When ten young men from Pakistan entered Mumbai aboard hi-jacked boats on the night of 26th November 2008, they had one intention: to create a terror that would grip international media and make the world sit up and take notice of Lashkar-e-Taiba — the Army of the Righteous, a previously little known terrorist organization based in Pakistan.
And it’s this intention, despite the extreme violence, allegations against Pakistan and shocking negligence of elements in the Mumbai police force, which really sticks with the viewer of Terror in Mumbai. The more you watch, the more you realize they succeeded.
Filmmaker Dan Reed has covered similar ground before — his 2003 film Terror in Moscow looked at the hostage situation in a Russian theatre and the subsequent botched rescue by Russian authorities. However, with the Mumbai attacks Reed has an incredible arsenal of footage and recordings at his disposal — including hours of phone calls made between the young men committing the attacks and their older leaders, including spokesman “Brother Wasi”, in Pakistan.
These phone calls, intercepted by Mumbai police who had fed traceable sim cards to known terrorist organizations, are the fascinating centerpiece of the film Notably, the killers, young men from Pakistani villages, frequently show incredible naivety. “There are computers here with 30 inch screens!” exclaims one mass-murderer on the phone to his irritated boss whilst in Mumbai’s iconic Taj Mahal Hotel. He goes on, “It’s amazing — the windows are huge! It’s got two kitchens, a bath and a little shop.” Brother Wasi, sounding exasperated, orders them to set the building on fire (they comply).
The callous nature of their leaders is also exposed. “There’s no harm in throwing a few grenades,” says Brother Wasi at one point. At other points he is coldly urging the scared young men into suicidal situations, ignoring the fear in their trembling voices.
The killers themselves cut tragic, almost sympathetic figures. We see the one surviving terrorism handcuffed to a bed and bleeding; he claims he was “sold” into terrorism by his family. It’s clear from this footage why the organizers of the attack urged their foot soldiers to fight to the death — far from the organized harbinger’s of death they would like to present to us, we get bewildered and confused boys, terrified of the situations they find themselves in.