They say all you get from love is a love song. Disasters, man-made or otherwise, too can face a similar destiny. All we really get from disasters are disaster movies. Some that shake and stir. Others that move and change lives.
Ravi Kumar's melodramatic recreation of the Bhopal gas tragedy,
said to be the worst industrial disaster in the history of
civilization, has an instant and lasting chemical reaction.
While familiarising new generations with the enormity of the
calamity which claimed and maimed thousands of lives during one
December night in 1984, the short and slick film also puts forward
the theory of arrogant hegemony practised by US on poor
There are portions of the narrative where we watch the
proceedings with a feeling of dread and stupefying horror. The
ironical logistics of making a quaint Indian city a dumping ground
for the American Dream, is not lost on us. The narrative never
slackens. Its vice-like grip on the moral dilemma of a town
stricken by a desperate economic recession.
The director laces the dialogues between Union Carbide personnel
(white and brown skinned) and the unsuspecting naive workers, with
dollops barbed cynicism. The dialogues are strongly redolent of the
stench that imperialistic forces spread in the Third World.
Yet ironically, this film depicts the small-city India that the
Westerners who adored Slumdog Millionaire
love to gaze at: a kindly Chaplinesque rickshaw-wallah (Rajpal
Yadav) and his doting wife (Tannishtha Chatterjee),a wedding in
their family juxtaposed with the disaster striking the town ....a
slimy journalist (Kal Penn, in excellent form) who discovers
unplumbed depths of integrity during the crisis, a pretty foreigner
journalist (Mischa Barton, role unfinished), adorable little
peasants running around doing errands for the privileged
classes....It's all there, packaged in a glorious display of wealth
stealth and exploitation.
While the performances are uniformly convincing, with true
actors like Rajpal, Tannishtha, Kal Penn, Fagun Thakrer, Joy
Sengupta and Vinit Kumar blending fluently into the bleeding
fabric, it's Martin Sheen who towers above the entire cast. He
brings to his role of the Carbide killer elements of motivational
integrity that make the monster humane yet unpardonable.
The film is at times deeply engaging in its exposition on nature
and human avarice. The characters form an integral part of the
narrative. If anything, you wish they would get more space to grow
in the plot. Director Ravi Kumar hurls forward in the quest of a
closure to a story that defies all culmination.
Bhopal: A Prayer For Rain leaves us with feeling of a
deep longing for the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, and for the
victims of imperialism anywhere at any time.
Come to think of it, while the victims of the tragedy in Bhopal await justice, the only good thing to come out of the tragedy is this haunting dramatic film. Not to be missed.