By Melissa Keogh
South Australian-made film Hotel Mumbai has hit cinemas across Australia and overseas, based on incredible events that unfolded at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai during deadly terror attacks in 2008.
Hotel Mumbai is SA director Anthony Maras’ debut feature, filmed partially at Adelaide Studios within the SA Film Corporation, as well as on location in India, in 2016.
The film is based on the real-life events that unfolded at the five-star Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in November 2008, when gunmen stormed the building in a string of attacks carried out across the city over three days, killing 164 people.
Filming started in 2016, with Adelaide Studios transformed to replicate the opulent interior of the luxurious palace hotel, where heroic staff made sacrifices to save their guests.
Anthony Maras, who is well-known for his 2011 short film The Palace, spent a year researching and interviewing survivors and co-wrote the film alongside John Collee. The film stars Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, Jason Isaacs, and Adelaide actor Tilda Cobham-Hervey and received a standing ovation at its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year before its Australian premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival.
Julie Ryan who heads Adelaide production company Cyan Films was one of six producers on Hotel Mumbai and says about 230 people were employed during filming and post production, with 66% of them from SA.
Although the Glenside film precinct is a world away from the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Julie says the set was adaptable in replicating the hotel’s interior.
“Given the Adelaide Studios were built in the late 1800s – and the Taj was early 1900s – it meant that some of the architecture could match and we could build the sets and utilise things like the window frames and high ceilings,” she says.
“The studios and tenants were extremely adaptable and helpful, particularly the tenants on the second floor who allowed us to film in their corridors outside their offices.
“There are moments in the film where you come out of a corridor in Adelaide and literally walk into a set in Mumbai – and that’s the genius of (production designer) Steven Jones-Evans.”
Completing post-production and assisting in the execution of the seamless transitions between interior scenes in Adelaide and exterior scenes in India, was local company KOJO.
KOJO’s post production and VFX team was engaged in post-supervision, picture and sound services and VFX on the film, taking on additional staff to work on the project.
Executive director of KOJO’s post production/visual effects department, Marty Pepper, was Hotel Mumbai’s VFX supervisor and DI colourist.
Marty, whose portfolio of work includes Storm Boy, I Am Mother, and soon-to-be-released Top End Wedding met director Anthony Maras back in 2005 when working on Wolf Creek.
He describes Hotel Mumbai as an “all-consuming project” after being involved from pre-production stages and travelling to India three times during filming.
“It was a very holistic thing, I feel as if I almost lived it (the film) for those years,” he says. “There is an incredible sense of respect in the film (for victims and survivors) and that was led by Anthony.”
KOJO worked on 750 shots in the film, with the company’s entire post-production and VFX team involved “in some shape or form”.
“When we shot at Adelaide Studios the art department was quite incredible in turning the space into a luxurious hotel, and we played a part in how that was all integrated into the scenes in India. Part of the VFX was making sure the light and colour transitioned seamlessly,” Marty says.
Hotel Mumbai is one of a string of films recently made in SA, a state which producer Julie Ryan and KOJO’s Marty Pepper both say punches above its weight in the film industry.
Julie notes the representation of SA films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, with four of the six Australian films screened at the event having a connection to SA – I Am Mother, Animals, The Nightingale and Top End Wedding.
“When you look at the recent Sundance Film Festival and add up how many of the Australian films had connections to SA it really does show that we are punching above our weight,” she adds.
Industry in focus: Creative Industries
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South Australia is home to a thriving ecosystem of creative businesses and specialists who are delivering world-class works VFX, TV and film production, app development and the VR space. Read more creative industries stories here.
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