Nazanin Boniadi and Anupam Kher Interview: Hotel Mumbai

We interview Hotel Mumbai stars Nazanin Boniadi and Anupam Kher about the pressures of telling a true story and portraying their characters.

Nazanin Boniadi and Anupam Kher Screen Rant Interview

In 2008, terrorists launched a series of coordinated attacks in Mumbai, India, killing over 160 people all across the city, including more than 30 people at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. The new film, Hotel Mumbai, dramatizes the terrorist attack, giving particular focus to the events that took place at the Taj, and the gripping story of the victims and survivors of the event.

Directed by Anthony Maras, Hotel Mumbai is a graphically violent tale of the horrors that humans can inflict on each other, but also highlights the humanity and compassion that brings people of disparate backgrounds to join together in a frightening fight for survival.

Related: Hotel Mumbai Trailer

At a recent press day for the film, Screen Rant spoke to Nazanin Boniadi and Anupam Kher, two of the film's stars. Boniadi plays a composite character of several people who were present at the event, while Kher plays chef Hemant Oberoi, the real-life head chef at the hotel and one of the survivors of the attacks. The two actors shared their thoughts on the film, including the responsibility of telling this story as a dramatic thriller.

Nazanin, Adupam, it is a pleasure to get to talk to you about this movie, Hotel Mumbai; it's as harrowing as it is inspiring. You play characters, yours is directly based on a real person, and, from what I understand, yours is a composite of several people.

Nazanin Boniadi: Yes.

Did you get to meet with any of the people who inspired your characters?

Anupam Kher: I was in Mumbai when this whole thing happened and unfolded. It was horrifying. It was like watching a reality show but the bodies were real, the blood was real, and people dying were real, and people killing were also real. When this role was offered to me, I thought for a time that maybe I should meet Doctor Oberoi, and then I thought it was insensitive of me to meet him and ask him to open his wounds all over again. But trauma was there, and I had felt it. The only thing was that I needed Anthony to tell me what were the details of this thing. I had met friends who were relatives who died. My friend, who was general manager in the hotel, he had lost his wife and two children. When we went through this whole exercise of working on the film, we had to relive the whole thing. That was the interpretation Anthony gave to the film.

Could you talk a little about the responsibility of playing a part in this movie and telling this true story, on this visceral, personal, ground level?

Nazanin Boniadi: Yeah. We're dealing with human lives. This is something that actually happened, and we have to show respect and pay respect to the lives lost, the survivors, the community. My character is based on two women who actually existed through the events, and I feel like, even though I didn't get to speak to anyone directly about the research, there was a wealth of research that I had done, that Anthony had provided us, the Surviving Mumbai documentary, news footage, et cetera. I think it was important for all of us that we got it right. It's not about, necessarily, not fictionalizing certain aspects of the story to be able to make a more respectful film, to be honest, and not to cross boundaries into people's privacy. It's also about bringing this story together in a way that it would impact people and send the message that we hope it does send.

Nazanin Boniadi and Anupam Kher Screen Rant Interview

Anupam Kher: It's about discovering the hero in ordinary people. Heroes are not necessarily supposed to look like that, and you discover that you have the courage to save people in sad situations. It reaffirms your faith in goodness and compassion of people, which, unfortunately, you discover in a situation like this. People from all walks of life came and worked in this hotel. They did not know that this is going to happen, and then they discover that this is what they need to do. They also did not know the ending of their stories. They just... The whole philosophy of the Taj Hotel, that "Guest is God," actually got displayed; otherwise, it's just a logo on the wall!

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