State of Seige
Streaming on Zee 5
Producer: Contiloe Pictures
Cast: Arjan Bajwa, Arjun Bijlani, Mukul Dev, Tara Alisha berry, Vivek Dahiya
By Bhawana Somaaya
In a dark alley of a neighbor land, a young lad limps his way to a jaded door carrying a basket of tea glasses. Fear grips you as he is cautiously led inside and emerges a while later, limping back into the darkness he came from. It is twelve years since the gruesome attack in 2008 and while the scars may never fade, we have sought justification through books, documentaries and some movies. A lot of questions have been answered but a lot still remains unanswered.
Contiloe Pictures State of Seige: 26/11 is inspired from Sundeep Unnithan’s Black Tornado: The Three Seiges of Mumbai 26/11 and gives a blow by blow account of how an ordinary day destroyed an entire city. Divided into eight gripping episodes the narrative begins in Pakistan where ten lads carrying military weapons in backpacks jump out of a boat in the darkness of night at the Indian shores and destroy our peace forever. They walk into the streets and divide into separate groups, travel by public transport to different destinations.
The first attack is at Leopold Café then CST station and before anybody could get a grip of what’s going on, the war is declared. The frenzy inside the café and the shot of a little boy inside the local train holding on to his ice candy staring at the terrorists prepare to shoot sends shivers down your spine.
Episode 3 where the terrorists jump over the gates inside Cama Hospital and confused why the building is plunged into darkness is the most sensitive and also the most terrifying because an operation is in progress and cannot be interrupted and a pregnant woman has that very moment gone into labour.
State of Seige: 26/11 is about the making of a terrorist where the fundamentalists in the name of jihaad manipulate young minds and turn them into criminals. By the time they realize they are manipulated, it is too late. The last two episodes capture the counter strike and the commandos. The rescue operation of the hostages is a replay of the news footage we have watched on television and it is all very painful.
Every frame is diligently designed, superbly shot on mostly real locations with natural lighting, the casting and writing are disturbingly realistic. The director is careful not to gloss over the violence or the tragedy, fortunately he does not sermonize on nationalism. The docudrama is effective because it tells the story without fuss or frill. All the performances are restrained and yet the impact is overpowering. The blood splattered on the Taj Mahal Hotel floor, the mayhem in the lobby and the carpeted staircase.
Mobile and land line phones in different ring tones keep shrilling in the background as the camera travels different floors and rooms. Fear filled eyes of hostages hiding inside cupboards, beneath beds, below the table, dead bodies of Taj staff and guests strewn all over the place haunt you long after the episode is over…
Creative producer Abhimanyu Singh and team recreate a riveting account of 26/11 and perhaps the only demerit of the series is the pace, the editing should have been sharper but the sound, production design, art, costumes compensates for the few lapses. “It could have been different” the cop tells his colleague when it is all over. The colleague sighs, “Has it ever been different?” There is a feeling of unease mixed with anger and contempt supported by suitable music, State of Seige is not an easy watch (recommend you to watch it in company) but here is pride too for our police officers, our National Security Guard and compassion for the young terrorists, specially Kasab for what awaits him.
When the cop comes to his wife after five days and breaks down, their little son watches his parents from behind the door. He is too young to comprehend what has occurred but he senses it is serious and he is terrified. Will we ever forget those 60 hours…the 165 lives lost… the 300 injured….? Probably not, will we ever be free of the anger and the sorrow, doubtful and most important, will we be better prepared in a similar situation again, I am not sure.