Before you watch the film Hotel Mumbai, watch the 2013 Hindi film The Attacks of 26/11 - a reverent, yet brutal, re-enactment of events surrounding the Mumbai massacre of 2008.
Released five years after the event, the 2013 film captures the many facets of the attack which took place between 9:30 pm on 26 November and continued through to 1:00 am on 27 November. The film gives insight into the events and emotions behind the tragedy.
The docudrama opens with the following introduction:
The story of the film and screenplay has been picturized from an incident that happened at Mumbai. Certain Cinematic Liberties however, have been taken.The film does not intend to hurt any religious sentiments.
The content of this film is in no way intended to be against any religion or community. It's only against the inhuman aspects of certain specific individuals.
Never in the history of mankind, a more terrifying event than the attacks of 9/11 happened. But just in their sheer audacity the attacks of 26/11 on Mumbai were far more shocking.
Lashkar-e-Taiba, an organisation banned by several countries and designated by the U.S. State Department as one of the largest and most active terror organizations in the world has waged a proxy war against India for years.
Apart from the various other terror acts its members inflicted over the years in India, this organisation plotted a tactically different and a never before heard of mission to be executed in Mumbai, the commercial capital of India on 26th November 2008.
It sent a group of ten men by sea to launch simultaneous and co-ordinated attacks at various places in Mumbai with the express purpose of killing as many people as possible.
This is the true story of how those attacks happened.
When asked how carefully the film depicted the actual events, director Ram Gopal Varma explained:
It is absolutely true. We have referred to officially documented sources. There is no imagination involved here. We’ve taken creative licence only when it comes to condensation. We can’t do justice to all the events that happened throughout the attacks in a two-hour film. So we’ve chosen some, left out others.
Make no mistake. This is a brutal film. It is heartwrenching not just because of the lives lost, but because we are witness to the relentless and merciless slaughter.
Accompanied by the testimony of Rakesh Maria, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) at that time (played by Nana Patekar) the re-enactment of events reflects the appropriate gravitas and bewilderment.
The intermission comes at a point in time where you don't think you can watch any more innocent lives being taken by the dispassionate killers. Profoundly shaken, Rakesh Maria asks:
What are these people? What kind of hatred is this? Can you understand? I can't. What kind of barbarism is this? Are they just plain insane who've been given a gun? What faith allows you to kill innocent children so brutally and so cruelly?
At one point my mind went numb.
The closest thing you'll get to an item song in this film is "Maula Maula" sung by Sukhwinder Singh - the perfect choice to give voice to a chaotic situation.
The film paints a portrait of a horrific massacre that once seen can never be forgotten. While the film focuses on the first few hours of terrorism, the actual attacks lasted from Wednesday, 26 November until Saturday, 29 November 2008 during which time 164 people died, and 308 were injured.
After capturing the sole surviving terrorist, Rakesh Maria and other Mumbai officials listen as the gunman details how and why he carried out the assault. When he asks to be reunited with his fellow gunmen, Maria takes him to the morgue where the bodies of the other nine attackers lay, unclaimed and unwanted. There, Rakesh Maria confronts the gunman about the reasons given for the attacks. Eventually, he focuses on the idea of martyrdom:
Listen to what people did when you and your guys were busy killing. They didn’t care about anyone’s religion or faith, they just sacrificed their own lives trying to save others. They attained martyrdom for protecting humanity created by God. Everyone’s mourning for them. Everyone’s shedding tears. They attained heaven here itself on earth. That’s what true martyrdom is.
Ultimately, this film honors the people of Mumbai who came together during an unthinkable and inhuman situation.
The following playlist features the trailer for this film (released on 1 March 2013) and the 2019 film Hotel Mumbai.
- New York Times|The Lede - Tracking the Mumbai attacks. 26 November 2008. Note: This was a liveblog pulling together information about the attacks from a variety of sources. At this early stage, it was still unclear who was responsible for the attacks. But this gives you a sense of the scale and impact of the situation.
- BBC News South Asia - Timeline: Mumbai under attack. 1 December 2008. The attacks in Mumbai began during the evening of 26 November. Reports say the militants arrived on dinghies, possibly launched from an outlying vessel. Here is a list of subsequent events with approximate timings.
- Press Information Bureau, Government of India - HM announces measures to enhance security. 11 December 2008. Release ID :45446
- PBS Video - Secrets of the Dead: Mumbai Massacre. 25 November 2009. Timed for the first anniversary of the attacks, "Mumbai Massacre" brings viewers survivor accounts, closed-circuit footage from within the hotels and actual words spoken by victims and terrorists. Told from the perspective of the victims, the film places viewers inside the maelstrom, where they become witnesses to the critical events and decisions that meant the difference between life and death.
- The Telegraph - Mumbai terror attacks: The making of a monster. 12 April 2013. The testimony of the only gunman captured alive after the Mumbai massacre in 2008 provided a unique insight into the mind of a terrorist. So what turned a boy from a farming village into a cold-blooded killer?