The Attacks of 26/11 had a huge impact on the lives and mentality of the people. The reasons for that would be the fact that for the first time, the elite section of the Indian society faced brutality and evil at its rawest form. Be it the foreign nationals at the Taj or the owner of the Leopold Café, they were nothing but meat in the eyes of the perpetrators. Ram Gopal Varma, after a long time is able to portray the essential in the truest and most believable of manners. What strikes you about this film apart from the gruesome violence is the manner in which Varma unfolds the narrative. The initial 8 minutes which was released as the extended trailer of the film sets up the proceedings as the group of terrorist hijack an Indian fishing trawler and make their way towards Mumbai. The slow buildup and beautifully shot and edited frames keeps taking you to different places. As the attacks begin and body counts rise, the shocked viewer is almost transported to the scene of action. There is a sense of reality in the action and the violence. The dialogs are few and apart from Nana Patekar essaying the role of Rakesh Maria, the joint commissioner of Mumbai, who narrates the chain of events, none of the characters have too many dialogs.
The film dwells mostly between 9 pm to 1 am on the night of 26/11 when the Leopold Café was hit followed by attacks at the CST station, Taj Hotel, Cama Hospital and the subsequent arrest of Ajmal Amir Kasab(Sanjeev Jaiswal). There are many sequences which will shake you out of your body. The first of the many comes in the Leopold Café, where after the attacks the constables are shown hurdling stones inside the café with nothing but sticks in their hand and up against terrorists who were in full tactical gear, complete with AK47 rifles. This scene dramatically depicts the helplessness of the cops in front of the enemies initially. The next scene comes in Taj where we see a foreign tourist walk through the motions on his arrival and then suddenly gets shot to pieces. In the same chain of events the terrorists shoot a small kid in the head without any mercy. The following sequences show Kasab and a compatriot storm the CST station and then land up at a home asking for water. He drinks the water and then shoots the residents.
Following his arrest Kasab, spits fire at Maria saying that what they did will merit them a place in the heaven. His desire to stay with his comrades takes him to the morgue where his compatriots are lying vanquished. Maria seizes the opportunity and annihilates Kasab with his powerful verbal onslaught. This scene is sure to garner the maximum applause from the audience. At least that was the case with the theater where I watched it.
The performances are straightforward and from the heart. Nana Patekar leads the way with his Rakesh Maria holding the film together. He narrates the incident taking his time and through his emotional responses, the audiences get a vector at what might have been the plight of those involved in the events. It’s his expression which provides us the much needed window into the realm of the horror. His final go at Kasab in the climax is astounding. However I felt that his speech could have been made a little less dramatic. Sanjeev Jaiswal as Kasab is perfect. though a tad healthier and taller, yet he fits the bill well. He is terribly done in by poor prosthetics yet performs with elan. His first meeting with Maria is a powerful scene. The artists playing the roles of Shahid Hemant Karkare, Shahid Ashok Kamte, Shahid Vijay Salaskar and Shahid Tukaram Omble look astoundingly real in their brief appearance.
Overall, The Attacks Of 26/11 will merit as a worthy watch for its grit, reality and sensitive treatment of the subject. Its authenticity is also one of of its trump cards. The short runtime works wonderfully in its favor and sustains the interest of the people. Ram Gopal Varma, after much deliberation, seems to be heading in the right direction… finally!!!.