By Somali K Chakrabarti
December 2nd, 1984, was one of the darkest nights in the history of Bhopal and that of India, when poisonous gas flare had leaked out of Union Carbide India Ltd’s (UCIL) pesticide plant, killing thousands of people over the next few days.
Thirty years on, a film ‘Bhopal: A Prayer For Rain’ rakes up the memories of the hapless night as it narrates the heart rendering story of Bhopal gas tragedy, one of the worst industrial disasters in India that occurred due to corporate negligence.
The movie released in the US on 7th Nov and is scheduled to release in India on 5th Dec, 2014. The film is directed by Ravi Kumar, who upon reading Sanjoy Hazarika’s book, ‘Bhopal: The Lessons of a tragedy’, was inspired to make a film on the subject for a younger audience who do not know about Carbide or Bhopal.
The story unfolds through the life of Dilip, a poor Rickshaw driver living in a slum in Bhopal, who struggles on a daily basis to support his wife Leela, his child and his sister. Dilip is elated when he lands himself a job in the UCIL’s pesticide plant – the job helps him to earn wages to feed his family and marry off his sister. The factory is a symbol of progress and prosperity for Dilip. Dilip, however, is not the least aware of the impending dangers on his life and on the lives of his folks.
Realistic characters and impressive star cast
The characters are etched out beautifully and the portrayal is as realistic as it can be. An impressive star cast does full justice to the characters.
The most remarkable depiction is that of Warren Anderson, enacted by Martin Sheen. Anderson, the experienced and successful Chairman of Union Carbide is not exactly shown as a dark devilish character. Looking every inch of a successful Chairman of a multinational company in the pursuit of growth, and with an eye on profit, Sheen speaks with a twinkle in his eye. Anderson motivates the workers to put up their best efforts, yet he turns a blind eye to the obvious dangers in the plant.
The soft side of Anderson’s character comes forth in a scene in which he talks to a little boy of an Indian worker who accidentally enters his room. On the other hand, deep shades of grey emerge as he deliberately chooses to underplay the extremely harmful effects of storing, in the midst of the shanty town, the toxic chemical Methyl Isocyanate (MIC), the leakage of which would later kill thousands of people living there, bring death and destruction, and subject generations to the ill effects of environmental disaster.
The CEO of the Indian subsidiary and the factory supervisor, work with the sole objective to please their American bosses. They are tough taskmasters for the workers, but repeatedly choose to ignore the safety concerns raised by a diligent safety officer.
Kal Penn, plays the sharp and slightly comical journalist Motwani, who senses danger lurking at the poorly run industrial plant situated right in the middle of town. Motwani’s character is inspired by a real life newspaper editor called Raj Kumar Keswani, who still lives and works in Bhopal. The poised Mischa Barton is cool as Eva Gascon, the feisty American journalist who reaches Bhopal to do a story on local fashions.
Rajpal Yadav is brilliant in the role of Dilip. He portrays with conviction, the helplessness and the ignorance of an unskilled worker who suddenly gets a chance to work in the chemical plant. Tannishta Chaterjee does a convincing role as Dilip’s wife Leela. Fagun Thakrar who plays the grey eyed widow of the worker who died in the plant, creates impact with her silent gaze.
The pace of the film is good to keep the audience engrossed throughout the movie. It has a nice background score. Some light moments in the film add savor to the story. People suffering from the burning sensation of the poisonous gas, the end-of-life moments with people running helter skelter and storming into the hospitals stir the audience to the core.
The film does not impose a moral judgment about the characters, but it leaves the audience to think what lead to the gross callousness that resulted in an environmental disaster and the loss of so many human lives.
It raises some deeper questions such as
- Should companies turn a blind eye to safety standards and social responsibility in pursuit of corporate growth?
- Should a MNC compromise on safety standards to minimize the cost of operations, particularly if the operations are in an emerging country.
- Should there be a disparity in compensation given to victims of a disaster caused due to corporate negligence of an MNC in a third world country?
- What is the accountability of MNCs, of regulatory authorities, of politicians in such events of man- made disasters.
- What should be done to avert such disaster in future?
Shot in Hyderabad, Bhopal, Mumbai and Los Angles, the film was completed on a tight budget of $6 million.
Overall, Bhopal: A Prayer For Rain is a brilliantly directed movie on corporate greed, environment disaster and the spicy mix of politics and multinational giant’s profit driven agenda.
A must watch for all who care.
Find out more on http://bhopalmovie.com/
PS. This post is an indiblogger initiative, for reviewing the movie after attending a special special screening, followed by a chat with the director and the cast.
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