Runtime: 1 hr 36 min
Director: Ravi Kumar
Cast: Rajpal Yadav, Martin Sheen, Kal Penn, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Joy Sengupta, Mischa Barton
Bhopal - A Prayer for Rain is emotionally overwhelming. It's one thing to read about the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and quite another to see the dramatized version of the catastrophe unfold in front of your eyes. The film is a poignant retelling of the events leading up to one of the world's worst industrial disasters, when over 40 tonnes of lethal methyl isocyanate (MIC) leaked from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, leaving more than 10, 000 dead and thousands maimed.
|A scene from the film|
Photo Credit: Bernard Coughlan/Film website
While the people who matter turn a blind eye to the danger that the Carbide plant poses, Motwani, a local journalist (played by Kal Penn) doggedly goes about his efforts at exposing the safety irregularities there. But given Motwani's penchant for 'tabloidesque' journalism, nobody pays any heed to his stories about the 'disaster-in-the-making' Carbide plant. So when the disaster eventually strikes one ill-fated night, it's too late for the neighbouring slum dwellers to attempt an escape. Thousands die writhing in pain, out on the streets and in the government hospital, while the doctors figure out the antidote for the poisonous gas. Those who survive are in for a fate worse than dying, for their lives are wrecked forever. Maimed by the deadly gas, they are left in the hands of a callous and corrupt government that goes all out to protect CEO Anderson, who on his part refuses to take accountability for the disaster.
The films ends with a montage of the dilapidated Union Carbide Plant in Bhopal, abandoned, but still a nightmare for those living around it. The end credits enlightens the audience about how 'Union Carbide has never apologised' and that it offered 'only $2,000' compensation per victim. Presented as a docu-drama, Bhopal - A Prayer for Rain is grim and hard hitting. Both Rajpal Yadav and Martin Sheen are remarkable in their respective roles as the country simpleton and the hard-nosed firang industrialist, and outshine the rest. The other actors too gel well with the film, but for Kal Penn, whose heavily accented Hindi makes him look the odd one out in the ensemble cast.
The film's worldwide release on 5th December marked the 30th anniversary of the tragedy. Unfortunately, 30 years on, the deaths from this man-made disaster still stand devalued. Bhopal continues to suffer from the after-effects of MIC poisoning, and the families of the victims still await justice and compensation. Apathy remains the only constant in their lives - from then to now.