On the 26th of November 2008, the Taj and Oberoi Hotels in Mumbai were taken under siege by terrorists. Since then, India and Pakistan have fought bitterly over who is responsible for the attacks. India laid blame with Pakistan. Pakistan retorted by denying these claims entirely and not accepting responsibility. The diplomatic and political argument between both countries goes on to this day.
In the midst of all this, there is a new movie that details the lives of those in the hotels that day. It’s called ‘Hotel Mumbai’ and the trailer dropped yesterday.
As a Pakistani, I was intrigued to see how the filmmakers would have navigated this horrific story and the extremely delicate politics that go with it.
I was also nervous to see if the film would pick political sides, because no matter what side of the border you’re on, picking on one narrative, that too in film, is always going to get hate from those who see the circumstances in another way.
The film follows members of the hotel’s staff as well as its guests. It shows how a seemingly normal day became the most horrific day of those people’s lives. As the trailer progresses, there are visuals of men coming in on a boat into Mumbai, which was a major part of the Indian government’s narrative. One of the terrorists the trailer focuses on is also clearly fashioned as the infamous ‘Ajmal Kasab’.
However, throughout the trailer, there is no mention of Pakistan, the ISI or the Pakistani ‘establishment’.
As I was scrolling through social media, I found that people had attacked the film after its release at the Toronto Film Festival.
I will follow your kind advice and ask you sir. What on earth is this Hotel Mumbai movie you acted in? Reports say it fails to even name Pakistan and your costar praised how it humanized the "kids" (the terrorists). Do you stand by all of this? https://t.co/7uh9X75xZ5
— Vamsee Juluri (@VamseeJuluri) September 12, 2018
They felt like ‘Hotel Mumbai’ was a lost opportunity to berate Pakistan.
Hotel Mumbai: … uff, again Ajmal Kasab and another opportunity to curse, blame and hit Pakistan below the belt and telling the world how terrorist and super duper mega villain they are… well, there is no point of making… https://t.co/apSHSq0HZW
— Gargi Bagchi (@g_bagchi) January 11, 2019
The rhetoric of revenge is still pretty strong.
India can hit pak very hard. But the real problem will come after the incident. 200 million refugee problem.
Nukes. And don't think we were the 1st target. No, Israel, 2nd India cause we closed to it. 3rd Europe's France, & at last USA the Mess creator.
— Sanjay bari (@Sanjaybari10) January 9, 2019
People would rather just have the movie ‘deleted’.
what is this garbage, delete it
— z eazy (@zir07) January 10, 2019
The movie screened at the ‘Toronto Film Festival’ and it was this moment that had caused a lot of hate.
Will #AnupamKher Apologize?! Hotel #Mumbai omits Pak 26/11 Terror.#Jihadis of banned #Lashkar-e-Taiba #LeT directed by handlers in #Pakistan, of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Film at no point identifies Terrorists as Pakistanis, nor any… https://t.co/OrmB0ITiq6
— India Cause (@indiacause) September 10, 2018
Putting feelings aside, this movie needs to be looked at logically. This is a project between India and America and is a plotline that is inspired heavily by the attacks of 26/11. The film aims to tell the story of 26/11 through the people who lived through it. Does such a telling require the mention of politics and narrative? Does such a telling require the filmmakers to dwell into a really messy international debate?
And the movie stars some of the most appreciated actors of the time, like Dev Patel, Armie Hammer and Anupam Kher. Hating on a movie and putting them in the line of fire is unethical because as an actor one has to play all kinds of characters.
There is still a lot of dispute about who thought of the attack and who masterminded it- the act of getting to the truth lies with the authorities, NOT with a film. Nationalism is going to mark this movie no matter what. It can be said with a fair amount of confidence that ‘Hotel Mumbai’ is going to be banned in Pakistan, just because of the topic of this film, regardless of the fact that it does not mention Pakistan at all.
Cover Photo Courtesy: timesofindia.com and Thunder Road Pictures