As the world’s headlines draw attention to terrorism at the hands of extremist groups in the wake of the Christchurch shootings, a new film released in Australia this week depicts the frightening experience for victims of a real-life terror attack.
Hotel Mumbai, starring Dev Patel and Armie Hammer, is based on the attacks that took place at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, India back in 2008.
“This was a catastrophic event that took the lives of so many people so it wasn’t like making a comedy with no stakes,” Armie tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We all knew what was on the line.”
With the 32-year-old playing David– a guest of the hotel with his wife Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi) – and Dev a hotel staffer, the film depicts the harrowing impact the attacks had on both tourists and locals as they tried to escape over four days.
“In the film, you see people from completely different walks of life who are brought together in an extreme way by what is going on around them,” explains Armie.
His co-star Dev, who shot to fame after starring in Slumdog Millionaire filmed in India, still recalls where he was when the 2008 Mumbai attacks occurred.
“I remember entering my house in London. I’d been on a press tour and I’d just come back in, and my parents [were] just standing in front of the television with tears in their eyes,” Dev tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“They were watching the footage of the train station where these terrorists went and opened fire.”
The moment particularly struck the actor as “heartbreaking” when he was reminded of the upbeat train station scene he filmed for Slumdog Millionaire.
“That movie is full of humanity, joy and life. I did a goofy dance [at the train station] but it was a big celebratory dance,” he explains. “It’s heartbreaking.”
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for the actors was doing the film justice for real-life victims.
“I find that any time you do a film that involves stories of real people there’s always a responsibility because they’re going to see it,” says Armie.
“You don’t want to capitalise or abuse someone’s story in order to make a movie and I think that in this case for this movie, I’ve never seen it handled better.
“We immediately upon walking into rehearsal for the first time, were presented with thousands and thousands of stories and seeing the actual real-life ramifications and the effect it had on these people. Because after the attack, everyone was talking about what they actually went through, and it was harrowing. It really was intense.
“So there were conversations about being not only respectful but trying to handle this in a way that would make them proud of what they were able to go through and survive.”
Over 160 people died as a result of the Mumbai attacks that were carried out by several men from Pakistan in 2008.
And in sharing the stories of some of the victims through this film, the actors hope that viewers see the power of love overcoming hate in the most terrifying of times.
“I think one of the things people will walk away with from this film is an understanding of the indomitable nature of the human spirit,” says Armie.
“These are humans. The reason that humans are around today is because we’re survivors. We’ve been through a lot.
“And this is an instance that’s incredibly intense but you see what happens when all of these human beings in this experience put aside all of their differences and actually begin to work together – what they can not only overcome but what they can survive.”
Hotel Mumbai is in Australian cinemas now.
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