Hotel Mumbai star Dev Patel on Saturday recounted the shock of performing a full-blown dance scene in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire on the same train station platform where gunmen in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks later murdered rush hour travelers.
Patel, who was promoting his latest film, Hotel Mumbai, during a press conference at the Toronto Film Festival, recalled the excitement of performing the Bollywood dance scene at the end of Slumdog Millionaire in Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus train station. And not long after Danny Boyle’s movie made Patel an international superstar, he found himself witnessing live on TV, along with his parents in his London home, terrorist gunmen prowling the same Mumbai railway station platforms with their AK-47 assault rifles.
“These young guys walked out onto these platforms with automatic guns and did catastrophic damage, as they mowed down 15 people and injured over a hundred more,” Patel recalled. Hotel Mumbai stars Patel and Armie Hammer in director Anthony Maras’ fictionalized account of the Mumbai attacks in 2008.
While capturing the heroism of guests and workers in the city’s legendary Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which was also targeted by the gunmen, Hotel Mumbai deliberately humanizes the perpetrators of the terror attacks. “I really liked that the people inflicting the terror, the gunmen in the movie, were not just two-dimensional faceless instruments of evil, just wielding guns and causing havoc — they were people, they were kids, and in a way kids who were tricked into doing this,” Hammer told the Toronto presser.
The Call Me by Your Name star said the young gunmen were promised money or surgery for their family by ringleaders of the terror attack. “They were convinced and brainwashed into doing this heinous act of terror,” Hammer said after Hotel Mumbai had its world premiere in Toronto.
The 10 gunmen were connected to handlers in Pakistan via cellphones while they carried out the attacks, and Hotel Mumbai writer John Collee used transcripts of their phone conversations intercepted by the Indian security services to show how they too were impacted as they stormed Mumbai and killed 166 people.
“You see what these kids go through when they’re having to do this, and how their beliefs are shaken and how their resilience is shaken. The [Hotel Mumbai] script was just dripping with humanity all over the place,” Hammer said.
The film’s director echoes how, when the smoke of the 2008 terror attacks cleared, the nine gunmen left dead and another who survived and was arrested, were ultimately pawns. “We hope that our film shows that, if it wasn’t that 10 group of kids, it would be another 10. They perpetrated great evil, but the real evil wasn’t the guy holding the gun, it was the guy in their ear [via smartphones], and that their handlers put them up to this,” Maras said.