Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ash to star in Bhopal fillum?

I just came across a Times of India headline that asks "Can you gas the truth?" How did I come across it? Well, I have a Google news search set to pick up any articles containing the keywords "Bhopal" and "gas" because I'm currently researching for a book I'm working on the history of activism that followed the 1984 gas leak at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal.

Whereas many readers were probably more interested in the article for what it might say about what Aishwarya Rai is doing on her honeymoon, I was attracted by the fact that a feature-length film will be made about the struggles individuals who survived the tragic disaster in 1984 have had to go through in the intervening years.

Apparently, according to IMDB, the film has been in the works since December 2004. I've never seen any of Ash's films, so now I am torn as to whether I should try to start watching them so I am caught up when the Bhopal film comes out, or wait and have my first exposure to her in a film about such a serious matter.

I'm genuinely hoping that Ash, as executive producer, and producer/director Zachary Coffin, will spend an extended amount of time with survivors in Bhopal. Though the story of the film will be based on a fictional character, it is important that they capture the depth of the struggle survivors have faced. There are many unique aspects to the disaster and the way it has impacted people in Bhopal. I don't imagine these would be easy to capture on film, especially if the filmmakers have not done their homework.

I'm also hoping that the film is done in a way that reflects the reality of the situation in Bhopal. There is a strong movement that is constantly innovating new tactics on the international scene. But it is a movement that is underwritten by the many Bhopalis who have struggled for nearly 23 years to get adequate compensation and force the government to disburse their claims and clean up the contamination left behind by Union Carbide.

There is still much suffering in Bhopal. The film should not shy away from depicting this. But it should also demonstrate the one shining success that has grown out of the disaster: the Sambhavna Trust Clinic. Where suffering has been alleviated in Bhopal, it is largely due to the community-based health care model employed by Sambhavna. But in conveying the success of Sambhavna, the film should not go down the "City of Joy" route in which viewers are ultimately left unmotivated to take personal responsibility to act because of the belief that those who are suffering are being taken care of by people like the the Stephen Kovalski character (or, in the case of Bhopal, Sambhavna).

Done well, the film could remind viewers around the world of the dark side of globalization and the failure of our legal systems and governments to deal with the inevitable harm done to people by faceless corporations. But it must do so in a way that respects the people of Bhopal, especially those from the bastis adjacent to the former Union Carbide plant. They are the ones, after all, whose voices must be heard.

So time will tell whether Ash can capture the strength and dignity of women like Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla. For the sake of Bhopal survivors and potential future victims of disasters caused by multinational corporation, I hope she does.

In the meantime, let's hope that the news media can refrain from the type of awful play on words ("Can you Gas the Truth?") that editors at the Times of India must have thought would be funny.


Mannu said...

nothing new coming up prof steve!!?

mikey said...

Dear Prof Zavestoski,

My name is Mike and I happened to stumble upon ur blog as I was searching for information concerning India and Consumerism. I'm a student and I'm writing a research paper about India emerging middle-class and consumerism.

The idea for this sparked when the new Tata nano car was publicly announced. Much potential in such a product will be able to grab hold of the huge emerging market of consumers.

I wanted to follow the concept of the book entitled "Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid" by CK Prahalad, but through the lens of the emerging middle-class.

Having said, I was wondering if you could recommend any particular resources that may help me in this pursuit. I know that is kind of vague, but I would be interested in writing more if you desired.

I look forward to discovering ur blog.