The first season of Mumbai Diaries got all its chosen elements right – a high-strung medical drama set in a hospital during the November 26, 2008, terrorist attacks. One of the targets of the gunmen was the Cama & Albless Hospital in south Mumbai. The horror that unfolds in the show actually happened, watched by viewers across the country on their TV screens.
That kind of assault on a city not just transforms it, but leaves long-term scars on the memory. It was impossible to replicate the factual and emotional wallop of the incident in another series, so Mumbai Diaries Season 2, directed by Nikkhil Advani, cannot help but be a letdown.
Bombay General Hospital is still under the administration of Dr Subramaniam (Prakash Belawadi). Most of the characters return and find themselves caught in pointless shenanigans packed within 24 hours, with timelines and locations helpfully provided. Star doctor Kaushik Oberoi (Mohit Raina) is still trying to clear his name after being accused of medical negligence in the last show, for trying to save a terrorist instead of a wounded cop.
The big crisis this time is the 2005 cloudburst rainstorm that flooded large sections of Mumbai, but is way lower in dramatic scales than a brazen terrorist attack (which actually took place three whole years later). A fictional cataclysm might actually have worked better than a real one that residents of Mumbai barely remember, never mind the rest of the country.
When the camera moves outside the hospital, there are scenes of torrential rains and traffic jams. Yet, the patients who the harried doctors, the omnipresent head nurse Cherian (Balaji Gauri) and social services officer Chitra (Konkona Sensharma) have to deal with are not directly affected by the floods. There is a lot of talk of overcrowding and chaos and the possibility of a leptospirosis outbreak, but that is hardly visible.
In the previous season, three resident interns had joined the hospital: the founder’s granddaughter Diya (Natasha Bharadwaj), Sujata (Mrunmayee Deshpande) and Ahaan (Satyajeet Dubey). They wander around the hospital randomly, doing vague medical tasks. Cinematic licence is all very well, but the lack of basic detailing is galling. Sujata decides on her own to perform a complicated surgery on a child, without even a properly prepared operation theatre.
A senior surgeon cannot reach the hospital because of the downpour, but Sujata leaves her post in a supposed emergency situation to rescue a victim of child abuse and makes it back. Oberoi rushes off during the flood to hunt for his pregnant wife (Tina Desai). An obstetrician (Riddhi Dogra) is suddenly conjured up and then vanishes.
Anyone who has ever been to a hospital even on a normal day would find many doctors barely paying attention to patients, but Diya has all the time in the world to counsel the transgender burns victim (Samaresh Das). A cop (Sanjay Narwekar), who would have been on the beat when the city is drowning, spends the whole day terrorising the burn victim’s family or arm-twisting a nurse.
The tawdry sniping and flashbacks to Chitra’s abusive husband Saurav (Parambrata Chattopadhyay) take up too much footage in a show that barely keeps its head above the haphazardly swirling water. Cutting away from here frequently, the show visits seemingly the only news channel in the city covering the floods, while star anchor Mansi (Shreya Dhanwanthary) would rather crucify Dr Oberoi.
The power shuts down at some point. A chunk of the series is shot (by Malay Prakash) in the semi-dark, with candles, torches, and emergency fluorescent tubes as light sources. But lab reports and scans materialise instantly and surgery is performed in unsanitary conditions. Any hospital where one doesn’t hear the words “Go to accounts and pay a deposit,” only exists in a fairy tale.
Season 2 (written by Yash Chetija and Persis Sodawaterwala, with dialogue by Sanyukta Chawla Shaikh) is as scattershot in execution and dreary to watch as the first season was gripping. The production design (by Priya Suhass) is meticulous.
Among the crowd of actors, Prakash Belawadi, Mohit Raina and Parambrata Chattopadhyay stand out for making some sense of the parts they play. The others flail around looking confused, which was probably the instruction they were given.