“Hotel Mumbai” is a powerful immersion into the terror attack in 2008 at the legendary Taj Hotel in Mumbai, the teeming city on the eastern coast of India formerly called Bombay. Watching this movie is like being on a runaway roller coaster that won’t stop. The incident laid bare serious flaws in India’s defense and security systems that have since been updated.
The Taj, as a symbol of Indian extreme wealth, was chosen specifically by the Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba to be the centerpiece of their November 2008 siege, which included a series of twelve coordinated attacks across Mumbai on the same day. Ten young members of the group carried out the attack on the Taj from November 26-29, 2008.
Ironically, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel was opened in Bombay in 1903 with 560 rooms, 44 suites and 1600 staff probably in a quest for equality. It is believed that Jamsetji Tata may have decided to build the hotel after he was refused entry to the elite Watson’s Hotel which limited their guests to “whites only,” in other words, no person of Indian descent was allowed to book a room.
That a handful of disenfranchised untrained youth led on by a cult leader who has never been identified, were able to instigate a days-long siege at this hotel and cause so many casualties and structural damage, is unfathomable to our sensibilities. These were not soldiers. The shooters were all very young and were led on by their off-site ringleader who had convinced them that they were being held down from success in the world by the very rich.
The film is able to convey the feeling of a days-long horrific siege through excellent editing. It was a wonderful choice by director/writer Anthony Maras to tell the story through the eyes of a lower-caste Indian hotel worker who has great pride in his identity and his work, played by Dev Patel. The narrative allows the audience to learn gradually about the characters and the situation as it unfolds. Each of the main characters has screen time and the audience is allowed to experience the series of events from their perspective.
The earliest minutes of the film highlight the enormous gap between the lifestyles of the ultra rich travelers who inhabit the hotel rooms and the extremely poor outside the structure. The well-written story emphasizes that the anger that drove the shooters grew from the disparity between wealth and poverty, rather than from religious differences. A key scene in a hotel bathroom illuminates this concept when one of the shooters speaks one crucial line.
At the Taj, at least 174 people died, including 9 of the attackers, and more than 300 were wounded. As you leave the theatre you will feel relieved that it’s over.
Well…it’s not over. 12/14/12 Newtown CT 27 killed, 6/17/15 Charleston SC 9 killed, 6/12/16 Orlando FL 49 killed,10/1/17 Las Vegas NV 58 killed, 11/15/17 Sutherland Springs TX 26 killed, 11/7/18 Thousand Oaks CA 12 killed. The dead were not soldiers at war – they were kids in school, concertgoers, people dancing, people at church, people coming together to celebrate life, to learn or work for their community.
Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. [email protected]