Reviewing the Reviews: The Attacks of 26/11

04 Mar,2013

The Attacks of 26/11

Key Cast: Nana Patekar, Sanjeev Jaiswal

Directed By: Ram Gopal Varma and Rommel Rodrigues

Produced By: Parag Sanghvi


Ram Gopal Varma did it again – aimed too high and crashed. He has his devotees who started the buzz that The Attacks of 26/11 would be his return to form, after hilarious misadvenures like Department. But RGV crashed and burned spectacularly again, with a film so insensitive and gruesome that it hurts to watch.


Incidentally, only Karan Anshuman of the Mirror got it right – Nana Patekar plays Hassan Gafoor, not Rakesh Maria, and the commission for which he deposed was indeed the Pradhan Commission. Take a bow, Karan!


Most critics stayed with 2 stars; even the usually generous Times of India could not manage a 3 on this one.


Wrote Madhureeta Mukherjee, “It’s evidently researched; yet, we’re left as observers, watching the rampage rip the soul of the city. While the thought is poignant, the horror isn’t palpable throughout and the execution doesn’t cut as deep as the actual tragedy. No hard steel of emotion ripping into your gut stemming from cinematic brilliance.”


Sanjukta Sharma of The Mint commented, “To take a surreal, unforgettably, mind-boggling event like the attacks on Mumbai on 26 November 2008, and turn it into a movie of dramatic power is, in one sense, pure exploitation and titillation. In another sense, it is a realization of the story’s limitless dramatic potential. Perhaps both these factors are at work in this film that begins as an act of remarkable ambition and ends as a wishy-washy and tacky work. Truth be told, it was impossible to not feel the surge of fellow feeling and soaring heart rates in the audience when Varma shows Kasab and his gang shooting down human beings with their AK-47s with impunity. Five years on, it is too soon, and Varma knows it. The immediate reaction on reliving it aside, the thin storyline lapses into banality.”


Shubhra Gupta of the Indian Express correctly analyzed the voyeuristic tendency of the film. “Varma loses the advantage by slipping into familiar treads. People being killed, and limbs being turned into bloody colanders on screen need to be treated, in this kind of a film which demands respect because it claims veracity, with respect. Here the director sheds restraint, and becomes a voyeur, and turns us into voyeurs too. Adults being butchered are bad enough, but children, and babies? You do not show me multiple close-ups of tots about to be shot. No, no, no. And then we are treated to long treatises on religious edicts and what’s good and bad, which are just plain tedious. It had the potential to be both smart procedural, and spiffy action, but ’26/11′ sinks somewhere in the middle.


Rajeev Masand of IBNLive was left cold too. “It’s not often that you go into a movie knowing exactly what to expect, but The Attacks of 26/11 is that rare exception. The plot and the end of this movie are no secret because the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai, and the way the horror unfolded on the night of November 26, is still fresh in public memory. Unfortunately, in the hands of director Ramgopal Varma, these unprecedented events are portrayed in a one-dimensional, jingoistic, and almost hysterical tone. The Attacks of 26/11 often resembles a tacky B-movie. Even if there’s a voyeuristic fascination in observing how 10 men managed to lay siege to a city like Mumbai, this film is so lacking in genuine emotion and original perspective that despite the carnage, you’re hardly moved.”


Karan Anshuman of Mumbai Mirror was scathing. “To begin with, the film is less about 26/11 and more a biopic on Ajmal Kasab’s life after he got onto the boat that brought him here. The screenplay completely skips two out of three days of the attack, which invalidates the idea that you’re watching a movie relevant to 26/11 and is relentlessly focused on Kasab. Instead of giving us valiant moments of the real champions of the hour, the NSG, revealing to us how they save the day and take out eight of ten terrorists one at a time, we’re limited to witnessing Kasab’s participation, capture, and conviction for his role in the massacre. A biopic would’ve been fine if that was RGV’s intention to begin with and if he visually delved into Kasab’s past and reasons. But that’s not what the film is about. In fact, so much more information has been unearthed since, but the writers ignore all of it.”


Mumbai-based critics could, perhaps, not delink emotions from the film – they had experienced what the city and its people went through. How does a writer in another city see it? Sudhish Kamath of The Hindu writes, “The Attacks of 26/11 is probably the most definitive modern Ram Gopal Varma film. It’s the epitome of inconsistency. Of crassness. Of insensitivity. Of horror. Of atheism. Of audacity. Of voyeurism. And it also has momentary flashes of brilliance. And understatement. The good, the bad and the ugly – all at the same time…. You could argue that the filmmaker wants you to see this as a horror film (listen to the score for proof) because there is simply no other explanation for what happened – a bunch of men on a killing spree, staging one massacre after another in crowded landmarks of the city, leaving the police and public helpless. Only that this helplessness is shown with an almost sadistic glee and gratuitous detail that the terrorists may actually be pleased with this depiction.”


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