Bhopal : A Prayer For Rain movie review
Star Cast: Rajpal Yadav, Martin Sheen, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Kal Penn, Mischa Barton, Manoj Joshi
Director : Ravi Kumar
There are natural disasters, like earthquakes and tsunamis, which no one can predict. And there are man-made disasters, which telegraph their arrival early on, and which are completely avoidable if someone has the gumption to take the right call.
The lethal methyl-isocyanate (MIC) gas that leaked from the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal on the night of December 2, 1984 was a tragedy that needn’t have happened: corporate greed, political collusion and all-round official cowardice and apathy have ensured that justice remains undone. Even today, 30 dispiriting years on.
Bhopal: A Prayer For Rain plays out like a much-delayed requiem for the thousands that were killed and maimed that night. The opening credits tell us that it is based on real events and “liberties” have been taken to create dramatic impact. This is evident through the film, and shows up in various characters and accents and sequences: honest newspaperman Kal Penn never feels like a local; a doe-eyed Bhopali beauty never looks like one.
Martin Sheen’s playing of Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson (who died recently) is a little tricky, but that’s down to the way the character has been written: the film makes him “just a Yank trying to make weed-killer” for poor Indian farmers, as well as the canny boss of one of the biggest global corporations who was aware of the hazards of his produce as well as the profits that accrue from it.
There are a few other superfluities, which include a pretty White female scribe. And I am waiting for the day someone casts Tannishtha Chatterjee in a part in which she doesn’t have to be dirt-poor, wearing a torn sari, and having to “eke” a living. She’s effective, though, as the wife of a poor rickshaw-puller (Rajpal Yadav, solid) who finds a job at the Carbide factory, even when he is not trained for it.
The film gathers force when it goes straight to the heart of the problem: the build-up to the terrible leak has urgency, even if it seems overtly dramatised, and the sense of growing dread feels real. What makes the film worth your time is the way it states, unequivocally, that the gas need not have leaked if Union Carbide and its employees and its votaries had come together to pull the plug in time.
That would have been humane. What happened is inhuman.
Two and a half stars ( 2.5)