Bollywood Movie Reviews

Hotel Mumbai Movie Review : It Takes Us Where We Don’t Want To Go

Hotel Mumbai

Starring: Anupam Kher,  Dev Patel,  Armie Hammer,Nazneen Boniadi

Directed  by  Anthony Maras

Rating: ** ½ (2  and a half stars)

Like  all cinema on terrorism, this partially-gripping recreation of  26/11 terror attack on Mumbai’s Taj hotel,  walks that thin cracked-ice line  between being vivid and exploitative.

 For a  film that boasts of so much raw(and still hurting) material and such a charismatic lineup  of actors ,Hotel Mumbai turns  out to be  a disappointingly tame  affair. It has more bark than actual  bite,  more spark than a raging  fire. The   characters  are made to behave  as  if they are part of a normal  Hollywood-styled disaster  film like Airport, Towering Inferno  or Earthquake . There is hardly a  person we empathize with as  a victim of  a monstrous  siege when Mumbai was held  at gunpoint  by  a cluster  of  brainwashed  young terror-trained emissaries.

 Though providentially they  don’t have beards,the terrorists  are shown to be  a bunch of  morons obeying order from  an invisible  boss over the phone.  One  of the terrorist even moans to ‘Abbu’  over the phone how  much he  loves his ‘Ammi’ and wants to come  home. Awww, poor baby.

The realization comes a bit late in  the day. The plot is so  blind to   the ruminative spaces  that  define  a terror-hostage  crisis that it all begins to seem more like  a horror thriller than  a  recreation of an event that Mumbai and India  still think  back to with disbelief and anger.

 Did  26/11 really happen to us?  I am afraid  Hotel  Mumbai  is  not interested  in  getting answers to the  carnage. The essence  of this  borderline-exploitative terror  treatise  is  the immediacy  of the  tragedy. The  director  goes on his own rampage with the  gun shots drowning the  voices  of terrified  hotel  guests.Characters trapped in such a  situation should be shown forming a  protective ring of empathy  among themselves.Apart from  one  relationship, nothing grows in the course  of this  film. Not even  a potted plant.

An actor  like Armie Hammer currently  a global pinup favourite, is  reduced to a sketchy  hazy  tentative figure who makes  a run for his infant child through the smoky sinister corridors of  the  luxury hotel while   the nanny(Tilda Cobham Hervey)  hides with the baby  in a  cupboard. Armie’s  wife ,  a Muslim played  by Nazneen Boniadi, offers an  interesting possibility of  how terrorism  is insensitively  equated with a particular  ethos. But the  political  debate, whenever the  gunshots  cease,are so shallow, they  reduce  the  characters’ cultural identity to  a mere  signpost seen in passing  from a speeding vehicle.

The  performers are largely  required to  express fear  or  run for their  lives. Only Anupam Kher as the dignified  principled chef  of  the hotel , manages to rise above the chaos to  give  a empathetic performance. Dev Patel  looks nothing like  a Sikh and his speech to a baffled aging female tourist(who is definitely not coming  to India for  her next vacation)  on how sacred his turban is, comes straight from  Sunny Deol’s Gadar  and Akshay Kumar’s  Kesari.

Later  the  aforementioned  turban( a more  well-etched  character than the actor wearing it) is used to  stop  a woman from bleeding to death. Much later, as  the smoke  and fire  are doused, a mother is reunited with her lost child. Manmohan Desai  must be  smiling.

And I wondered what the  fuss was all about. Why  ban the  film’s screening  in the fear that it may incite  violent feelings? Nothing in HotelMumbai  is so  persuasive  as  to make a difference  to our  perception  of  terrorism.

At best  , Hotel Mumbai is  a  a fairly  interesting pulp take on the actual incident and better than Ram Gopal Varma’s Attacks  Of 26/11.At worst it  is a noisy bristling fictionalized  version of a true incident that  should not be tampered with.

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