By Simone Weichselbaum, NY Daily News
The carnage of the Mumbai terror attacks was still fresh as film director Dan Reed scoured India’s largest city looking for clues.
Reed was bent on finding out how 10 gunmen managed to pull off one of the worst urban assaults of the 21st century – carried live on TV around the globe.
The Nov. 26, 2008, attack left 173 dead, including Brooklyn Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, killed inside the Jewish center where they lived, along with four others.
“There could be no worse nightmare than someone breaking into your home and killing you,” Reed said.
The Holtzbergs’ deaths prompted Reed to make the film “Terror in Mumbai,” airing Thursday on HBO at 8 p.m.
It is his second major project for the network. In 2003, Reed directed “Terror in Moscow,” about Chechen terrorists who the previous year seized a Moscow theater packed with more than 700 people.
Reed’s latest documentary centers around cell-phone conversations between the Mumbai terrorists and their leader, “Brother Wasi,” all intercepted by the Indian government.
Reed said he tracked down tapes of the calls while in Mumbai and used a London forensic firm to prove their authenticity.
He pieced together the hour-long real-life horror movie using the terrorists’ words, surveillance videos of their raids and interviews with people who survived the chaos.
Viewers can listen to Brother Wasi order gunman Babar Imran, holed up in the Holtzbergs’ home, on how to treat the hostages.
“Sit them up and shoot them in the back of the head,” Wasi barks at the end of film.
The tapes also reveal the efforts by an unsung local hero to save the hostages.
Pace University Prof. P.V. Viswanath spent 17 hours glued to a phone in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, translating Imran’s demands to Rabbi Levi Shemtov in Washington, D.C.
Viswanath, 55, is an Orthodox Jew from Mumbai.
His five conference calls with Imram and Shemtov ended up on the tapes Reed found.
While only a few seconds of the daunting exchanges made it into the film, Viswanath said he is spooked.
“I thought I was having a private conversation,” said Viswanath. “It was eerie.”
Imram stopped taking Viswanath’s calls, and the Holtzbergs were later found slaughtered. News networks pored over the events for weeks after the attacks.
“Terror in Mumbai” – the movie – is a different kind of frightening. “Journalists who cover it on the spot, there is only as much as they can see,” Reed said.
The film is “amazing stuff,” he added. “You are right inside.”