True Review - Bhopal: A Prayer for Rainby Niharika Puri December 6 2014, 3:21 pm Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins, 19 secs
Critics Rating: 3 Stars*
Cast: Martin Sheen, Mischa Barton, Kal Penn, Rajpal Yadav, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Fagun Thakrar.
Direction: Ravi Kumar
Produced: Ravi Kumar
Written: Ravi Kumar, David Brooks.
Genre: Disaster film.
Duration: 96 Mins
It is only apt that Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain releases 30 years after the Union Carbide industrial disaster that claimed the lives of thousands and continues to affect those living within its vicinity. The groundwater is still contaminated, the activism persistent and the judicial action pitiably inadequate. Any statistics pertaining to the ruin are found a finger’s click away on the internet. It is from this drudgery that director Ravi Kumar steers away, presenting a dramatised version of the proceedings instead.
The film follows the parallel tracks of rickshaw driver Dilip (Rajpal Yadav) whose financial constraints compel him to join the Union Carbide as an employee, journalist Motwani (Kal Penn, with a jarring, fake Indian accent) who is convinced the pesticide-manufacturing MNC is up to no good and the rotating cast of multi-racial characters at the plant, who walk the thin line between safety precautions and political manoeuvring to stay in business.
Martin Sheen and Mischa Barton feature fleetingly in the scheme of things, though their presence would have worked better if extended or justified with greater character development. Sheen is Warren Anderson, CEO of the corporation, played with sympathetic charm. However, much like the late executive himself, the actor is missing from the aftermath of the catastrophe. Except for a reaction scene, there is no sequence declaring him a fugitive from justice or mentioning an arrest warrant issued in his name.
Mischa Barton coasts in and out as Eva Gascon, student journalist for Paris Match. Despite an interesting encounter with Anderson, where they debate over ethics and safety precautions, she disappears from the storyline much before calamity strikes. Characters like the plant overseer Choudhury (Vineet Kumar), safety supervisor Roy (Joy Sengupta) and Dr. Chandra (Manoj Joshi) are saddled with one-dimensional writing.
The film is not a corporate thriller or a factual account of what happens. Its attempt is only to give a worm’s eye view of the horrors. The shuffling mass of the desperate and the ailing make for an apocalyptic visual, but the director does not expand on the consequences, whether legal, political, physical or emotional. The conspiracy of silence is not elaborated upon either.
Despite its shortcomings, Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain makes for an effective reminder of the lives lost and the devastating impact still trailing in its wake. It is brutal, poignant and paints a tragic picture of the after-effects which could have been avoided if someone had paid heed to the warning signs. Watch because it is relevant even today, after three decades of inaction and endless studies being conducted at the site.