Reviews

Bhopal - A Prayer For Rain: Breathing through the gas

A scene from the movie   | Photo Credit: 06dmcBhopal

A cautionary tale on the events that led up to one of the worst industrial disasters in human history when 2259 people were maimed in one night and thousands ever since by 42 tonnes of methyl isocyanate that leaked from Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, the much awaited film stands out for its candid approach in dealing with the poignant subject.

Director Ravi Kumar recreates the criminal silence before everybody went hoarse. If it brands Warren Anderson (played by Martin Sheen) as the man driven by greed and puts the US in the dock for having different safety standards for its own people and people in developing countries, it also turns the focus on the corrupt practices prevalent in the Indian bureaucracy where rules could be flouted if you ‘buy’ the political masters. A pesticide plant can be allowed to run from the middle of the city. It can be allowed to make structural changes that compromise the safety but augment the production. But the region is facing drought and farmers don’t need pesticides. It makes the bosses desperate and the local heads impervious to safety standards.

Kumar follows a docu-drama kind of format to reconstruct the social milieu. The desperation to get two square meals sometimes makes the individuals overlook their personal safety. When there is no equation between population growth and resources, the slums come crawling to the pesticide factory and nobody really minds it. Except for a tabloid journalist, Motwani (Kal Penn), who tries to inform the people about the chances of an impending disaster, but his reputation of sighting unidentified flying objects ensure that many don’t listen to him and some choose to ignore. One of them is Dilip (Raajpal Yadav), a sweeper, who finds a job in Union Carbide when his friend dies under mysterious circumstances in the factory. Poverty and an unmarried sister don’t allow him to read the writing on the wall and like many others becomes the sitting duck.

Kumar gives Warren Anderson a chance to present his view by planting an American journalist (Mischa Barton) into the story. And like many Americans he comes across as a corporate honcho adept at doublespeak, somebody who feels he is doing the people of a Third World country some favour. Sheen brings out the conniving and charming aspect of Anderson personality quite well. Penn looks out of place in the mofussil surroundings but Yadav excels as the face of the tragedy.

There is an attempt to whip up melodrama by intercutting the gas leak with a wedding and there could have been many other angles to the story but the camera doesn’t linger on the desperation to cash the poignancy. Kumar’s approach is neutral as he recreates the sensory experience of that ill-fated night. Unlike Carbide he doesn’t devalue death.

Genre: Drama

Director: Ravi Kumar

Cast: Martin Sheen, Raajpal Yadav, Kal Penn, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Mischa Barton

Bottomline:: A fair and focused portrayal of forms human greed and desperation can take

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 11:27:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-reviews/bhopal-a-prayer-for-rain-breathing-through-the-gas/article6665071.ece

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