Director Anthony Maras carves a gripping story about an event that’s become a global phenomenon
Think that you’re visiting a country as a tourist. What you get is constant gun shots all around and you can’t even do anything except remain in perpetual terror. Terrible, isn’t it? The film creates this feeling shaking you up from within. t’s been over 10 years that a group of notorious terrorists not only shook the city of Mumbai but the entire globe. But this seems like it happened yesterday. While watching Hotel Mumbai, you actually feel your breaths getting heavy, you are sighing with pain and shock, and at the same time keeping your spirits high thinking of the real people involved in the incident. The film is a rush of emotions, an experience that makes you forget everything that our country gets divided at. This film is about unity and courage, and saluting the never diminishing spirit of a human being to stay true to what makes him/her human.
The film is based on the real life terror attack that happened in Mumbai, India on 26th November, 2008 where several parts of the city were targeted. This story deals with Hotel Taj Mahal Palace in particular and tells how the staff of the hotel performed their duties to save its customers.
Maras and John Collee’s writing is exemplary. While everything about the incident is almost known to everybody, thanks to extensive media coverage across the world, the writers take this to their biggest advantage. The angle matters here. Without touching on what’s commonly known, they delve deep into something that is not or lesser known.
A lot has been said about the heroism and indomitable spirit of the staff of Hotel Taj Mahal Palace and how they put their customers before self. But all this was hitherto in the form of short anecdotes. The film picks up from there and builds on it, in the most impeccable manner.
The story has a proper arc with conflicts rising as you move ahead, with climax getting as intense as it can. You are glued to the screens all throughout, for you are in jitters as to what will happen next. The drama has a nail-biting quality to it, something that Maras deserves applauds for.
The scenes have emotions and sensitivity right in place. Action merged with humane notions, grueling thrill juxtaposed with benevolence of the people, and heart wrenching visuals running parallely with heart warming pride- form the narrative structure of the film. The part where the head chef Hemant Oberoi (Anupam Kher) exclaims ‘Guest is God’ actually holds true for his staff when they refuse to go to their families and choose to serve their guests instead, touches your hearts. Similarly the terrified receptionist calling each room individually asking them to remain safe is yet another example of service before self.
Progressing at its leisurely pace, the story gives you goosebumps keeping you in continuous suspense. The nature of brutality shown (which is mirrored from what happened in real) sends chills down your spine. The film is loaded with small moments- either making you emotional or filling you with pride or simply making getting a lump in your throat.
The film doesn’t tell you only about the guests in the hotel but also the frames of minds of the terrorists. They are constantly in touch with their mentor and the conversations are fantastic, making the film what it is. Also, the emotional connect to one of them if also intelligently shown, making you wonder about their horrendous act in amazement.
Dev Patel stands out. With a role that has the most layers, he makes sure you empathize with him all across. Although he is not a hero or protagonist here, he commands respect.
Anupam Kher in a notable role leaves a mark of a genius actor behind. You just have to savour him. He is too good.
Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Nazanin Boniadi, Armir Hammer, and Jason Isaacs- all have significant roles and have performed ably. They make you feel the terror of foreigners correctly.
The actors portraying the terrorists have also displayed a wonderful act. Casual yet scary- all of them. Beautiful performance by each one of them.
Music majorly forming the score by Vorkel Bertelmann reaches straight to your heart. The songs Bharat Salaam and Hume Bharat Kehte Hain give the album the complete soul. Just listen to these with eyes close and probably you’ll start shedding tears. The film has a quality to convey a major part of the story through correctly placed sound. There are portions where you feel sad, or parts when you feel disgusted or even happy and proud. The sound conveys them all, beautifully.
Cinematography by Nick Remy Matthews has stood out ever since the trailers surfaced. The use of lighting is just perfect. In fact, lighting moves symbolically in almost every frame. So are the definitive compositions. The shots have been put together in a way that you don’t need dialogues to feel the heat. Production design too is wonderfully placed. The treatment and visual appeal is such that you are transported to the location instantly. You see everything happening around you, and since the writing allows you to travel with the characters, you see the place yourselves and that too, very closely.
Editing by Peter McNulty and Maras scores on the thrill and suspense. While the eventual end is known, what actually happens in the film with the hotel is a big surprise. The notes that the film touches in its trajectory are worthy of the event in real. The narrative arc is incredibly justified.
This one here should be watched by all Indians in particular. Not because it’s something they relate to. But because the film binds the Indian-ness through clever, sensible, and sensitive story telling. This is how one can serve the society and the country. The film is a lesson. A masterpiece.