Hotel Mumbai director Anthony Maras on why he wanted to humanise terrorists
After facing one roadblock after another, Hotel Mumbai couldn’t have found a more pertinent time to release in India than on November 29 –around what marks eleven years since the 26/11 Mumbai terror mayhem. The day continues to evoke a sense of dread, and there is a chance it may reopen old wounds for some. But the film’s director Anthony Maras hopes that people see it for its positives.
“India is the most important territory for this film... I just hope we’ve done justice to the stories of the attack survivors. I think it will be an especially poignant time during the eleventh year anniversary as the film has a very positive element about the strength, courage and the selflessness of the Indians, and the people of Mumbai who really came together while the attacks were happening and afterwards to protect one another,” says Maras, an Australian. That, he stresses, is the core of the story.
“Even though it’s primarily a film about people in a hotel in Mumbai, it’s also a metaphor or microcosm of the wider world, about how people get along with one another in times of threat and how they can be stronger together,” adds the director, who was moved by the 2009 documentary Surviving Mumbai.
His film, starring Dev Patel, Anupam Kher and Armie Hammer, is around the attack on the prestigious Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, and the focus is on how people from all races, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds, were selfless in their support for one another. The attempt, Maras says, was to accurately get into the skin of the people involved in the attacks.
“The guests, the staff and the masses on one side of the gun, and the terrorists on the other side of the gun,” he says. Regarding some international reviews mentioning Maras trying to “humanise” the terrorists, the director explains, “I was very resolute in my stance that we show the terrorists as humans, because they are humans. They are not robots... We’re trying to understand what makes them, where they came from–from difficult circumstances, lacking education, from impoverished backgrounds.. and yes, there are some moments of humour between the gunmen.”
But that’s not to make a joke. “It’s there for another poignant reason that they are radicalised and brainwashed to such a degree that they could joke about something one second and a second later, shoot and kill someone... It’s uncomfortable for people to acknowledge that these kind of men do exist, and I think that’s how it is.”