Chef Hemant Oberoi Recounts What Happened on the Night of 26/11
Chef Hemant Oberoi talks about the 26/11 attacks and the film ‘Hotel Mumbai’ based on the night of 26/11 at Taj.
(This story was first published on 26 November 2019 and is being republished from The Quint's archives to mark 13 years of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai)
Directed by Anthony Maras, Hotel Mumbai is all set to release in India on 29 November. The film is based on the 26/11 attacks that sent shock waves across the country, when terrorists gunned down people at prime locations in Mumbai including the prestigious Taj Mahal Palace.
Anupam Kher plays the role of Chef Hemant Oberoi who was the grand executive chef at the Taj Palace then. The Quint got a chance to speak to Chef Hemant Oberoi about how he and his team maintained their calm and helped control the panic situation in the hotel.
When did you get to know that Taj was under attack and what did you do then?
At about 9:15 pm, I got a call from one of my chefs and he said that, “Sir there’s a shooting going on.” I thought he was talking about a film shoot at Gateway of India. He says no sir, it’s not that. A person has been shot dead outside The Golden Dragon. And I heard another gunshot. Then I said, “Switch off the lights and lock the doors, please.” The second reaction was to call up the security and find out what was the situation. So about 50-60 people were hiding in the restaurant and the terrorists thought there was nobody and they went straight to the poolside where we had a barbecue and they sprayed the bullets on the people who were sitting there. I could see the guy in front, about 30 yards away, the terrorists. And my colleague had to literally pull my hand and he told me that the terrorist was pointing the gun at me. And he had already fired two bullets which went and hit the wall.
How did you maintain calm in the panic situation?
We kept on giving them drinks. We kept on giving them tea and coffee throughout the night. Till 3 in the morning we were giving them sandwiches and cookies. Some guys were making masala chai. From 9 in the night, they were hungry.
How did you get to know that your friend and sous chef was gunned down?
I think around 3, we started the evacuation part of it and I was coordinating, running between chambers and my office. And my Chef Banja was in the dining room monitoring the movement along with security. So I said, “The moment you come to know that they are coming down, we’ll stop the evacuation.” One of the managers came to tell me that they are panicking. And I go over there and Chef Banja was coming out from the dining room to tell me that the terrorists have left the roof and they are coming down. And he opens the door and there was a terrorist standing in front of them. And he just shot him in the middle of his head. He died instantly.
What did you think of the movie ‘Hotel Mumbai’?
I think the movie is quite a bit of reality. Of course, you cannot show everything in 1 hour, 30 minutes what has taken place over the course of 72 hours. Anupam is a very good actor. Of course in real and reel, there are few things which are depicted differently. But I think overall the sound effects, the acting and the direction of the film has been done very well.
Video Editor: Ashish Maccune
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