as Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram plays in the background, we are told the commissioner was commended for his efforts, leaving you feeling that this movie is one big PR exercise for the same officer.
Patekar drones on and on in the worst depiction of an inquiry you can imagine on film – a panel of bored looking middle aged men staring benignly as Patekar sips green tea and relives those few days in 2008 as if he’s talking about the joys of watching paint dry. But when Patekar is out of that meeting room, playing his part in the flashbacks, he is in fine form.
The film ends with Kasab’s hanging – a simplistic conclusion to a complex issue, which for the makers of this film, is mostly about a bloody body count and a head-to-head between the Commissioner and Kasab.
In between there are the two big speeches. First is Kasab’s (Sanjeev Jaiswal) monologue on his faith, the mission and martyrdom. Jaiswal pitches in with a passionate performance. Then comes Patekar’s diatribe. As Kasab squirms between the mutilated bodies of his colleagues in a morgue, the police commissioner shows off this own impeccable knowledge of the Quran.
It’s too soon to see this event reenacted. You find yourself shielding your eyes as the terrorists wreak havoc in Leopold, CST and the Taj Mahal hotel’s lobby. But you never feel the tragedy of those days. The movie never touches an emotional chord so when the director asks you to stand in memory of those who died in 2008 you wonder for who – considering he does not represent the real heroes of that event or the stories of brave survivors.
Let’s hope one day, when the wounds are less raw, the human face, the inspiring stories will be told with sensitivity, intelligence and some artistry – all the things this movie lacks.