Mumbai Diaries(Season 2)
Thank God It Is Friday and the weekend is officially here! And there are plenty of new releases to cover and so another full flex is required! So without wasting anytime, I decided to watch the second season of the Hindi show Mumbai Diaries which is now streaming on Amazon Prime. It was in 2021 when the first season of Mumbai Diaries was out and that had the events on the night of 26/11 at the center of it. That night was perhaps the darkest night for all the Mumbaikars with everyone having a story of loss. And I did feel that the series did capture the pain of the night of the terrorist attacks quite brilliantly, something that continues to linger on even today.
The Mumbaikars were subjected to a similar night of a never-ending labyrinth when a natural disaster had completely brought the city to its knees. The fateful night was of 26th July 2005, another day which all of us wish to forget. Yet, it was a timely reminder on what nature could do if you did not respect it. I was still in school then and I had just about made it home in the nick of time before the heavens had opened up. But my parents were not so lucky. They had to brave through the flash floods in order to reach home, much like millions of people on the streets. Yet, the night was an epitome of the spirit of the people, with strangers helping each other along with the commendable efforts of the cops and the first aid workers who despite all odds ensured their citizens to safety. So when I did get to know that Mumbai Diaries was renewed for another season, this time with the fateful night of 26/7, I was curious on witnessing the action unfold from the hospital point of view. That said, does the second season of Mumbai Diaries manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
The second season of Mumbai Diaries picks off from the same point where season one had ended(rather surprising), and it follows the story of a group of doctors dealing with their own set of issues, who rise up to the occasion to try and save many lives during the flash floods of 26/7. Now, I have purposely kept the story a little vague given that there are many layers to unpack here. But firstly, the fundamental flaw(if I can call it that), is that the timelines of the show are not in sync with reality. So the events of 26/11 had taken place in 2008, 3 years after the events of 26/7. But in the show, there is a creative liberty taken of reversing the timelines. So as a viewer, you will need to take a leap of faith in order to enjoy the show, without which it might be easier to dismiss it completely(which is rather unfair). The screenplay standing at 8 episodes of roughly 40 odd to 50 odd minutes each accounts for a watertight medical thriller that chooses to focus on the different character dynamics while using the events of 26/7 as a backdrop. The writing here is sharp thus resulting in a compelling narrative.
One thing that you need to keep in mind before venturing into the drama is that the episode of the Mumbai flash floods is only used as a backdrop in the series(almost like a catalyst) while the focus remains on the interpersonal relationships between the characters, while having to deal with the chaos of a calamity around them. This essentially means that there are only subplots around the Mumbai floods which are essential to the part of the screenplay. Once this little hurdle is crossed, and you start addressing the series as a medical thriller, you will start enjoying it.
It took me a decent amount of time to settle into the drama, simply because of my pre-conceived notions around the show, something that I had to let go off slowly. The fact that the show picked up from the events of the last season meant that I had to re-wire myself, and start surrendering to the vision of the filmmaker from the word go. So you are reintroduced to the principal characters after the traumatic 26/11 attack that did play a crucial life at their workplace as well. Yet, the shifting nature of the relationships is what the drama chooses to focus on at the very beginning, with element of rain being used as an undercurrent. There are multiple conflicts in play related to the vulnerability of the characters based on their past, or even with respect to the role of the media who is often known to blow things out of proportion. Yet, the human angle and a tinge of perspective is always in play that consistently drives the narrative.
The proceedings start getting engaging with the chaos slowly setting in, in a very volatile situation at the hospital. The aspects of politics amongst the hospital authority are tactfully integrated in the drama. The internal turmoil of atleast a couple of characters is interesting, and it definitely opens a discussion on the mental health of health workers who are subjected to a hostile environment with longer shifts, day in and day out. Yet, the drama scores heavily when it chooses to focus on the human angle of the drama. While the spirit of Mumbai is highlighted, it isn’t used merely as a tool to turn a blind eye to the problems. There are some searing issues raised along the way, including the integration of a separate real life incident that had taken place at a railway station. It was an interesting subplot and a very relevant one.
Along the way, there are a host of issues touched upon related to the LGBTQ community, an abusive relationship as well as child abuse which is definitely on the rise. Each of these events transform into formidable subplots that account for an engaging watch. The peak of the drama is attained for a very large chunk of middle section where the incessant rain does play a character in itself with respect to impacting the lives of different characters in play.
The part where the drama slightly slips up is in the events leading up to the final act that do get a tad too dramatic. I think the issue that the writers had to cater to with this subject was that there was no real antagonist as opposed to the previous season. And when most of the drama is set in a single location of the hospital, you do tend to overtry things in order to make things slightly dramatic. And that is what seemed to have transpired towards the end as well, which did feel tonally off to an extent. Yet, the rousing speech at the end of the show will give you goosebumps which acknowledging and providing a fitting tribute to the unsung heroes of that night! A little message at the end with respect to the environment, and the negligence of which did result in the calamity was rather important to note. Overall, the screenplay is well written provided you are willing to let go of some of the creative liberties taken at the beginning of the show.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are filled with medical jargons that do add a sense of authenticity to the drama. But more importantly, the conversations that transpire are wonderful to witness, and they result in a solid impact. The music of the show is underrated, and some of the songs represent the gloomy mood of the drama wonderfully well. The BGM does its bit in enhancing plenty of scenes that does elevate the overall impact of the show. The cinematography captures some traumatic frames featuring the calamity with utmost finesse. Even the lighting of the show was excellent, the VFX was pretty decent.
The art department deserves a huge round of applause for their work in showcasing the dingy walls of the hospital which itself is representative of the lives of the health workers working there. Even the blue filter adds to the ambience of the drama. The editing is good but could have been sharper at a few instances particularly in events leading up to the final act. Director Nikkhil Advani does a splendid job in weaving an immersive tale of interpersonal dynamics between the characters amidst the chaos around them. He does create several moments which are endearing while also maintaining the tension around the calamity in check. The direction is pretty good here and it is a huge green tick in his report card.
The performances are excellent by the ensemble cast. Vasundhara Kaul as Mallika does a good job in a character which is manipulative and looking only to paint a rosy picture in a media house. Sonali Kulkarni as Savita has her moments to shine as does Aarya Bhatta as Pranab. Ridhi Dogra as Dr. Sandhya is endearing. Addis Antony Akkara as Dr. Raman and Jhanvi Rawat as Dr. Hima are nice additions to the show and both of them do a splendid job. Bhavya Sharma as Shreya is first rate as well along with Amit Jainath who is wonderful to watch as Sachin. The veterans Kalyanee Mulay as Shalini and Jaimini Pathak as Prashant have contrasting roles but both of them are extremely impactful with their effortless performances. Akshar Kothari as Mayank is fiery and does a splendid job. Pushkaraj Chirputkar as Samarth delivers a well measured performance in a character who is very affable and sincere.
It was an absolute pleasure to witness Balaji Gauri perform essay the character of Cherian. She was assertive but also very heartfelt and nuanced with her act. Sanjay Narvekar as Jadhav will make your blood boil which means he was excellent on the show. Sharad Ponkshe as Kulkarni is subtly calculative and a symbol of a power center at the hospital. His performance is nuanced wherein he does a terrific job. Adithi KS as Vidya does a wonderful job in a character dealing with her own set of uncertainties. And her screen presence is remarkable. Harssh Singh as Dr. Romani makes his presence felt.
Tina Desai as Ananya delivers a heartfelt performance wherein you can feel every inch of the pain of her character. The emotions that she brings into the picture are wonderful to witness. Parambrata Chattopadhyay as Dr. Saurav is quietly wicked and subtly menacing. One criticism around his character was his accent. I mean you may have studied in London but the accent need not have been modify simply because it was distracting. Shreya Dhanwanthary as Mansi has a major character transformation here and she portrayed the human side to her character with perfection.
Natasha Bharadwaj as Dr. Diya has a wonderful character arc here particularly with respect to the maturity of her character from the previous season. She was an absolute delight to watch in a wonderful act. Satyajeet Dubey as Dr. Ahaan is shown to be vulnerable with multiple things unfolding in his life. And he portrays his vulnerability with a sense of authority, in what was a splendid act. Mrunmayee Deshpande as Dr. Sujata is a fire cracker here. She is assertive but extremely rooted to reality while also being practical in her approach. And she delivers a knockout performance here. Prakash Belawadi as Dr. Subramaniam is natural to the core, often just reacting to the situation presented in front of him, in what was a subtly heartfelt act.
Mohit Raina as Dr. Kaushik is wonderfully restrained here while presenting a case of the range that he possesses as an actor(a stark contrast to his role in The Freelancer). His vulnerability and self respect resulting in him suffering from bouts of depression are beautifully accounted for, in a stellar act. Yet, his ability to bounce back eventually is what made for an endearing act as well. Konkona Sen Sharma as Dr. Chitra provides another timely reminder on what a fine actor she is. Her portrayal of her painful past coupled with her indecisiveness was an act of precision wherein I was thoroughly invested in her journey. The bouts of numbness in her character were so measured that it accounted for a towering performance of the highest order by a very fine actor.
Despite the creative liberties taken with respect to the timelines of the show, the second season of Mumbai Diaries is a fitting tribute to the unsung heroes of 26/7 Mumbai floods. Yet, its focus on interpersonal relationships between characters coupled with some splendid performances is what makes for a wonderfully satisfying watch. Available on Amazon Prime.