The Attacks of 26/11 by Ram Gopal Varma is a good and gripping movie. However, it could have been a brilliant movie.
Anyone who watches this movie would know instantly that Ram Gopal Varma is a talented director despite a slew of intolerable movies that he has given us during the last few years. However, you get a feeling that he is one director who knows his craft inside out and is not afraid of experimentation or failure.
Yet, somehow, you also get the feeling that he has not done full justice to the subject and has lost the plot at several places due to a mediocre storyline.
The Attacks of 26/11 does not tell you the entire story of 26/11. It focuses on the horrors and massacres committed by the terrorists. It tells you about the unpreparedness of the police force and the Indian state in handling such attacks.
However, it does not tell you much about how, finally, the terrorists were killed, how the ordinary citizens showed valor and how the Indian state marshaled, or failed to marshal, its resources to cope with the situation during those critical hours.
It shows the arrival of commandos, but it does not show anything on how they conducted their operations.
The movie does not show you the role of the media and the politicians and their bungling in those critical hours. Well, it does not show you many things about 26/11.
The Attacks of 26/11 focuses on Ajmal Kasab and the joint commissioner of police, played by Nana Patekar, rather too much.
It shows the joint commissioner of police going overboard in preaching the goodness in, and real meaning of, religions to Ajmal Kasab in rather a boring manner.
The philosophical musings of the joint commissioner before the inquiry committee and the wise exchanges between Ajmal Kasab and the joint commissioner of police on religions are badly written and full of hamming and overacting.
The lines showing the wise and epistemological exchanges between the joint commissioner of police and Ajmal Kasab could have been written better. Or, even better, truncated.
It seems RVG too has fallen into the usual trap that we see too often in Indian movies, the media and the political discourse.
He tries hard to balance the horrors committed by religious fanatics and terrorists by suggesting that religions, per se, are not bad ideas and that it is not the fault of religions if some people misinterpret them. Well, so much for experimentation and plain-speak in movie-making. Ram Gopal Verma tries hard to avoid blaming religions and the blind and illogical sophistry and bigotry that all religious belief systems can and do beget.
And in doing so, he goes overboard in suggesting that religions, essentially, are great ideas. And this is where he loses the plot. You can’t expose religious horrors and bigotry by highlighting the good aspects of religions. You need to expose the entire idea of having and following religions even in 21st century.
But then this movie was to be released in India. And, it seems, you can’t even mildly criticize religions and religious ideas in India these days. And if you have to, you must balance the criticism by highlighting the good aspects of religions. Even “OMG- Oh My God”, which was supposed to ridicule religions, had to do this balancing act.
The movie begins with the declaration – “This movie is not against any religion.” I would have loved if it had the declaration – “This movie is against all religions.” But that would be expecting too much in India in these times.
Nana Patekar is simply unimpressive in the movie. But, it is not his fault. His lines and his roles are not well-written. Sanjiv Jaiswal, in the role of Kasab, does well. For others, there was not much to do.
Let us grant it. The subject was too contemporary and too difficult to allow much space in the story-line. RVG has taken up a difficult subject and has showed us flashes of brilliance. The camera work is exceptional. Yet, somehow, he did not give us the movie we were expecting from him.
However, you must watch The Attacks of 26/11 because you just cannot afford to miss it.