Pradeep Indulkar talks about “High Power”, which won a Yellow Oscar at the Uranium Film Festival recently

Having worked for 12 years with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Pradeep Indulkar is an unlikely candidate for directing a film opposed to nuclear power. His High Power, a 27-minute documentary about the health issues faced by residents of Tarapur, a town in Maharashtra, and home to the Tarapur Atomic Power Station, recently won the Yellow Oscar in the short film category in the Rio de Janeiro leg of the Uranium Film Festival. Films from all over the world which shed light on the problems associated with nuclear energy are screened and discussed here.

Having quit BARC in 1994 owing to health problems, Indulkar, a mechanical engineer, worked in the field of environment education, which would have doubtless served him well during the making of this film. In 2009, he came across the struggle against the Jaitapur nuclear plant, and joined it. This steered him towards Tarapur, the oldest nuclear power plant and the closest to Mumbai.

“The govt. was showing a very rosy picture of Tarapur on TV, so a few of us thought of going there and interviewing the people...That material was very strong, people were talking from their heart, and instead of showing it on a news channel, I thought it could be made into a documentary,” Indulkar informs. Combining his passion for storytelling from his college days with a new found interest in the documentary format, Indulkar set sail.

After a few more interviews, a narrative emerged, which sees the goings-on at Tarapur through the eyes of a city dweller who returns to his native village. The documentary focuses on the acute situation there, and the everyday nature of morbidity. “Rate of death due to cancer is increasing; the other major problems are loss of fertility, stillbirths and deformed babies. Paralysis and heart attacks caused by high blood pressure are also on the rise,” the director informs. With these, the documentary also examines issues of rehabilitation and loss of livelihood.

Like most documentary filmmakers, Indulkar faced a shortage of funds while making the film. “In the making of a documentary on some critical issues the main problem a documentary maker faces is the funding. Though we have a few funding agencies they mainly give funds to informative and educational films. But documentary is the genre of film which brings out the truth and most of the times the truth is a bit bitter, which some agencies do not wish to support,” he says.

He was helped out by a number of people who agreed to be a part of the film on an honorary basis. While Tom Alter and Vikram Gokhale did the voiceovers in English and Hindi respectively, a Marathi film producer funded the editing of the film.

The film is yet to obtain a clearance from the Censor Board of Film Certification in India, which means it cannot be shown publicly in India yet. Meanwhile, Indulkar is working on finishing the film he had started a few years ago, about the heritage structures of Mumbai.