The challenges for Konkona Sensharma on the sets of Mumbai Diaries 26/11 were manifold. For one, she had never been part of an action scene before.
“I had to be put in an harness and had to fly through the air during an explosion,” the two-time National Film Award winner told Scroll.in. “I was terrified and asked for a stunt double and it was most embarrassing in front of everybody. But once I did it, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”
A chunk of the Amazon Prime Video series also required Sensharma to be “covered in dust and blood, while walking on glass”, she said, promising that the later episodes are “dramatic and difficult”.
The series follows the lives of healthcare workers and frontline workers attending to patients at a government hospital during the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s terror attacks on Mumbai between November 26 and 29 in 2008. Directed by Nikkhil Advani and Nikhil Gonsalves, the show will be premiered on September 9. The cast includes Mohit Raina, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Sandesh Kulkarni, Satyajeet Dubey and Prakash Belawadi.
Sensharma plays Chitra Das, a social services director at the hospital. She is “not a doctor, but has a medical background,” Sensharma said. “However, at the time of crisis, she goes out of her way and above and beyond the line of duty to save lives.”
Chitra Das also has to fight personal demons, only glimpses of which are seen in season one. “She is not the typically strong character I’ve often been accused of playing,” Sensharma said. “Her self-doubt and vulnerability give her the compassion to deal with other people.”
Previous productions about the 26/11 tragedy have focused on the event through the eyes of law enforcement, commandos, and hotel staff.
What drew Sensharma to Mumbai Diaries 26/11 was its “unique perspective of looking at the lives of doctors, nurses, ward boys, administrative stuff in a government hospital, and their personal and professional challenges with which they have to deal in far from ideal circumstances, in the middle of unprecedented events”.
What she realised while working in the series was that “we don’t respect first responders”. She added, “We think doctors are gods, but we should also have some compassion given they can’t work without proper infrastructure, and have their own issues and personal lives to think of as well.”
Sensharma noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has instilled a “newfound appreciation for frontline workers”, although “it shouldn’t take a 26/11 or a Covid for us to realise their importance”.
The series was initially supposed to be called Bombay Hospital, Sensharma said (also the name of one of Mumbai’s most well-known hospitals). The present title makes room for the police and journalists who were also part of the story.
Sensharma will soon be seen in her mother Aparna Sen’s The Rapist, co-starring Arjun Rampal and Tanmay Dhanania. She is also starring in Aasmaan Bhardwaj’s Kuttey alongside Tabu, Naseeruddin Shah, Radhika Apte and Arjun Kapoor. Having written and directed A Death in the Gunj in 2019, she has been writing a film for a while now.
Would she direct her mother, an illustrious director and actor herself? “I would love to direct her,” Sensharma said. “I don’t feel scared at all, thanks to mum, with whom I share a lot of mutual trust and respect. All credit to her as that’s how she brought me up.”
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