Directed by: Ram Gopal Varma
Starring: Nana Patekar, Sanjeev Jaiswal
All images are courtesy of: http://www.glamsham.com
Even though I had anticipated watching The Attacks of 26/11 (26/11) would be difficult, I was not prepared for the impact the film would have on me. For some reason, I had expected a sensationalist account of events as I could not fathom how the devastating attacks could be turned into a watchable film and that too, as a dramatic interpretation rather than a factual one. But Ram Gopal Varma (RGV) exercises a great deal of control to create a restrained vision of the attack, showing us how the night of 26/11 unfolded, and guiding the viewer through a maze of shock,anger and ultimately, sadness.
The attacks themselves are shown in a very raw way and make for harrowing viewing, with many disturbing images that linger long after the film has ended. There is also minimal dialogue with Nana Patekar’s monologues establishing, punctuating and commentating on events but it is the climax where RGV finally gives himself a licence to vent his own thoughts, with a monologue from the surviving terrorist and a response by Patekar which is heartfelt, powerful and achieves the impossible of presenting a very rational summary of RGV’s thoughts in a sea of high emotions and tensions.
Nana Patekar is an inspired piece of casting as the joint commisioner, giving the role the authority, strength and humanity it needs. Not only does he hold the film together switching between narrator, commentator and protagonist but the key scene in the climax also sees a tour de force acting performance that culminates the emotional journey of the film with astonishing clarity. I was also surprised by Jaiswal as Kasab, the terrorist caught alive – exuding the terror and menace with a very dark sensibility, Jaiswal also shines in his monologue which is genuinely scary and absorbing.
Even without the distressing reconstructions, 26/11 holds up as an engaging film and serves as a starting point for Hindi cinema to begin to make some sense of the atrocities committed on 26/11 without resorting to jingoism or anti-religious sentiment. In fact, this is RGV back on form of sorts, making a film that on the one hand is completely out of his comfort zone but at the same time, suited to his abilities and calibre as a filmmaker. The Attacks of 26/11 is a hard film to watch and moved me to tears at times, especially when surveying the aftermath of the attacks. But it is a much better film than I had expected it to be and I daresay in time to come, may even be an important part of Hindi cinema’s exploration of one of India’s darkest hours in recent memory. Recommended.