Hotel Mumbai: (Too) Timely Terrorism Thriller for Its Own Good

Hotel Mumbai takes place over the course of three days inside the Taj Hotel during the Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008, during which time the staff and guests worked together to survive.

“The staff and guests performed miraculously,” actor Jason Isaacs said at the Toronto Film Fest, where the movie world premiered. “They were uninterrupted by police, so for three days the terrorists have free rein of the hotel. It’s a bunch of intersecting stories based on thousands of interviews.”

Isaacs said the film captures “the essence of this miraculous outburst of humanity and bravery that kept so many people alive.”

“It’s gut-wrenching to see what they went through, but the beauty of it, I suppose, if you can find the silver lining, is that it’s really about human resilience and survival, and people coming together,” actress Nazanin Boniadi added.

“You’re dealing with class divides,” said Dev Patel, who plays a waiter from the slums of Mumbai. “He kind of has to go over and above to help the people that he’s in charge of,” he said of his character.

Patel said the hotel is a great source of pride for the people of Mumbai, adding, “once this horrific event happened, within three weeks they got it fully functioning and running again to make a point, that you can’t bring us down.”

“We kind of shared the brutality,” Patel elaborated. “Between one person, we would have crumbled, and that’s the story of the film. It’s an ensemble. It’s about everyone in that hotel: guest, staff, alike.”

Hotel Mumbai’s theatrical release has been suspended in New Zealand after the mass shootings at two mosques that left 50 people dead.

Director Anthony Maras called the New Zealand attacks “horrific,” and said that timing is always tricky for films such as his, but that Hotel Mumbai serves as an indictment of all extremism.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s ever a good time for a film like this,” Maras said. “But sunlight is the best disinfectant for these issues.  The example of the staff and the guests at the Taj hotel are a really worthwhile thing to remember and to discuss.”

Maras described his directorial debut as a look at the human cost of extremism, not as “an indictment on any one particular faith.” The Bleecker Street and ShivHans Pictures film details the experiences of the hotel guests, staff and gunmen during the 2008 mass shooting at Taj Mahal Palace hotel, one part of a more extensive series of coordinated terror attacks that took place over several days in Mumbai, India, 10 years ago.

At the New York premiere, Maras said of the movie, “It’s important to remember that in the Mumbai attack, people of the Islamic faith were victims and they were heroes. They weren’t just perpetrators. The men behind the attacks were brainwashed extremists, and the film is a cry out against this type of thinking.”

Anupam Kher, who portrays the real-life former Taj Mahal Palace chef Hemant Oberoi, noted that the story honors a set of ordinary people from different socioeconomic, religious and ethnic backgrounds, including the kitchen staff and other hotel employees who helped with rescue efforts, who emerged as heroes in an extraordinary situation.