In a particularly chaotic moment in Season 2 of Mumbai Diaries, the chief manager of Bombay General Hospital asks if he can get a single minute of respite. To this, he is told, “Sir, can we get samosa? Cold coffee with ice-cream can be had. He could not get a minute without facing problems in Bombay General Hospital.” It is this same clueless frenzy that is also applicable to the new series created by Nikkhil Advani, which is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Registering 8 episodes each of around 45 minutes, all coaxed into the framework of one fateful day… this is a show that desperately tries to be engaging. The more it pushes to stay afloat, the more does it end up drowning in its own muddled waters. (Also read: Mumbai Diaries 26/11 review: Genuinely moving Amazon show finds Mohit Raina in top form)
Beginning from where we left
Season 2, set in 2009 during devastating Mumbai floods, starts off with a sense of charge, taking the action forward from where it left off the previous season. The blows of incompetence and more serious charges are pressed down upon Dr. Kaushik Oberoi (a nuanced and powerful turn from Mohit Raina). His wife, Ananya Ghosh (Tina Desai), now heavily pregnant, worries about him. In an early scene, he suddenly freezes in the midst of a medical emergency, which costs a life. The news are all about him- how 73% audience believe that he is a criminal. At the hospital, we also meet Dr. Oberoi’s three trainees, Dr. Sujata Ajawale (Mrunmayee Deshpande), Dr. Ahaan Mirza (Satyajeet Dubey) and Dr. Diya Parekh (Natasha Bharadwaj)- who will soon be saddled with their own set of problems, each more wayward than the other.
Then there is the director of Social Services at Bombay General Hospital, Dr. Chitra Das (played with reliable complexity by Konkona Sen Sharma), who has a blast from her past with the arrival of a certain Dr. Saurav Chandra (Parambrata Chattopadhyay, taking his cue of honing the British accent a tad too well). With Chitra losing the ground beneath her feet, she has no time to care that Ahaan has got two tickets for a show of Love Aaj Kal. Tragic. As the rain continues to wreck havoc on the city and threaten its citizens, the hospital becomes a living hell with multiple patients, operations and revelations all unfolding at once.
The weakest links
With so many characters and their individual stories to tell, Mumbai Diaries cuts from one to another, withdrawing on information whenever needed. Writers Yash Chettija and Persis Sodawaterwala remain focused in circling around the multiple threads of these characters. The persistence with which the series tries to give each character their own individual arc works in stretches. Some of them land, while most others don’t. The entire to-and-fro between Ahaan, Chitra and Saurav, for one, is the weakest link to the overall framework of the narrative- somehow sticking out like a sore thumb. Also add the entire subplot of news anchor Mansi Hirani who has to report the Breaking News against her will. Her exasperation is never felt, and her track goes tangent midway to a predictable route. Shreya Dhanwantary’s presence is never felt in-between the excessive edits destined by Maahir Zaveri.
Mohit Raina is highlight
The main conflict with Mumbai Diaries this season is how it never reaches a middle ground between the individual plot points vs the larger framework of a hospital fighting to make ends meet. Instead of turning its gaze on the broken system and the nerve-wrecking sense of danger that looms every passing minute, the show finds its concern on personal outbursts and dramatic revelations. Take for instance the entire subplot revolving around a nurse trying to steal medicines from the store. Or the one involving a number of kids being purposefully brought in the hospital. Thankfully, some moments do land with a resonant force. The entire subplot involving Dr. Kaushik, and that one sequence later where he finally finds Ananya is truly powerful. Mohit Raina’s performance- aching and vulnerable, is the show’s real highlight.
Mumbai Diaries is however stretched outside its limits here in the sequel. In covering the multiple threads, the show seldom takes a moment to breathe. Some of the interpersonal contractions are given too much time to build up, weighing down the momentum of the tragedy to a few notches. The larger framework of climate crisis, a contrived ecosystem of media consumerism, and the condition of the healthcare system is never given the limelight. The subjects overshadow their own realities. Their concerns are met with a sense of predictable resolve by the end, in all its dramatic detail. The show takes pride in its own brand of self-sufficient awareness. Once that intrigue is over, the sun is set to appear. There’s relief that the worst is over, but where is the anger?