The 26th day of November 2008, for any Indian is a reminder of the horror, that the people of Mumbai had to experience. Based on Sandeep Unnithan’s book, ‘Black Tornado’, ZEE5’s ‘State of Siege 26/11’ is a hauntingly real and immersive recollection of the Mumbai attacks. It brilliantly showcases the bravery of the Mumbai Police, Marine Commando Force (MARCOS) and the National Security Guard (NSG) in neutralising the threat.
The web series begins by showcasing events that happened prior to the attacks on both the NSG’s and the terrorists’ fronts. As the 10 gunmen depart on a boat for the shores of Mumbai, the authorities deny a funding for the NSG owing to their lack of involvement in any operation for a long time.
It then slowly builds up towards the inception of the attacks on the night of 26 November 2008. As the gunmen start wrecking havoc across various locations in Mumbai, the police start counter measures and the Special Forces are alerted.
Colonel Kunal Sahota (Arjan Bajwa) along with Major Nikhil Manikrishnan (Arjun Bijlani) prepare their NSG unit to depart from Haryana to Mumbai at once. The terrorists are simultaneously shown to be in constant contact with their handler Zaki-Ur-Rehman Lakhvi (Mukul Dev) back in Pakistan while they kill people on his command.
As the Mumbai police gets overpowered, MARCOS arrives and evacuates hostages from the Taj Mahal hotel but is unsuccessful in eliminating the threat. Eventually, it is up to the NSG to step in and take back control of Mumbai.
Arjan Bajwa, Arjun Bijlani and Vivek Dahiya as NSG officers are seamless. The pressure could not have been higher as they portray real-life heroes Col. (now Brigadier) Sunil Sheoran, Maj. Sandeep Unnikrishnan and Capt. Rohit Bagga respectively but they manage to hold their ground.
Mukul Dev on the other hand is menacing and intense as Lashkar-e-Taiba’s (LeT) top leader and his portrayal is effortless like always. Sid Makkar and Tara-Alisha Berry play journalists who are hell bent on covering the proceedings of the attacks for reasons which are more selfish than patriotic. They also shine in their portrayals.
All actors who have played members of the security forces, the main terrorists and the hostages are equally compelling and convincing. It is this perfect blend of great acting that makes State of Siege 26/11 so good.
There is so much to highlight when it comes to talking about what is good about this web series. American director Matthew Leutwyler has outdone himself as he brings Unnithan’s book to life via Joshua Caldwell’s screenplay. It also features absolutely spot on background music and sound.
Since “Black Tornado: The Three Sieges of Mumabi 26/11” is the source material, the show focuses on each and every aspect of the attacks. Unlike many previous films and series, State of Siege covers every location hit, from the Leopold Cafe, Nariman House, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Cama Hospital to the hotels; The Taj Mahal Palace and Oberoi Trident in detail.
The tactics used by the NSG to take down the perpetrators are very accurate and authentic owing to the involvement of actual Black Cat and Army officers during production. The series also subtly points to the reason why the NSG did not land sooner in Mumbai.
There is also an entire episode dedicated to terrorist Ajmal Kasab’s past. Through that, the audience gets a detailed view into what goes into the making of a terrorist. It touches on brainwashing youngsters in the name of religion, weapons training and other specialised training.
Another great aspect of this show is the depiction of the involvement of news and media channels during the operation. It is a topic of great debate if they played a part in making things harder for the forces as they showed their every step on live television.
Overall, State of Siege 26/11 is pacy, gripping and feels uncomfortably real. There is no deviation from the main narrative via useless side plots. The rawness of this portrayal is worthy of applause.
There are certain things which one can nitpick and point out as a minor distraction. But, none of them are relevant enough to be put in this negatives section.
It is pretty evident by now that State of Siege 26/11 is an absolute must-watch. We owe it to the brave-hearts who lost their lives during those 60 hours of siege and to those who were responsible for ending it. This web series will probably have an iron-fist clenching your heart for most of the time but in no way let you down.
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