The Attacks of 26/11

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In a country beseiged by terror, where do RGV’s sympathies lie?
CAST Nana Patekar, Sanjeev Jaiswal, Atul Kulkarni | DIRECTOR Ram Gopal Varma

One cannot imagine any other country as vulnerable to terror as India making an explicit docu-drama like this for public viewing. The Attacks of 26/11 is a route map, not a movie. It tells you how incompetent, even comical, the country’s internal security is. There is very little that has changed since November 2008, and if a rubber dinghy with armed men were to reach another part of Mumbai’s coast, would the result be all that different?

In the 12 years since 9/11, Hollywood has made no film that traces the 19 hijackers’ arrival and/or details their route to that infamous date. Zero Dark Thirty is about the elimination of the author of 9/11, not about the sloppiness of the US State Department and its immigration and airport security systems that let the hijackers get through.

The protagonists of this film are 26/11’s jihadis, and their ruthless efficiency in accomplishing everything they set out to do forms a major part of Ram Gopal Varma’s ‘script’. The last half-hour is a moral science lecture on how terror outfits misrepresent holy scripture and a few stray individuals hold a great religion like Islam to ransom. This erudite sermon is delivered, if you please, to the virtually illiterate Ajmal Kasab (Sanjeev Jaiswal) by the Joint Commissioner of Police (Nana Patekar), who, earlier in the film, in the midst of the carnage, had been wailing over the phone to New Delhi that he had no idea what to do.

Mumbai Police star as ‘Keystone Cops’—comic policemen of the silent cinema era. Havaldars throw stones into Leopold Cafe to check if the gunmen have left. Elite anti-terror squad officers walk casually into an obvious ambush near St Xavier’s College.

If that’s not bad enough, the film muddles audience empathy completely. It shows a successful military attack by just 10 men on a major Indian city. The movie screens all over the world; are we sure that everyone will root for the city’s hapless civilians?