Probably I was expecting much hard hitting and revealing stuff from BHOPAL A PRAYER FOR RAIN, a film made on one of the most tragic industrial accidents of the world ruining thousands of life in the year 1984. Nevertheless, the appreciable attempt can still be rated as a simple yet mature take on the shocking event of the last century with some fine performances, excellent cinematography and an apt soundtrack/background score enhancing the overall impact of the movie towards the end.
Beginning calmly taking the viewer into the personal lives of few individuals and their poor families, BHOPAL is short in duration mainly due to the crisp editing and has a docu-drama feel in its narration that turns it into a more realistic and closer to life film right from the initial moments. However may be due to the shorter length and not so powerful writing depicting the harsh truth, the film lacks that emotional connect and the much needed depth in its characterizations on the screen, putting it honestly. As a result it has less intensity than expected, many quick half baked story progressions and not as engaging description as found in the hugely famous book on the tragedy by Dominique Lapierre and Javier Moro titled Five Past Midnight in Bhopal.
Majorly saved by its remarkable performances, BHOPAL has Rajpal Yadav playing the innocent ‘riksha puller’ brilliantly, Martin Sheen as Warren Anderson, Chief of the company Union Carbide presented in a highly believable manner and Kal Penn as the newspaper editor with a fine pinch of humour investigating the seriously dangerous matter, running his own newspaper. Tannishtha Chatterjee doesn't get much to do in her few scenes enacted well, Mischa Barton is just fine in her cameo of a foreign journalist and Joy Sengupta is good in his small role of an engineer. But what really stays in your mind even after the film gets over are the ‘silently killing expressive’ eyes of Fagun Thakrar playing the victim widow. Her eyes really convey the seriousness of the issue much better and the girl could have been used in a different way in order to add more power into the narration as I strongly felt.
In all, BHOPAL isn’t an exceptionally great film made on one of the most controversial and disastrous incidents of our Indian history (rather world history). Yet it no doubt remains an important worth watching film for its thought provoking subject, particularly for the younger generation born after the mid 80s, who might not have a clear idea of what really happened and how serious it was in those unfortunate times.
The film also makes you think about the mysterious conclusions presented by various schools of thoughts about the event’s basic cause in the later years. And further surprises you as hell that despite all prior information of the dangers and known serious impact of the chemical on human life, it was still allowed to be stored in such a huge quantity by both the authorities and the political parties together, simply interested in their own personal benefits ignoring the society as a whole as always.
Moving ahead on an introspective note, as I feel the BHOPAL Gas Tragedy is actually one of those prominent scary incidents of the last century that is more about GREED than Human NEGLIGENCE or IGNORANCE. In fact a ‘Collective Greed’ with contributions coming in from everyone involved, ranging from the owners, politicians and journalists to the workers employed in the factory too, witnessing the poisonous chemical stored in an alarming quantity right in front of their eyes, waiting to explode/leak any moment causing a major disaster.
In other words, it was not a sudden and unexpected event at all. Many around the venue, including the journalists and the working engineers apart from the owners very well knew about the probable serious consequences of the lethal storage and yet decided to let it continue for their own personal reasons evidently. In specific terms, where the owners/politicians had the money and power as their greed, the investigative journalists had the shocking front page stories in their thinking minds and the poor employees had their secured job and incoming monthly pay essentially required to run their families becoming their unavoidable greed, forcing them to ignore everything else around, even at the stake of their own lives.
Therefore it was this various forms of GREED playing as the main culprit behind the avoidable failure and the fact rightly proves the reason why GREED finds its 3rd important place in the list of five basic evils found in our human psyche namely Kaam (Sex), Krodh (Anger), Lobh (Greed), Moh (Love/Affection) and Ahankaar (Ego) as stated in our ancient scriptures.
Coming back to the language of cinema, there was another film made on the subject back in 1999 titled BHOPAL EXPRESS featuring Kay Kay Menon, Naseeruddin Shah, Zeenat Aman, Vijay Raaz, Nethra Raghuraman and more. Sadly the film is not known to many and was also a more melodramatic take on the issue with an interesting soundtrack including the names of Jagjit Singh, Lucky Ali, Ila Arun and even Amitabh Bachchan giving his powerful voice over. Arguably it was not a great interpretation on the screen but was certainly a well intentioned attempt from the makers ignoring any commercial aspects of film-making looking for some quick returns.
Now comparatively BHOPAL A PRAYER FOR RAIN is surely many steps ahead than the 1999 film to be precise. But if you are really interested in knowing and experiencing more about this sad, unfortunate catastrophe, the city of Bhopal had to face in that ugly night of December 1984, then do watch both these movies and then essentially read Five Past Midnight in Bhopal by Dominique Lapierre and Javier Moro too as a must, in order to get a more realistic and hard hitting, larger picture of this unforgettable tragedy, still affecting life forms in that particular region, even after three long decades of painful sufferings.
Rating : 3 / 5