Movie on Mumbai attacks criticised for not mentioning role of Pakistan
The first major Western motion picture to focus on the November 26, 2008 Mumbai attacks has come under criticism for omitting any reference to the role of Pakistan in the terror strikes.
The film, Hotel Mumbai, had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on Friday evening. Directed by Australian Antony Maras, it focuses on the attackers laying siege to the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel — one of several targets in Mumbai during the assault.
The terror operation was undertaken by members of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and the attackers, including those in the hotel, were directed by handlers in Pakistan, believed to be associated with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). However, the film at no point identifies the attackers as Pakistanis, nor is there any reference to the LeT or ISI.
During a press conference at TIFF on Saturday, Maras did describe the handlers as being from Pakistan, but that was the extent of the connection.
During a question and answer session after the premiere, Maras was asked about the omission of David Coleman Headley — a Pakistani-American who scoped out targets for the attack. The director said the movie focuses on the period of the attacks, when such details were not yet known.
Headley is currently imprisoned in Illinois on charges that include those relating to the role he played in facilitating the attack.
Author and director of the New York Indian Film Festival, Aseem Chhabra, tweeted: “By not mentioning the terrorists were Pakistanis, their handlers were speaking to them from Pakistan #HotelMumbai is NOT a truthful film! Many in the west are clueless about the facts. There has to be reason why Pakistan’s name is left out!”
He hashtagged that post #fail.
In response, Gaurav Mishra, who identifies himself as an MD/producer with Xeitgeist Entertainment Group, which was involved in the making of this movie, tweeted: “It was from the perspective of the hostages and no one know what was going on... how do we show them as pakistani’s, when the story doesn’t allow us too (sic).”
He further wrote: “No it’s not completely left out - yes, it doesn’t say ‘the terrorist are pakistani but they do speak Urdu. We tried to stick as close to the facts as possible (sic).”
However, the conversations in the film between the handler and attackers are mostly in Punjabi rather than Urdu.
The end of the film also provided an opportunity to present facts from after the events of the attack. Some details were included, like the fact that the handlers were never apprehended. However, that too omitted the fact that many of those considered responsible for the attacks, including alleged mastermind Hafiz Saeed and ISI handlers, have been protected by the Pakistan establishment.