Hotel Mumbai movie tells the story of the terrorist attack that took place in Taj Mahal Palas Hotel in 2008. Arjun is a young man preparing to be a father. Having been unemployed for some time, Arjun starts a job as a waiter at the Taj Mahal, the city’s most famous hotel, to support his family. Under the direction of renowned chef Hemant Oberoi, Arjun starts preparations for the valued guests of the hotel. Among the guests are wealthy businessman David and his wife Zahra, who are just new parents. The family, who came to the city on vacation, chose a luxury hotel to relax comfortably. However, a terrorist attack turns the pleasant days of hotel staff and guests into a nightmare.
With this film debutant director Anthony Maras recreates the horrific carnage witnessed inside the corridors of the Taj. For any Mumbaiker, the chilling memories of 26/11 are still fresh. Despite being a morally grey zone, recreation of a terrorist attack is not new territory for international cinema. ‘Munich’ by Steven Speilberg and ‘United 93’ by Paul Greengrass have ventured here. It is still difficult to tell such stories.
As indicated by Anthony Maras in his interviews, so as to respect the privacy of the actual persons, the characters of the film are fictionalized, inspired by real life people, except for Chef Hemant Oberoi (Anupam Kher). Dev Patel plays Arjun, a waiter at the hotel, who happened to be around that night. With a pregnant wife and a toddler back home, Arjun begs to stay back since he needs the shift, not knowing what awaits him later in the evening. David Duncan and Zahra (Armie Hammer and Nazanin Boniadi) have just arrived at the hotel with their baby. When the terrorist attack at the hotel begins – they are dining downstairs and their child is in the suite upstairs with the nanny (Tilda Cohham –Hervey).
Hotel Mumbai movie, The scenes from inside the Taj as the ghastly events unfold bit by bit, are gut-wrenching. And not for a moment can one breathe easy, feeling as claustrophobic and knotted up as the characters. Every turn in the corridors that the residents make, as they try to flee or hide, makes you queasy. One wrong turn could mean death. Even as a viewer, the sound of the gun shots are haunting.
So are the scenes that lead up to this. The ease with which the group of terrorists arrive on the shores of the city and mingle into the crowd, hailing cabs like locals, will send a shiver down your spine. As will their handlers voice that can be heard on their headphones, giving them directions and keeping them motivated. On the technical front ‘Hotel Mumbai’ is a well-crafted film. The cinematography, sound design and background score are top-notch. The tension and fear is palpable almost every minute.
That said, the film will touch a raw nerve and open up a floodgate of emotions. The helplessness of the Mumbai police as they bravely hold fort while waiting for the Special Force to arrive from Delhi, is depicted effectively. Real news footage from the 72-hour siege that shook Mumbai are also used intermittently to give an overview. And yet in the midst of the chaos, mayhem and bloodshed, what stands out is how ordinary people emerge as extraordinary humans, displaying exemplary courage. And it is heartbreaking to watch the other staff members who risked and even lost their lives to ensure the safety of the guests – standing by the hotel’s principle of “The guest is God.”
Anupam Kher is remarkable as he captures the essence of his character with deft precision. Dev Patel stands out as he gives an extremely heartfelt performance. Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, Tilda Cohham –Hervey translate the panic, confusion and the agonising fear of those hours through their solid performances. Jacob Isaacs as the Russian guest also holds his own.
Hotel Mumbai movie is a gripping, nerve-wrecking and emotionally draining watch. And as the film releases in India close to the date of the actual terrorist attacks, it risks triggering horrifying memories and re-opening emotional wounds. But at the same time, it also reminds us of the extraordinary courage of the ordinary people.