Film on Bhopal gas tragedy aims to help audiences ‘learn from history’

  • Anirudh Bhattacharyya, Hindustan Times, Toronto
  • Updated: Nov 02, 2014 07:46 IST

While his death removes all possibility of the former CEO of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) being extradited to India, Warren Anderson will make his presence felt in the country this December, though in a cinematic avatar.

The role of one of India’s most wanted men will be played by Hollywood star Martin Sheen in the movie, ‘Bhopal – A Prayer for Rain’, which will be released in India two days after the 30th anniversary of the tragedy. The film will have its exclusive theatrical debut at the Village East Cinema in New York City on November 7, before expanding into other North American cities.

The filmmakers had looked for a major name from Hollywood to essay the character of the UCC CEO so as to raise the profile of the project. According to a release, Sheen, who is also an environmental activist, was “intrigued”.

“I knew about it when it happened,” he said. “It was horrifying. We couldn’t believe the extent of the death and destruction. A friend of mine presented me the script and said, ‘Is there any possibility…?’ and I said ‘Absolutely.’”

Also starring in the film are Indian-American actor and former White House aide Kal Penn and actress Mischa Barton, along with Tannishtha Chatterjee and Rajpal Yadav.

If follows the story of a rickshaw puller who works at the Carbide plant; a tabloid journalist who believes the stench emitted by the factory poses a threat to the city, and an American journalist who confronts Anderson.

The genesis of the project lies in its writer-director Ravi Kumar reading Sanjoy Hazarika’s book, ‘Bhopal — Lessons Of A Gas Tragedy’, in 2005.

In the film’s production notes, the director noted, “The reason for making this film is not to play the blame game, but learn from history so another tragedy can be avoided. Although many excellent documentaries have been made on the subject, there has been not been a major fiction film produced for world audience. We wanted to make an international feature film... for the world audience who do not know about the tragedy.”

The filmmakers pointed out that while it was fiction, it was also based on hard facts that were “all historically correct and in the public domain.” About half the scenes were filmed in Hyderabad, with some shot on location in Bhopal, while filming also took place in Mumbai and Los Angeles. KANO, NIGERIA: Boko Haram has claimed that the 219 schoolgirls it kidnapped more than six months ago have converted to Islam and been “married off ”, shocking their families and confirming their suspicions about a supposed ceasefire and deal for their release.

The Islamist group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, made the claim in a new video on Friday in which he also denied government assertions of an agreement to end hostilities and peace talks.

The mention of the girls, who were abducted from the remote northeastern town of Chibok on April 14, is the first by Shekau since May 5, when about 100 of the teenagers were shown on camera.

Then, the girls were seen wearing the hijab and reciting verses from the Koran. The militant leader said then that not all had converted.

But he indicated that all of those held had now become Muslims and married, chiming with testimony from former hostages who say forced marriage and conversion is commonplace in Boko Haram camps.

“Don’t you know the over 200 Chibok schoolgirls have converted to Islam? They have now memorised two chapters of the Koran,” he said.

In the latest message, he said while laughing: “We have married them off. They are in their marital homes.”

Nigeria’s government said on October 17 that they had reached a deal to end five years of deadly violence in the country’s far northeast, as well as agreement to release the Chibok girls. But violence has continued unabated.

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