Amazon Prime Video’s medical thriller, ‘Mumbai Diaries 26/11’, takes you back to those gruesome 60 hours that Mumbai faced in 2008 and puts you in the midst of a collection of doctors at the fictional Bombay General Hospital as disaster strikes. The show touches upon the aspects of human fickleness in the line of duty as the white-coats and other first responders struggle to deal with the crisis.
The show opens with the busy and chaotic work life at the Bombay General Hospital (BGH) where three new trainees — Dr. Diya Parekh (Natasha Bharadwaj), Dr. Ahaan Mirza (Satyajeet Dubey), and Dr. Sujata Ajawale (Mrunmayee Deshpande) are set to join the trauma surgery wing under the infamous Dr. Kaushik Oberoi (Mohit Raina).
Kaushik is a genius at his job but doesn’t care much for the rules when it comes to saving lives. The trainees have a chance to get their hands in the game when an urgent case of surgery shows up and there are no operation theatres empty. Dr. Kaushik decides to perform the procedure in the emergency ward which is met with retaliation from the nurses, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Mani Subramaniam (Prakash Belawadi), and the hospital’s inspector incharge.
These occurrences are shown to be regular at the BGH, highlighting bad conditions of Indian government hospitals. The show then introduces the hospital’s Social Services Director, Chitra Das (Konkona Sen Sharma) struggling to a patient’s tests done by her doctor incharge.
These events make for a regular day for these professionals till it all goes to hell when multiple patients with gunshot wounds and injuries start pouring in due to the terrorist attacks. The condition of these patients are classified under a code blue and the already short staffed and equipment deprived hospital goes into overdrive as it prepares for a disastrous night.
Meanwhile, the plot also alternates to the events at the Palace Hotel (a fictional name for the Taj Mahal Palace) where Diya’s father — who is a famous doctor himself — is being facilitated for his work. Furthermore, Kaushik’s wife, Ananya (Tina Desai), also employed there as a Food & beverages manager. When things go south at the hotel, Ananya takes it upon herself to lead her guests out safely via the service corridors.
Back at BGH, as the victims start rolling in and doctors struggle to keep up, the show expertly delves into their respective personal issues and disturbed lives that they try to cope with while worrying about their loved ones elsewhere in the city. If things weren’t already messed up, an overenthusiastic media person, Mansi Hirani (Shreya Dhanwanthary), attempts to get a ‘killer’ story for her channel that turns the terrorists’ attention towards the hospital.
One of the biggest strengths of ‘Mumbai Diaries 26/11′ is the actors’ immaculate performances. Mohit Raina is so authentic as an overworked yet skilled doctor that by the end you feel sorry for him as his character just cannot catch a break. His struggles feel real, his work seems passionate, and his redemption feels heartfelt after an arc that almost cripples him mentally and physically comes to a close.
Konkona Sen Sharma’s part as Chitra Das, who has her own set of past traumas to deal with, is genuine to the core. She cares for her patients and is unafraid to take a stand for them. She eventually has to bear the repercussions of a bad marriage that has left deep imprints on her personality.
Shreya Dhanwanthary as Mansi is not someone you would necessarily appreciate but her getting into the skin of her character is what sells her performance. She is so self entered and hell-bent on getting an exclusive story, it’s almost impossible not to despise her. However, from an actor’s perspective, that’s literally what a job well done is.
The rest of the cast — from the trainee doctors and nurses to the police officials and the hotel staff — everyone has put their best foot forward. It is a flawless collection of actors that bring this urgent tale to life.
There is a lot to discuss in this section of the review, starting off with the direction and pacing of the story. It is not an exaggeration that ‘Mumbai Diaries 26/11’ will force you to pause for a breath as it gets so raw and intense. However, the genius part is that it still has room to allow characters to grow and have heartfelt moments that are a welcome addition to an otherwise breakneck narrative. Deaths of characters that you spend time with are gut wrenching and will have you reaching for tissues.
It is the first form of media based on these attacks that focuses on the perspective of the doctors and other first responders, and brilliantly so. Their vulnerabilities and shortcomings are not shielded to present them as great beings, instead, they’re used to glorify their human essence that they embrace while trying to save countless lives.
In most instances, the show maintains a single handheld camera, following various characters as they jostle about the busy corridors of the hospital building. This helps maintain the effectiveness of a crazy medical environment that gets ballistic as the night progresses.
The background music and VFX are seamless, nothing looks jarring or out of place. Furthermore, the dark and icky environment of a government medical facility is portrayed aptly, kudos to the production design team for that.
The show treads across a lot of grey area throughout its eight episodes and presents many instances where as a viewer you’d be forced to introspect about the outcome. Kaushik saving a terrorist as the Police ATS chief perishes, forces people to question his loyalties, but he rubs it off by declaring himself a professional who treats people regardless of their character.
Doctors facing constant harassment on the basis of their sex, religion and more is addressed and the series also highlights problems with the government’s lacking medical infrastructure. Apart from this, the actual depiction of the attacks is gruesome and thrilling as ever.
The media’s involvement in giving away vital information to the perpetrators is well established in the series and it subtly points fingers at our country’s hard news practices that often are infamous for being problematic.
Lastly, the shootouts and action sequences aren’t over the top and are rooted in reality. Whenever the terrorists are involved in a tussle with the police and innocent lives are being taken, it plays out in a horrifyingly traumatising manner.
Apart from everything brilliant about the show, it still has room for error. The editing of this jam packed drama definitely could have been more efficient to make it feel more tighter, and with so many characters having a backstory to present, the flow of the narrative breaks due to it.
Coming to the backstories, most of them are authentic and feel relevant to the plot, however, there are some that are present to just push a point across.
For instance, an old patient at the hospital narrates her ordeal during the 1984 Hindu-Sikh riots to let the ones listening know, that religion doesn’t decide a person’s behaviour, actions do. This story is placed in the plot just to provide an argument against a mindset that blames all acts of terrorism on Islam. It creates an unwanted and constantly repeated moment of religious discussions and debates that feels too dated.
There are melodramatic pushes to balance out the negative with the positive and it doesn’t always work. ‘Mumbai Diaries 26/11′ could have definitely done with subtler writing that doesn’t enforce arguments against communal hate, mental health, and reservation instilled in these characters’ daily lives.
On the technical side of things, there are many instances where a dialogue is overdubbed and the lips of characters don’t sync to what we hear. This was probably because of post production censoring that was necessary for the release.
With the scale of events ‘Mumbai Diaries 26/11’ deals with, the negative aspects are but minor hiccups in an otherwise resoundingly immersive show. It is definitely worth a watch for its amazing performances, gritty setting, and an overall eery and edge of the seat experience.