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Mohit Raina: "When the writing is in place, half the job is done"

"It was the first time I was doing a medical drama, and it was the first time I was restricted within four walls for 60 days wearing one set of clothes for 60 days."

September 10, 2021 / 05:32 PM IST
Mohit Raina plays Dr Kaushik Oberoi in 'Mumbai Diaries 26/11',  streaming on Amazon Prime Video from September 9, 2021.

Mohit Raina plays Dr Kaushik Oberoi in 'Mumbai Diaries 26/11', streaming on Amazon Prime Video from September 9, 2021.

When Mohit Raina was first contacted to meet creator-producer-director Nikkhil Advani for a new web series, the actor who played Shiva in Devon Ke Dev – Mahadev and later played emperor Ashoka, in the historical TV series Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat, was concerned that Advani might hand him another role requiring a sword and cape. But much to his surprise, Raina was not being approached for a role in (Advani’s other production) The Empire. Instead he was offered the role of a trauma unit doctor in the medical drama Mumbai Diaries 26/11. The sword was replaced with a scalpel, and the cape with a lab coat as Raina sunk his teeth into the character of Dr Kaushik Oberoi.

Just released on Amazon Prime Video, the series unfolds during the terror attacks on Mumbai on November 26, 2008. In the emergency rooms and corridors of Bombay General Hospital, the medical, nursing and administrative staff have to overcome one of the greatest challenges of their careers.

The 39-year-old actor, who played Major Kashyap in Uri: The Surgical Strike (2019), talks about his experience of working on the first season of this medical drama series and the challenges of playing Dr Oberoi.

How did you land the part and what attracted you to this role?

When Nikkhil Advani called me for a meeting, I had heard he was making a historical, so I thought again I would be given a sword and yet another cape. But I thought he’s a senior director and I should meet him at least. I was prepared to say no more swords. I want to do something different. But then he surprised me by saying he was working on a medical drama based on a real-life event that he wanted me to be a part of. He said 26/11 is the backdrop but the show is a medical drama that explores the emotions and drama that the hospital staff and doctors are facing. Nikkhil Advani is so good at putting real-life stories on screen and here I was getting an opportunity to work with him and to understand his vision. In fact, the whole journey of becoming the character was very beautiful. When the writing is in place, half the job is done. For the rest, we worked on my look with the spectacles, bandana, thick bread and dark circles. These small factors helped Oberoi come alive on screen.

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There are many procedures, diagnoses, medical jargon and terminology. How did you get the medicine right?

We had proper preparation and classes conducted by Doctor Sheikh. We took notes and had to answer his quizzes. So we had to memorise what he taught us.

And when you have a two-time National Film Award winner sitting next to you (referring to Konkona Sen Sharma) taking notes, then you had better pay attention. We also did practicals on dummy bodies, and would be quizzed on what different body parts are called, to identify the disease and what medicine would be prescribed for it. So we had to literally be on our toes all the time. It was not easy, for sure.

Also read: Konkona Sen Sharma: "'Mumbai Diaries 26/11' is our tribute to the frontline workers"

Which aspect of the character and the shoot did you find most challenging?

It was the first time I was doing a medical drama, and it was the first time I was restricted within four walls for 60 days wearing one set of clothes for 60 days. I was so excited by all of this. Initially I would go and sit on the hospital set. I wanted to own the space because this was a place where my character has been for a long time. As an actor, I love getting into the skin of the character. The look, accessories, one set of clothes, location helped achieve this. I had even instructed my team not to wash the clothes everyday because I wanted to smell the mud, sweat, paint, blood a little bit because you can't really start from scratch every morning when you get back to set. However, the most challenging aspect was maintaining the emotion of three days for 60 days.

The show has a vast ensemble cast. Of all the relationships – your wife, colleagues, boss, patients, cops – which was the most enjoyable to explore?

I think the relationship with the hospital in-charge Dr. Subramaniam, played by Prakash Belawadi. Subramaniam is so helpless at times and he thinks Oberoi is crossing boundaries. I liked that dynamic. Having such a good and natural senior actor in the part, I had to think twice about my reaction to this guy.

What can you tell us about subsequent seasons of the show?

I hope there will be more and going by the response so far, it looks positive. Before getting into the next season, if there is one, my aim is to master putting on the surgical gloves without looking at them in under 15 seconds. As my director said, as a professional doctor, I should be able to do that.

Mohit Raina and director Nikkhil Advani. Mohit Raina and director Nikkhil Advani on the sets of 'Mumbai Diaries 26/11'.
Udita Jhunjhunwala is an independent film critic, lifestyle writer, author and festival curator. She can be found on Twitter @UditaJ and Instagram @Udita_J

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