Mumbai Diaries 26/11 is an arresting genre piece. But it sets up morally ambiguous and potentially rich storylines, only to squander them with lazy writing, and paper the gaps with action sequences.
Directors: Nikhil Advani, Nikhil Gonsalves
Cast: Mohit Raina, Konkona Sen Sharma, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Mrunmayee Deshpandey, Natasha Bharadwaj, Satyajit Dubey, Tina Desai, Prakash Belawadi
To begin with, condensing Mumbai Diaries 26/11, which is currently available on Amazon Prime Video, is difficult. Is it a crime thriller or a medical thriller?
The majority of the 8, 30- to 55-minute episodes, set during the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2011, take place in the Bombay General Hospital; others lean towards the Palace Hotel (Taj Mahal) in front of the Gateway of India.Focusing on the hospital scene and reducing the number of episodes would have been sensible.This could have made the Nikhil Advani and Nikhil Gonsalves-directed series tighter and more effective.
The plot revolves around Dr Kaushik Oberoi (Mohit Raina), who delivers, even opening up the chest cavity and getting the heart pumping again, but throws protocol to the winds. This angers the hospital chief, Dr Mani Subramaniam (Prakash Belawadi), and the law enforcement agents.
But when pandemonium sets in with several terrorists waging a war against India’s financial capital, the hospital, swamped by the injured and the dying, have to look the other way when Oberoi works in ways that may be highly questionable. He performs surgeries outside the operation theatre, and even revives a 77-year-old destitute patient by performing a procedure that is just unthinkable.
It is the kind of light touch we do not always see in Mumbai Diaries 26/11, a show largely content with the big, booming, slightly on-the-nose emotional notes.
Woven into these episodes are stories relating to three freshers who join the hospital on the day of the murder and mayhem. With confusion on how to handle a situation of this magnitude, and one them, Ahaan Mirza (Satyajit Dubey), is a Muslim. And religious baiting comes to the fore when he slips up while performing a life-saving technique on a hospital nurse wounded by the gunmen on the streets of the city. And not to forget how television channels messed up the police operations all in order to get their ratings up!
With Oberoi’s wife, Ananya Ghosh (Tina Desai), trapped at the hotel along with dozens of guests, and social worker Chitra Das (Konkana Sen Sharma), having her own issues with the hospital management, things get pretty hot for the medical staff. Their sense of frustration is humungous.
A frightening picture of survival emerges out of the wards when terrorists enter it to rescue their own men. There is a tense and dramatic scene when Oberoi tries to save the injured man and a cop points a gun at the doctor ordering him to let the man die.
Raina is superb as the brooding Oberoi, who curses freely, but does his job with brilliance. Sen Sharma brings in a touch of humanity when she stresses that every life matters, age does not matter. Belawadi has a lovely arc that extends from anger to the genteel.
Otherwise, series has nothing new to offer; we have read and re-read about the carnage so many times that the series fails to evoke even a remote sense of curiosity. This is where it is vastly different from Delhi Crime that zeroed in on the investigation post the horrendous rape of a young medical student. It was refreshing and had a lot to offer.