Anushka Mehrotra ’16 contributes her skills and cultural experience to award-winning dramatic series
by Katie Williard
DESCRIBED BY CRITICS as “gripping,” “poignant” and “sensitive,” Amazon Prime’s Mumbai Diaries 26/11 depicts the Nov. 26, 2008, terrorist attack on India’s largest city in which nearly 200 people were killed. The show dramatizes the event and its aftermath in a hospital, with a script — co-written by Anushka Mehrotra ’16 — that propels the award-winning performance.
Anushka Mehrotra with skyline behind her
Photo: Seema Mehrotra
Anushka Mehrotra ’16 led the writing team that delivered a moving series depicting a Mumbai terror attack.
Nominated for numerous accolades, the series has secured the titles of Best Series at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2022 and Best Original Programme By A Streamer/OTT. Mehrota and two co-writers earned the 2022 Screenwriters Association of India’s Web Original-Best Screenplay Award for Best Original Screenplay and the coveted Filmfare OTT Award 2022 for Best Adapted Screenplay, Series. These honors are major accomplishments for a writer under 30.

As a child growing up in Mumbai, Mehrotra filled notebooks with stories. “I grew up with a lot of Western influences — reading Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl, watching Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. And I have always loved to write,” she says. “But most colleges here don’t offer creative writing as an option. The more general English major is better suited for those hoping to become teachers.” But Mehrotra didn’t want to become a teacher — she wanted to study writing. So when it came time for college, she intentionally chose to pursue her schooling in the States.

“In the creative writing program at the first college I attended, I felt I was just expected to stand out from my peers,” she says. “But I hadn’t been taught the rules yet. Bucknell helped me learn the mechanics of writing and how to bring ideas to life.” Under the guidance of Professor Robert Rosenberg, English, Mehrotra began uncovering a new side of her voice. “I realized I had been giving my characters Western names and writing about snowy days, which I had never experienced. I wasn’t writing about my culture, and I only realized it when I got to America.”

Her awareness of the ways she can ground her writing in her culture led her, ultimately, to the Mumbai Diaries 26/11 writing room. During the four-year journey to create the show, Mehrotra, along with well-known directors Nikkhil Advani and Nikhil Gonsalves, spent months conducting interviews and research so the writing could be as authentic as possible. The writing team has been lauded for its ability to navigate the details of the events and present a nuanced, unbiased perspective. “It was such a difficult time for so many people,” Mehrotra says. “We worked hard to ensure that it came across sensitively and didn’t villainize any religion.”

With the success of the awards season run, Mehrotra is moving forward with new projects while maintaining her focus on creating honest work that conveys the real-life experience of her culture.