Everytime Ramgopal Varma makes a film, you hope it is made by the Ramgopal Varma who also made Rangeela and Satya. But lately, the people who wish for it have only been let down. With his latest film, based on the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, is a dramatised account of those horrendous events. Interestingly, Varma had come under immense criticism for visiting the site immediately after the attacks as a part of research for this very film.
The film documents the journey of Ajmal Kasab from Karachi to Mumbai in a boat, traces the crimes he committed before he was caught, and ends at his more recent hanging in November last year. Following a very televisionesque treatment of dramatising true events, the film fails to recreate the scale at which these attacks were actually experienced by the people of Mumbai and all Indians who were glued to their television sets. Varma does score full points for accurately showcasing the facts; but falls short of the intrigue and awe that the film should create. The sequences which show the attacks on Leopold Cafe, the initial strike on Hotel Taj and the massacre at CST; merely reflect a sense of casual coverage that is all gun shots and poorly made up dead bodies.
Limiting the attacks to 3-4 locations, the film lacks the dynamism in visuals which we have known these attacks had. The burning roof of the imperial building of the Taj; people trying to jump out of their windows; the smoke; the herd of cameras pointed at the buildings – all that is missing. Add to that, the primitive production design makes the visuals look downright mediocre. The over-use of background music is a major buzz kill in the intense situations where the makers could have utilised the screams, gun shots and silences to create wonderful results. The isolated example of the sound of a fan on a hauntingly silent CST station is just a needle in a noisy haystack.
However, all the flaws in this film are overcome by two major factors which compel you to like the film a little. First, the contemporary issue whose memories are pretty fresh in the minds of the audience, makes them connect to the situations instantly, irrespective of the unsatisfactory audio-visuals. And second, Nana Patekar. His performance as the proverbial narrator of the film, is perhaps the only flawless element in an otherwise average film. The narration happens as he speaks to an inquiry committee and most of his dialogues are a dramatic monologue where he completely takes over the control on screen. His confrontational monologue with Kasab is a performance which makes you feel that justice is finally done.
But, The Attacks of 26/11 is a crude film in its entirety and although a good film to watch over a weekend, there's a lot missing.
Rating - 2 out of 5
Published in DNA AfterHrs (Pune) on March 2, 2013