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Mumbai Diaries is a brisk if slightly chaotic dramatisation of the events of 26th November 2008, better known as 26/11, which shook the city of dreams.
Over the years, I have experienced 2 absolutely different angles when it comes to this harrowing incident. The deeply disturbing account of asli (true blue) Mumbaikars who have lived through the fearful night. And the ones who are visiting Mumbai for the 1st time asking if we can accompany them to Cafe Leopold to see the bullet marks.
The first one is a difficult conversation, but the other brings a smile. A wry smile acknowledging how the world outside sees Mumbai as the ‘strong city’, and the legendary ‘Spirit of Mumbai’.
But that’s what outsiders don’t really get. Despite the numerous issues that only people living in the city realize everyday, there is no other option but to keep going. And that is exactly what happens in the series where they recreate the events of 26th November 2008, better known as 26/11, which shook the city of dreams. When Pakistani insurgents took the financial capital of India hostage.
Mumbai Diaries attempts to show what happened inside the hospital which saw the traumatic night. The city is under attack, our favourite landmarks are desecrated and the Mumbai Police are waging a war to stop the growing massacre. It is intense and needs a pause to absorb the horror. With so much happening, the series brings us 3 strong female characters who are at the frontline, bringing their best in the face of crisis.
Chitra, played by Konkona Sensharma
Konkana Sen brings another powerful character to life after Ajeeb Daasthans for the year, Chitra, a social services director in a major Mumbai hospital, whom a colleague fondly describes with unconscious stereotyping as “walking like a man with a plan.”
Konkana’s Chitra believes in doing her duty as a medical professional without letting judgements cloud decisions. When a colleague stands in the way she fiercely argues her stand until she wins. She is dealing with her own internal battles with an abusive spouse, fear of closed spaces, and career challenges. But she is bold in the face of crisis and plays her part. She knows what to say to every person in the ER from the trainee who is struggling with fear to the staff who lost his colleague.
But the inner sadness of the character surfaces when she hears, “You did well today!” What follows is a thoughtful conversation on how often women are told, “You won’t be able to do it!” And that’s a path so difficult to escape when one loses faith in herself. The monologue that follows presents us with a harsh reality. How often are women held back by family even if they are qualified or talented?!
There is a debatable angle on “Why should only a man have a plan, or how does it matter if she walks like one?” But Chitra has no time to pick up this debate as she is off to deal with critical things!
Mansi, played by Shreya Dhanwantri
She is young, aggressive and pushing the boundaries to do her job. The hungry for a scoop reporter Mansi, played by Shreya Dhanwantri is out there in the streets covering the terrorist attack.
The character is written to be the textbook version of a media person in the epicentre creating more shocks inadvertently. To a certain extent being self- centred, pushing for her shot at fame at the cost of others’ misery. But if we remove those layers, she is just another professional doing her job.
Mansi moves mountains to get an inside view of what is evolving in the hospital, which shows her dedication. She is battling for her career and risks everything to prove her calibre as a reporter. Her single-minded conviction prevents her from understanding the grave nature of the situation. Only when she becomes part of the inside story, does she realize the crudity in her actions and repents.
The character arc for Mansi is thought-provoking. She goes from being driven to unbearable and finally empathetic. It’s a classic example of the age-old debate on media sensitivity. The need for balance in bringing the news first, and still remaining compassionate. Mansi takes the bull by the horns, but she walks out a different person.
Ananya, played by Tina Desai
While the 2 central characters are passionately doing their professional duty, there is a third one who goes above and beyond her job. Ananya, played by Tina Desai is asked, “Who puts a woman in charge?” when the series begins. She replies, “This woman will keep you safe”. And she does it- staying true to her word!
Ananya is managing a high-profile event in the Palace Hotel (a representation of the Taj Hotel) when the terrorist attack occurs. She is in charge of the event and the experience of guests. It doesn’t translate to protecting them from an attack, or safe deliverance in the event of one. But as the crisis escalates, she takes a swift call that she can do more than just waiting for rescue. Her bold move is met with hesitation at the beginning, and it’s worthwhile watching what ensues.
Despite multiple warnings, she continues to venture into the terrorist-ridden corridors to rescue more guests in batches. Ananya’s belief in herself takes precedence here when she goes beyond her duty to save people. She brings a humane angle, on going the extra mile in the face of crisis.
A very valid conversation on how women handle crises better than men was lost in the chaos of the plotline. Chitra brings it up and also points out the fact that men don’t accept it.
But it is evident that it needs no discussion after how the 3 central female characters and many more contribute to save the day.
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Electrical engineer turned into Marketer. From heartland of Tamilnadu but almost Mumbaikaar. read more...
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Darlings makes some excellent points about domestic violence . For such a movie to not follow through with a resolution that won't be problematic, is disappointing.
I watched Darlings last weekend, staying on top of its release on Netflix. It was a long-awaited respite from the recent flicks. I wanted badly to jump into its praise and will praise it, for something has to be said for the powerhouse performances it is packed with. But I will not be able to in a way that I really had wanted to.
I wanted to say that this is a must-watch on domestic violence that I stand behind and a needed and nuanced social portrayal. But unfortunately, I can’t. For I found Darlings to be deeply problematic when it comes to the portrayal of domestic violence and how that should be dealt with.
Before we rush to the ‘you must be having a problem because a man was hit’ or ‘much worse happens to women’ conclusions, that is not what my issue is. I have seen the praises and criticisms, and the criticisms of criticisms. I know, from having had close associations with non-profits and activists who fight domestic violence not just in India but globally, that much worse happens to women. I have written a book with case studies and statistics on that. Neither do I have any moral qualms around violence getting tackled with violence (that will be another post some day).
Gender stereotypes, though a by-product of the patriarchal society that we have always lived in, are now so intricately woven into our conditioning that despite our progressive thinking, we are unable to break free from them.
Repeatedly crossing, while on my morning walk ̶ a sticky, vine-coloured patch on the walkway, painted by jamuns that have fallen from the jamun tree, crushed by the impact of their fall, and perhaps, inadvertently trampled upon by walkers, awakens memories of the mulberry tree that stood in my parents’ house when I was growing up. Right at the entrance of the house, the tree caused a similar red and violet chaos on the floor, which greeted us each time we entered the gate.
Today, as I walked by this red-violet patch, I was reminded of an incident that my mother had narrated to me several times. It had taken place shortly after her marriage and her arrival in this house from her hometown.