Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain
Film Review by Kam Williams
Historical Drama Revisits Industrial Disaster That Devastated Indian City
On the night of December 2, 1984, a pesticide plant located in Bhopal, India spewed tons of toxic gas into the air as the result of a reaction of water with a chemical called Methyl Isocyanate (MIC). By morning, over 10,000 dead bodies lay in the streets of the city, while the manufacturer company responsible for the disaster, Union Carbide (subsequently acquired by Dow Chemical), proceeded to lawyer up.
In the end, the corporation settled the mammoth wrongful death lawsuit for just $300 per corpse without taking responsibility or publicly apologizing for the industrial accident. Instead, the firm claimed it was a victim of sabotage on the part of a disgruntled employee, an allegation which was ultimately never substantiated. Yet, despite the existence of evidence that Union Carbide had ignored warning signs of an impending calamity, the Indian government let it off with out any criminal consequences.
Directed by Ravi Kumar, Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain is a historical drama ostensibly inspired by the book “Bhopal: Lessons of a Gas tragedy” by the New York Times reporter Sanjoy Hazarika. The picture stars Martin Sheen as Warren Anderson, the sloganeering CEO in denial fond of spouting company lines like “We set the highest safety standards in the industry” and “We are Union Carbide, united in our efforts to build a better future for everyone.”
This fictionalized account, which revisits the events leading up to the catastrophe, revolves mostly around the efforts of a couple of investigative journalists questioning Carbide’s commitment to safety, given the rumors swirling that the plant was leaking a very dangerous chemical. Both Motwani (Kal Penn), a local, and Eva Gascon (Mischa Barton), a writer for Paris Match, were stonewalled at every turn whenever they confronted executives and managers about whether an exposure to just one drop of MIC was lethal.
The picture inexorably leads to the unfortunate meltdown which scarred an entire country while the conniving culprits escaped unscathed. A sobering lesson about controlling the corporate message in this age of double speak where symbolic gestures have replaced sincerity, substance and any concern about viable solutions.
Excellent (3.5 stars)
In English and Hindi with subtitles
Running time: 96 minutes
Distributor: Revolver Entertainment
To see a trailer for Bhopal, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nw7dZiYzKBY