26/11 Mumbai terror attacks: Films, books and documentaries that encapsulate the horrors of a city under siege

Over time numerous narratives, eyewitness accounts and works of investigative reportage have emerged in various formats in popular culture and the media that make for stirring recollections of this event and its impact on the survivors as well as the citizens of the country.

FP Staff November 26, 2020 13:46:39 IST
26/11 Mumbai terror attacks: Films, books and documentaries that encapsulate the horrors of a city under siege

The 26/11 terror attacks brought Mumbai to a reckoning as ten militants stormed 12 iconic spots in the city including the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Leopold Cafe and The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. More than a decade later, the shooting and bombing, the lives lost and those thrust in peril continue to be fresh in the memories of those who witnessed the attacks perpetrated by terrorists of Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists.

Over time numerous narratives, eyewitness accounts and works of investigative reportage have emerged in various formats in popular culture and the media that make for stirring recollections of this event and its impact on the survivors as well as the citizens of the country. What follows is a collection of films, books and documentaries curated by Firstpost that offer gripping perspectives on the 26/11 attacks and their aftermath.

— Films

Hotel Mumbai (2019)
Streaming on Zee5

Directed by Anthony Maras, Hotel Mumbai depicts the indomitable human spirit that prevailed during the attacks on Mumbai in 2008. Based on the 2009 documentary Surviving Mumbai, the film features Dev Patel, Anupam Kher, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, and Jason Isaacs.

Talking about Hotel Mumbai, Patel had earlier said in a statement, "The film for me is about the unlikely heroes of this hotel. The beauty of this story is that those staff of the hotel to whom you may not even give a second look, brings out their humanity."

One Less God (2017)
Streaming on Vimeo

Charting the journey of a group of international travellers to Mumbai, One Less God depicts the string of terrorist events on the night of 26 November, 2008. Helmed by Lliam Worthington, the harrowing account takes a mostly apolitical in-road into the condition of the hostages during the siege.

Featuring an ensemble of mostly Australian actors, the film won Best Film at the 2017 Byron Bay Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize and Best Feature at the 2017 Dances with Films Festival in Los Angeles.

Taj Mahal (2015)
Streaming on Netflix

Taj Mahal's account follows an 18-year-old French girl who finds herself trapped in the Mumbai hotel, under attack, while her parents were visiting the city. The French-Belgian movie featuring Stacy Martin, Gina McKee, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, and directed by Nicolas Saada, brings out the sheer helplessness of the victim as her parents witness the unfortunate events unfold outside the hotel premises, hoping their daughter escapes unscathed.

The Attacks of 26/11 (2013)
Streaming on YouTube/ Eros Now

Directed by Ram Gopal Varma, The Attacks of 26/11 is a dramatic account of the terrorist attacks. The film chronicles the complete sequence of events, from the stage of planning to execution, across the various targetted sites in Mumbai. Featuring Nana Patekar, Sanjeev Jaiswal, Atul Kulkarni, Ganesh Yadav, and Asif Basrathe, this is the only mainstream Bollywood film based on the attacks.

— Books

The Siege: The Attack on the Taj (2013)
By Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy
Penguin Books

A thoroughly researched insider's look into the lives of the victims of the 2008 terrorist attacks, Scott-Clark and Levy's book presents a stark description of the violence perpetrated by the shootings in The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai. Filled with inputs by the National Security Guard (NSG) and documents of the trial of Ajmal Kasab, the book is a work of exemplary reportage that showcases along with the horrific experiences of the victims, the actions of the militants, the claim of intelligence reports warnings which spoke of terrorist attacks and the ghastly days following the initial shootings.

Black Tornado: The Three Sieges of Mumbai 26/11 (2014)
By Sandeep Unnithan
HarperCollins India

Unnithan's non-fiction is a detailed recounting of Black Tornado, the operation initiated by India's elite counter-terrorist force, the NSG, in the wake of  the terrorist attack. Narrating the sequence of events from the shootings in Mumbai to the air force flying in the NSG commandos from Delhi and dropping them over Nariman House, the author puts together a blow-by-blow story of the fidayeen wreak and how the siege was thwarted by security forces.

2611 Mumbai terror attacks Films books and documentaries that encapsulate the horrors of a city under siege

Overtime, numerous books have been written which document the terrorist attacks and their aftermath.

26/11, The Attack on Mumbai (2009)
By Hindustan Times
Penguin Books India

This collection of reports, columns and essays with an introduction by journalist Vir Sanghvi is a look at initial reports that came in following the harrowing terrorist attacks, the investigation and analysis that poured and was published in the daily as the siege continued at the Taj. The book also contains opinion pieces by writers such as Mohammed Hanif, Amitav Ghosh and Shashi Tharoor in a section title The Aftermath, which contains the columns run by the paper in the wake of the attacks.

14 Hours: An Insider's Account of the 26/11 Taj Attack
By Ankur Chawla
Rupa Publications

An eyewitness account from an operations manager trainee at the Taj, this book is a stirring description of the events that unfolded during the coordinated terror attacks in the hotel and the sheer fear and peril experienced by those trapped within. A gripping story of an employee trapped in the shootings, who emerged a survivor, this is a story of one man's encounter with terrifying forces in the days in which Mumbai was under siege.

The Betrayal of India: Revisiting the 26/11 Evidence (2017)
By Elías Davídsson
Pharos

This book represents a critical and nuanced evaluation of all the reportage during and after the 26/11 terror attacks along with court documents and testimonies of numerous witnesses to present a detailed analysis of the events as they occurred. Davídsson's book claims to uncover and evaluate the facts that were covered up by the news media, the political class, the police and the judiciary.

— Documentaries

Surviving Mumbai (2009)

An inspiration behind Patel's Hotel Mumbai, this 2009 documentary is told entirely from the perspective of the survivors. The short has ample footage of exchanged text and voicemail messages, which form a neat stringing thread to the entire narrative.

Terror in Mumbai (2009)
Streaming on YouTube

An in-depth insight into the 26/11 attacks, this documentary even has the testimony of Ajmal Kasab (the main accused) along with several hostages and security personnel accounts.

Operation Black Tornado (2018)
Streaming on YouTube

The two-part documentary created by Discovery shifts focus to the defence aspect of the 26/11 attacks. Code named Operation Black Tornado, this mission was put into action after several hijacked venues were secured by the Mumbai Police. The NSG were tasked with locating the remaining attackers from the areas. Though they finished it successfully, frontline officers like Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan were martyred in the combat.

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