By: Keyur Seta
Rating: * * * * ½
The biggest challenge while portraying a tragedy is to make it look as realistic as possible. And when the disaster is as magnanimous as the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, it becomes all the more testing, not just for the filmmaker but for everyone involved. The same challenge awaited director Ravi Kumar and his team for Bhopal: A Prayer For Rain, which is based on the said tragedy in 1984.
To say that they have overcome the challenge will be an understatement. What they have achieved is nothing short of a benchmark for realistic cinema because it just can’t get more realistic than this. But the reason why the film on the whole can be labeled as excellent is the fact that it scores high in every department.
The movie is English with partly Hindi. The story takes place in Bhopal in 1984. Dilip (Rajpal Yadav) is a rickshaw driver staying in a slum in the central area of the city with his wife (Tannishtha Chatterjee) and younger sister (Fagun Ivy Thakrar). His family struggles to live from hand-to-mouth from his earnings. Dilip gets a new lease of life when he lands a job at the newly-arrived Union Carbide’s pesticide plant.
Although Dilip is happy to have found a source of earning despite uneasy conditions, he is worried to know that the safety standards at the plant are being ignored. Soon, this leads to a fatal leakage of the poisonous Methyl Isocyanide that kills thousands in a single night making it the worst man-made industrial disaster ever. Even 30 years after the incident, thousands continue to suffer from its consequences.
The base of all great films is writing and that is exactly the case here with a watertight screenplay and real yet dramatic dialogues. To top it up, Kumar has handled the subject with utmost precision. The manner in which he has added realism to such utterly difficult scenes, especially the tragic ones, is to be seen to be believed. As stated earlier, it can’t get more realistic! To carry out such a task in just your second film is no mean achievement.
Naturally, this gives rise to a number of scenes that stay etched in your memory. From these, Dr Chandra (Manoj Joshi) trying to select one person from many whom he can administer an antidote deserves special mention.
Another reason why the film scores high marks is that it doesn’t get depressing despite it being based on one of the greatest tragedies ever. This indicates that its motto is not to bring back terrible memories but to highlight the importance of human safety over profits.
It is difficult to choose a negative point here. Probably the number of characters could have been reduced and the life of the people of Bhopal, especially the slums, could have been portrayed more. This could have been possible as the film’s length isn’t much.
Coming to the technicalities, the VFX team should be lauded as they had their task cut out. Cinematographers Charlie Wuppermann and Anil Chandel have succeeded in displaying their skills. The background score is apt for the proceedings. The fast-paced classical tunes used at the start help a lot in generating interest instantly.
The performances are a top-draw too! Rajpal Yadav gives his best performance till date as far as his serious roles are concerned. Veteran Martin Sheen is excellent as the CEO of Union Carbide. Kal Penn is brilliant too in the role of the cunning journalist. Mischa Barton plays the journalist from US with perfection.
Tannishtha Chatterjee once again proves she is one of the most talented actors in the country. In the role of the doctor, Manoj Joshi is flawless! Akhil Mishra and Joy Sengupta also deserve praise. Satish Kaushik creates an impact in a cameo while Fagun Ivy Thakrar too provides good support.
Overall: Bhopal: A Prayer For Rain is an excellent piece of realistic cinema that shouldn’t be missed. The film requires good word-of-mouth to succeed at the box office when it releases in India on December 5.
Director: Ravi Kumar
Producers: Sahara Movie Studios and Rising Star Entertainment
Writers: David Brooks and Ravi Kumar
Cast: Rajpal Yadav, Martin Sheen, Mischa Barton, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Manoj Joshi, Akhil Mishra, Fagun Ivy Thakrar
Music: Benjamin Wallfisch
Genre: Period Drama
Duration: 96 minutes
Release Date: December 5, 2014 (India)