Hotel Mumbai is based on the true story of the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai, which killed 164 people and wounded 308 over four days. It mainly focuses on the story of the guests and staff at the Taj Palace Hotel who were held hostage and terrorized during that time.
Ten attackers carried out a coordinated series of attacks, and the film follows some of them, and locals and visitors of various nationalities that were caught up in the attack. Among them are:
- David (Armie Hammer), his wife Zahara (Nazanin Boniadi), their baby and their nanny Bree (Natasha Liu Bordizzo)
- Arjun (Dev Patel), a waiter at the Taj Palace who has a family at home
- Chef Hemant Oberoi (played by Anupam Kher)
- Vasili (Jason Isaacs), a Russian businessman.
I believe most of the characters are either amalgamations or invented, though writer John Collee and writer/director Anthony Maras spent a year interviewing survivors, including a month stay at the Taj where they talked extensively to the staff. Chef Oberoi is a real person though, and a hero of the attack. He stayed at the hotel to help the guests and even reopened his restaurant only three weeks after the events, despite the hotel having been bombed and extensively burned. The real Chef Oberoi was at the premiere, and received a standing ovation, along with the cast and crew.
“…Oberoi is a real person…a hero of the attack. He stayed at the hotel to help the guests…“
I have mixed feelings about slightly fictionalizing true events, though in this case, it would be impossible to do justice to the true stories of the hundreds of people involved. I’m on board with the narrative they presented here — it showcases people from a variety of nationalities, both local and guests, and it takes you through the various actions and scenes being played out. Most importantly, the drama is white-knuckle intense and unrelenting.