April 23 2015
Powerful film continues to win respect and admiration as makers seek UK release…
By Tasha Mathur
MANY young people, both in India and abroad, wouldn’t know what happened in Bhopal in India on December 2nd 1984, yet it is still considered the world’s worst industrial disaster to date. And with the after effects still being seen in today’s generation, it’s an issue that is far from over.
The industrial disaster consisted of a gas leak incident that occurred at the American Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, which emitted deadly chemicals across the village and silently killed approximately 10,000 unsuspecting local people.
With last year being the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, it seemed fitting for the 17th London Asian Film Festival to close the gala Director Ravi Kumar’s “Bhopal: A Prayer For Rain” as part of their Closing Night Gala on Saturday 28th March.
Held at the Mayfair Hotel in Green Park, the film was introduced by Dr. Pushpinder Chaudhary, the woman behind the entire festival, who began with thanking the audience for supporting independent cinema. And while it wasn’t quite a full house, it was promising to see a wide range of people in the auditorium, from different backgrounds as well as ages.
Ravi Kumar’s film is a re-telling of the Bhopal disaster up to that fateful night through the eyes of Dilip, a rickshaw driver who is pressured to find a job at Union Carbide in order to support his family. With highly acclaimed actors such as Hollywood’s Martin Sheen and Mischa Barton, the importance of the story is something that has travelled worldwide.
Whilst it made for extremely uncomfortable viewing to watch villagers covered in bloody blisters and struggling to breathe as the poisonous gas spread, what was more uncomfortable was the build up to that night. Kumar successfully plays on the audience’s knowledge of what is to come through focusing on scenes that subtly reveal the things that could have possibly been done to avoid the disaster. The building tension as audiences waited with bated breath for what was to come highlighted that their many factors at fault.
However, Kumar makes it clear that the intention of the film ” wasn’t to blame anyone. In the Q&A that followed the screening (hosted by editor of the UKAsian wesbite, Viji Alles) , Kumar explained that the film was simply to “make young people aware of what happened and to prevent this in the future. It’s too late to blame Union Carbide.”
And in fact, it is evident that Kumar isn’t putting the blame on any one person. The film portrays the tragedy as a combination of wrong decisions by those is power, mistakes made by workers who didn’t have the specialist skills for the job, budget cuts and other factors. Co-writer David Brooks (who also starred in the film) added: “We needed a balanced portrayal for discussion.” This discussion was clearly evident through the barrage of questions from the audience after the film screening.
Films that are based on true stories always have the danger of being criticised for being too unrealistic, but Kumar insists on honesty being the most important factor in making the story authentic saying: “I re-created a fake reality but tried to tell the truth.”
Both Kumar and Brooks were also joined by Colin Toogood from the Bhopal Medical Appeal, a charity that aims to help those who are still suffering from the physical effects of the disaster. Toogood gave the staggering figure of 25,000 people who have died from the disaster to date, highlighting that this is still a valid issue today.
With Kumar and Brooks still working for a UK release (it has been screened in India and the US already) in the near future, there is hope in raising greater awareness of the incident in order to prevent it happening again and hopefully to convince more people to assist Bhopal Medical Appeal wherever they can.