Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

March 1, 2013

A tragedy exploited

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:47 pm

March 01, 2013

Cast: Nana Patekar, Sanjeev Jaiswal

Director: Ramgopal Varma

It’s not often that you go into a movie knowing exactly what to expect, but The Attacks of 26/11 is that rare exception. The plot and the end of this movie are no secret because the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai, and the way the horror unfolded on the night of November 26, is still fresh in public memory. Unfortunately, in the hands of director Ramgopal Varma, these unprecedented events are portrayed in a one-dimensional, jingoistic, and almost hysterical tone.

The Attacks of 26/11 often resembles a tacky B-movie. Even if there’s a voyeuristic fascination in observing how 10 men managed to lay siege to a city like Mumbai, this film is so lacking in genuine emotion and original perspective that despite the carnage, you’re hardly moved.

Varma, who has said the film’s facts are based on Mumbai’s Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria’s deposition to the Inquiry Committee, and on Ajmal Kasab’s confession, opens with that very deposition. Although never named in the film, the Commissioner, played by Nana Patekar, narrates the events of that night to a stony-faced committee played by a set of wooden actors. Patekar himself hams it up, adopting a painfully slow drone, perhaps to remind us repeatedly just how serious a matter this is.

It’s easy to stay engaged when the actual events are unfolding… But that has less to do with Varma’s film than the riveting nature of the horrific attacks. You’re rapt as you watch the shockingly easy manner in which the armed men enter the city through the sea, and cold-bloodedly open fire at Leopold Cafe, The Taj Hotel, CST Station, and Cama Hospital. Alas, most of the attacks are staged awkwardly, and handled without much finesse. They’re gimmicky, often punctuated with women and children wailing, and sadly, Varma rarely lingers on any real emotion or expends energy in building characters. There is blood, gore and slow motion used to accentuate the horror than actual feelings, be it for the victims or the martyred cops.

Equally disconcerting is caricaturish manner in which Kasab and his band of brothers are portrayed like snarling villains. Their faces, caressed in close-ups, resemble heinous plaster-of-Paris masks, with bulging eyes and ferocious frowns. Sanjeev Jaiswal, playing Kasab, overacts wildly, speaking in a raspy voice and erupting into hyena-like laughter.

Oddly, Varma skips showing us the attacks on the Oberoi Hotel and Colaba’s Nariman House, just making a passing mention of both. The film’s one arresting sequence is the brave police operation in which Kasab was finally captured in a silver Skoda, off Chowpatty.

The Attacks Of 26/11 needlessly builds the Commissioner’s role into a larger-than-life one, and therein it slips. You watch as Patekar sips chai while lecturing a brain-washed jihadi like Kasab in a morgue with nine bodies rotting an arm’s length away. The rambling conversations between terrorist and cop make you shift restlessly in your seats.

Like the recent Zero Dark Thirty, you know what is coming to Kasab at Yerawada jail in 2012. The difference lies in the treatment; The Attacks Of 26/11 deserved better writing and more subtlety to capture a tragedy of this magnitude.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Ramgopal Varma’s The Attacks Of 26/11. It’s a chapter in Mumbai’s history that we’ll never forget, so a movie on the attacks should have left you more than just comfortably numb.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


  1. Ok ok ok. Rajeev, are you reading? I hope you are. Long time back you gave 3 stars to ‘Thoda Pyar Thoda Magic’. Remember? You didn’t even mind telling us that it was a copy frame-to-frame of Nanny McPhee. Then you gave 2 stars to Rann. Ill-researched, huh? And then just to feel safe you gave 2.5 stars to 404. The new-age thriller. Rare in Hindi Film Industry.
    And now, 1.5 stars to this. What are you trying to proove? How can you compare it with Zero Dark Thirty (which was an emotionless though brilliant docu-drama thriller)? ZDT was about investigation. This is about the attacks! What’s wrong with skipping Oberoi Hotel and Colaba’s Nariman House? No film can fully justify those ATTACKS. Sanjeev overacted? When? How? You forgot that this film is no fiction. It’s based on interviews of survivors, police and other authorities. So you can’t question what happened and what didn’t as you don’t have any kind of source but the director had. You are also questioning Nana Patekar’s acting. I am speechless. You didn’t mind giving 2.5 stars to movies like Ra.One and Bodyguard. And how can you expect worth-remembering characters from this movie? You went to theater to get entertained? And let me tell you that actual happening were HORROR! Worst review ever! There’s nothing wrong in not liking if you have valid points but this review is nonsense!

    Comment by Raman — March 1, 2013 @ 11:28 pm

  2. i am expecting the same from you Mr.masand.Thank you for not disappointing me.GET WELL SOON..

    Comment by vishwaamithra — March 1, 2013 @ 11:50 pm

  3. Not satisfied with your review,at least deserved 3 stars ,nana patekar and atul kulkarni are too good in their roles ,overall good direction by rgv with crisp editing .

    Comment by pranav — March 2, 2013 @ 12:40 am

  4. One and half stars are a little generous.

    Comment by Alok Agarwal — March 2, 2013 @ 12:53 am

  5. Sir plz Ab Aap ye kaam karna chor do plzzzzzzZ

    Comment by Gaurav Singhal — March 2, 2013 @ 8:36 am

  6. Rajeev, Exactly the same feeling. Fantastic review .
    Generous two stars from me.

    Comment by Swapnil — March 2, 2013 @ 11:20 am

  7. This review is ridiculous. It’s such a commendable effort to capture the story in 2 hours flat. The movie is gripping and technically brilliant. There are always flaws and yes the second half is a tad slow but then the message was equally important. 1.5 stars out of 5, you don’t bother to focus on the positives at all. Try making a movie sometime and then we’ll review it.

    Comment by Majid — March 2, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

  8. Mr.rajeev masand … The hindi word (pasand) never comes into your mind when you give a review?? Lol..if you are so good in judging movies… You better direct one and let people give reviews to it..

    Comment by Siva — March 2, 2013 @ 3:26 pm

  9. @Raman:there is nothing wrong about the review nd there are 3 things u need to know
    1.Zero dark thirty was emotionless?
    R u kidding me
    if it was emotionless then y was lead actress jessica chastain nominated for oscars
    2.What masand means to say is dat the supporting cast were stoney in terms of acting
    in this manner nobody can reflect the brutalness of mumbai attacks
    3.He didn’t gave 2.5 to bodyguard it was 2 actually

    Comment by Aakarsh — March 2, 2013 @ 4:05 pm

  10. it is a nice movie.plz dont go on review.just go and watch the movie

    Comment by rohit — March 2, 2013 @ 6:58 pm

  11. The Attacks Of 26/11 is a film that is lazy, cheap and arbitrary..


    Comment by sirish aditya — March 3, 2013 @ 12:15 am

  12. What is wrong with you…. Its a wonderful film

    Comment by ksnsimha — March 3, 2013 @ 12:28 am

  13. Editing flaws, same camera work. These sensitive issues shouldn’t be ill-portrayed on screen. The movie went on without any gripping flow even though we knew whats happening next. Blood-gore tactics can’t save d movie, nana sir was brilliant in most of d scenes. Rest of d characters weren’t strong enough. Atul Kulkarni demands more screen presence. Disappointed with Ramu ji again.

    Comment by Shankz — March 3, 2013 @ 1:45 am

  14. All those ppl who don’t agree with 1.5 stars pls read the last 2 lines of the review again and u’ll understand.

    Some months back i saw the 1st 7 mins of the film on youtube and seeing that i had the similar views which Rajeev has. By seeing the 1st 7 mins i knew exactly how this film would be, it would be similar to Rann or RGV ki Aag or his other recent films that has over the top loud music, experimenting a lot to capture a scene in weird angles, and mostly the RGV dramatization.

    My comment on youtube 3 months back says : In the 1st 7 minutes only Nana Patekar looks promising other than him everything else looks too dramatized similar to what RGV is doing nowadays. An incident like 26/11 needs a genius filmmaker like Anurag Kashyap to give it justice like his film Black Friday.

    This is not a gangster film like Company or Satya, this has terrorism and is more sensitive and emotional issue that shocked everyone. Everyone was glued to their TV when this was happening and there was a documentry by NatGeo on this showing lot of inside views.

    Just making a film on a big and hot issue is not enough it needs to make justice to the issue.

    Comment by Akshay — March 3, 2013 @ 5:39 am

  15. worst review ever from u sir, movie is brilliant

    Comment by sriram — March 3, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

  16. Mr. Rajeev,
    What’s so wrong with you?
    This was the most horrible thing that we all Indians watched happening live on TV. And this film needed to show everything as it all actually happened. Even if you have a heart of a stone, you’ll get moved in a lot many scenes. RGV had visited almost all places after the attacks, and he has shown the things as they actually happened. A lot of research and investigation has gone into making this film.
    Acting and all other technical aspects of the film are at par with excellent.
    About a few parts being not shown in the film, we saw these operations happening live through our ‘intelligent’ and ‘effective’ media. There was no need to show it again. what he has shown is all what we did not know and due to that we were not able to know the exact horrifying nature of those attacks.
    So Mr. Masand, do not compare such films with any other hollywood film henceforth since every subject needs a different storytelling. Even RGV has expressly told us at the start of the film, not to compare these attacks of 26/11 with 9/11.

    Comment by alok thakar — March 4, 2013 @ 6:21 pm

  17. mr masand , i respect your reviews but why do you pan all commercially succesful films
    you can be a little more prudent and discreet …

    Comment by sneha agarwal — March 4, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

  18. I m very much amazed with ur review. nana patekar was outstanding and sanjeev jaiswal was good… so plz give fare review . and giving 2.5 stars to ra.one e.t.c is just shocking(pathetic movies). from my poi
    nt of view it should be *** for 26/11 and esp. for awesome NANA PATEKAR

    Comment by Manoj Bhandari — March 4, 2013 @ 7:47 pm

  19. Feel the movie again boss. Its worth watchin..

    Comment by Swetha — March 5, 2013 @ 3:19 pm

  20. i completely disagree with your this review.I sometimes feel you are prejudiced . I suspect you already rate a film even before you watch it based on the trackrecord of film makers and actors it has . I am more than sure you won’t give houseful 3 more than 2 star even if it may turn out to be surprisingly awesome because you are inclined to judge not a film but filmmaker’s track record .

    You awarded Gangs of Wasseypur II 3 star ….you gave jab tak hai jaan 3 star as well. Why ?
    just because it has Yash chopra associated with it ? I am sure , had Roger Ebert watched GoW 2 ,he would have included it in one of the most influential hindi cinema of all time .
    A film review is impartial only when you forget the baggage filmmakers and actors carry along.

    Comment by hrishikesh — March 6, 2013 @ 12:55 am

  21. I did the unthinkable this afternoon. I walked out of the theatre at the intermission. Could not take that gory violent portrayal. All of us are against heinous crimes like 26/11, but then the film by RGV fall flat on its face. It does not deserve the 1.5 stars, deserves way lesser than that. A meaningful topic wasted in an uninspiring and gory portrayal.

    Comment by Sal — March 6, 2013 @ 2:13 am

  22. Rgv has made a documentary. Rajeev should have given it some dignity and passed rating this one … Just saluted his guts … He was sensitive as he didn’t exaggerate anything n didn’t spice it up by having a item song running in the background… Don’t know why the film fraternity including Rajeev is targeting rgv. He may be a bad guy but don’t misguide us …

    Comment by Bharat — March 10, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

  23. Hi Rajeev another good review man. Just hated the movie. There was nothing watchable in it. I agree it is based on the shameful terror attacks but in the end a movie is a movie and should be judged by how it’s made, edited and scripted. A movie shouldn’t be judged by the emotions.. Great work man keep it up..

    Comment by Amit Chauhan — March 10, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

  24. Disagree with the review thoroughly. You don’t seem to ever sit in the frame which the director provides to review movies. and simply go on criticizing it based on how you feel about it. I hope you are not getting confused between critic reviews and blogging. Maybe if that’s how your style is you should consider re-watching the movie.

    RGV has done a fantastic job in showing the terror and how it unfolded that night. Some scenes (although tragic) have been brilliantly recreated. And Nana Patekar has done a superb job in being the serious and sensible commissioner.

    Although some of your reviews were entertaining in the beginning, I wopuld agree with Gaurav
    >> Sir plz Ab Aap ye kaam karna chor do plzzzzzzZ

    Comment by shyam — March 10, 2013 @ 6:34 pm

  25. Mr Rajeev masand this is the movie far better than any movies released recently and one of the rgv’s fine works recently i dont wats wrong with your jidgement even for roles of nana patekar n kulkarni are huge plus.. dont review blindly this movie deserves 3 atleast cant say more than 3 but its a genuine effort from rgv after many duds…. i used to consider your reviews before seeing any movie sir but i think its the last one…. 🙁

    Comment by vamsi — March 11, 2013 @ 12:19 am

  26. is ke kam se kam 3 star to sirf last 15min ke liye hi bante he. muje lagta he aapne movie dekhnese pahelehi deside kar liya tha ki aap ko kitne star dene he. do u have any personal isheu with rgv?

    Comment by rahul — March 11, 2013 @ 5:59 pm

  27. Seriously, I mean this movie gets 1.5 stars and Jab Tak Hai Jaan gets 3?
    If we make that comparison, JTHJ should not be ore than .5 stars..

    Comment by Aditya — March 12, 2013 @ 12:11 am

  28. My review of ‘The Attacks of 26/11’ http://aajani.blogspot.ca/2013/03/movie-review-attacks-of-2611_31.html

    Comment by Amin Ajani — April 1, 2013 @ 2:17 am

  29. Hope you are reading these comments. After watching the movie, I felt angry. Angry that you went to watch this movie to be entertained, angry at myself for not watching it for so long based on your review. Tragedy exploited – pathetic. This is not fiction, its the depiction of what happened that day and the built up anger of people of India towards terrorism. This doesnt have witty dialogue or clever screenplay but this is another in the face kind of movie.

    Comment by Sumit — April 6, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

  30. I use to believe in u r reviews but after this review i will never decide to watch movies based on u r reviews this movie deserves 3 stars & its a must watch every indian should watch this movie

    Comment by amin desai — April 26, 2013 @ 12:22 am

  31. Am not a great movie critic, but over the years, I know I have developed a love for cinema. I may not be able to comment well on the technical aspects of a movie, but for sure can tell you if a movie falls in a “Good” or a “Bad” category, for these are the only two classifications, I strongly believe, that should be made for movies.
    Going with that precedence, THE ATTACKS of 26/11, is a “Good” movie that once again shows the art and craft of Ram Gopal Verma. The movie is not a documentary nor an attempt to show the horrifying days of Mumbai Attack in visual form about which we have only read/heard from the news reports. The movie is not a description of what all happened and how it all happened. It is none of these. It is also not an answer to Why it happened. Rather it tries to ask everyone – Why it HAD to happen?
    The movie is from the view point of the then joint commissioner of police, played by Nana Patekar, who is sitting in front of an enquiry commission to answer on some of the allegations levelled against him with respect to the actions he took (or didn’t) during the fateful night of 26/11. Through his narration, indirectly or should I say rhetorically he asks us to think on the kind of system we have around. Look at the audacity of few young men in early twenties who come around, like we go for watching a movie, and create havoc on our democatic rights – our right to live. The government, the police, the people in power are all helpless. We are not ready to tackle this and we talk of becoming a superpower. One dialog of the movie really stands out for me, by Nana Patekar of course – “In my 27 years of career, I or the police department has always reached the spot after the crime is over. For the first time a crime was happening and every minute its intensity was growing. I didn’t know what to do”. That sums it all. So who should we blame for this failure? There is not one single person or a department guilty for it.
    Few of the visuals may not be appropriate for some to watch but nevertheless they really run a chill down your spine and makes you think again and again – after all what was achieved at the end. One would shudder to think of the pain and trauma that was inflicted one men, women and children who hardly had anything to do with the political system that has given birth to this unrest between the two neighbouring countries and even after some 60 years we have failed to find a solution to it. I doubt if ever we will find a solution though, since it may end many ambitions of people in the hot seat of power on both sides. The movie took some cinematic liberty to deviate from the actual incidents in some places and tries to explain the futility of such proxy wars.
    All in all a powerful acting from Nana Patekar and ably supported by the rest of the actors. Though the actor who played Kasab had resemblance to him physically, he more or less played the role well as the heartless terrorist. I hope in realy life he doesn’t have to meet any unruly incident after this portrayal. It really takes a lot of heart to make yourself ready, mentally, to play the role of a person, who had caught the psyche of the whole nation for 6 years in a very neagtive way.
    The music was very well designed to suit the sequence of the events. The cinematography was great, at some places, to just fine at many places. Ram Gopal Verma, I would say has done a good Job.

    How rightfully it is said – “We need to look inside us and if we think any jihad is required, then it should be on ourselves to cleanse us from the various malice and vices that has rotten our soul.”

    Lastly, I will end the way the movie ends: Ishwar Allah tero naam, sabko sanmati de bhagwan [Some call you Ishwar, some Allah, but Bless us All with wisdom, Oh Lord!]

    Comment by Swastik Choudhury — June 1, 2013 @ 10:09 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress