Amazon Prime – Stream It or Skip It?
November 26th, 2008 saw one of Mumbai’s most heinous crimes play out in multiple locations across the city. A terrorist attack similar to that of America’s 9/11, the events have been fodder for much fictional entertainment over the years including the Dev Patel vehicle Hotel Mumbai. A new Amazon Prime series introduces a new take on the day’s events, focusing on the hospital staff at the center of the response. Does it rise to the challenge of depicting such a serious time in Indian history?
Opening Shot: A group of unmarked men in lifejackets arrive on shore in a small boat. Voiceover resembling a taped message plays over the scene and instructs them to wreak havoc so that no one will ever forget this day.
The Gist: At a hospital in Mumbai, a group of residents arrive for their first day. Among them is Diya, the daughter of a famous physician who will be receiving an award later that night. Mumbai Diaries 26/11 follows Diya, her fellow residents, and the rest of the hospital staff as they navigate the everyday drama of the hospital politics before their worlds are shaken by a deadly terrorist attack across the city.
Our Take: At first, Mumbai Diaries 26/11 looks to be a serious, heavy view of terrorist events unfolding across many of Mumbai’s most prominent locations. But what follows for the remainder of the first episode sets up something more akin to Grey’s Anatomy, as the drama and small-time politics of a local hospital play out. Three residents arrive for their first day of work and are met by a disengaged attending Dr. Koushik Oberoi (Mohit Raina) who is having marital problems and has vowed to leave his job to help save his marriage. One of the residents, Diya (Natasha Bharadwaj) is the Meredith Grey of the group, complete with a family pedigree to rival the Grey lineage and the other residents give off George O’Malley vibes. But when trauma victims start arriving at the hospital in droves, it’s all hands on deck at the hospital and personal issues must be put aside.
It’s an interesting set-up and setting to reimagine the events of November 26th. The majority of the episode feels a bit soapy like a classic primetime drama, but quickly veers into a more serious tone at the close of the episode. The tonal shift is a bit jarring and whether the show is able to balance the personal drama with the terror unfolding around them will be something to watch throughout the remaining episodes. Because the series opens with the terrorists’ POV, it’ll be interesting to see how that aspect of the story plays out, if at all.
Raina and Bharadwaj are the effective leads for the show, though they share minimal time on screen. Both are commanding and immediately likeable, though Rana’s character’s rough edges feel a bit cliche. It remains to be seen how their chemistry evolves, but both are strong enough to carry their respective portions of the show single handedly.
Overall, Mumbai Diaries 26/11 sets up a strong premise of everyday lives being forever altered by tragedy. How it will navigate the heavy nature of the themes remains to be seen.
Parting Shot: In the chaos of the aftermath of the attack, the camera focuses on a lifeless body on the gurney. As it inches closer, we realize it’s the face of Anju, one of the nurses at the hospital.
Sleeper Star: Bharadwaj steals the show as the new girl who is trying to fly under the radar, though her name often precedes her.
Most Pilot-y Line: “You’re Dr. Pranab Parekh’s daughter?” Almost everyone Diya encounters is able to discern her lineage after she simply introduces herself and says her last name (which is, for the record, a very very common Indian last name).
Our Call: STREAM IT. It’s gripping and sensitive, and an interesting fictional take on a real life event.
Radhika Menon (@menonrad) is a TV-obsessed writer based in New York City. Her work has appeared on Paste Magazine, Teen Vogue, and Brown Girl Magazine. At any given moment, she can ruminate at length over Friday Night Lights, the University of Michigan, and the perfect slice of pizza. You may call her Rad.
Watch Mumbai Diaries on Amazon Prime