SPECIAL REPORT: 30 years of Bhopal tragedy


Bhopal-carbideAt least 3,000 people were killed on the night of Dec 2-3, 1984, after poisonous gas leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal. The incident has inspired quite a few filmmakers and as the disaster is marching towards its 30th anniversary, we list the movies made on one of the world’s worst industrial disasters on the big screen: “Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain”: Directed by Ravi Kumar, the film will release in India Dec 5. It had released Nov 7 in one theatre in New York and the film was sold out on the opening night. It also opened in Los Angles Nov 14 plus additional US cities throughout the month. Hollywood star Martin Sheen, Mischa Barton, Indian American actor Kal Penn and Bollywood actors Raajpal Yadav and Tannishtha Chatterjee feature in the film, which focusses on the events leading up to the industrial disaster as it intersects with the life of rickshaw puller Dilip (played by Raajpal), who gets a job at the Union Carbide plant.

“Bhopal Express”: The 1999 film directed by Mahesh Mathai, is a powerful drama about a newlywed couple whose lives are changed during the lethal gas tragedy in Bhopal. The movie has an impressive line of actors like Kay Kay Menon, Naseeruddin Shah, Nethra Raghuraman and Zeenat Aman.

“One Night in Bhopal”: Far from fiction, the film tells the story of the tragedy through the eyes of those who experienced it. The 2004 BBC documentary shows the sequence of events that led to the disaster and horror and terror in the early hours of Dec 3, 1984.

“Bhopali”: If the filmmakers took inspiration from the events leading to the tragedy, there were those who focussed on the lives of victims too. Van Maximilian Carlson is one such director who, through his documentary “Bhopali”, presented the story of the survivors of the industrial disaster. It shows their suffering and their fight for justice against Union Carbide, the American corporation responsible for the catastrophe. The 2011 film is a modern portrait of shattered lives in the community surrounding the abandoned Union Carbide factory.

“Sambhavna”: Four years back, Joseph Malone had made a documentary about the disaster that still haunts many even today. It also shows Dow Chemical’s responsibilities to the people of Bhopal. It also focussed on the Sambhavna Clinic, which provides free healthcare to victims of the incident and to those who were affected by water contamination, caused by the fact that the site of the disaster has still not been cleaned up.

“The Yes Men Fix The World”: The political documentary was co-directed, co-written and co-produced by Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno. The duo even starred in the 2009 film, dedicated to the ongoing struggle of the people of Bhopal. Also co-directed by Kurt Engfehr, critics described it as “outrageously entertaining”, “almost too good to be a film” and “comedic vigilante justice”.