Recollections of Bhopal Gas Tragedy on the silver screen

Horrors & aftermath of world’s worst industrial accident


December 2, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

Recollections of Bhopal Gas Tragedy on the silver screen

Thirty-six years later, Bhopal Gas Tragedy still remains the most deadly industrial accidents in the world

Bhopal Gas Tragedy has been portrayed on the silver screen a number of times which has not only depicted the horrors and aftermath of the unfortunate night and following days, but also worked as an archive of the disaster.

Wednesday, December 2 marks the 36th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy. While 2,259 people were reported dead immediately, on the night of Dec 2-3, 1984, after poisonous gas leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, the toxic gas affected over a million people.

Thirty-six years later, Bhopal Gas Tragedy still remains the most deadly industrial accidents in the world and thousands in Bhopal are still reeling from the devastation caused. From widows of the causalities who are still demanding pensions to children born with disabilities; thousands still await justice.

The archives, mostly documentaries, produced by film personalities from India as well as different parts of the world have stayed a reminder of inhuman treatment of victims by big business and kept alive the accounts of those who were eyewitnesses. Here are few documentaries as well as fiction films that have been credited with documenting and spreading the account of the tragedy even after so many years.

Bhopal Express, 1999

Bhopal Express was released on the occasion of Bhopal Gas Tragedy’s 16th anniversary

Directed by Mahesh Mathai, Bhopal Express is a powerful drama about a newlywed couple whose lives are turned upside-down during the lethal gas tragedy in Bhopal. The movie has an impressive line of actors including Kay Kay Menon, Naseeruddin Shah, Nethra Raghuraman, Vijay Raaz and Zeenat Aman.

Released on the occasion of Bhopal Gas Tragedy’s 16th anniversary, the film focuses on the irresponsible methods of large corporations and the effects of their actions on common people, through the perspective of the couple and their friends as they try to pick up the pieces of their ruined homes in the aftermath of the catastrophe.

The lead actress, Nethra Raghuraman, won the Star Screen Award for Most Promising Newcomer for her role.

Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain, 2014

Directed by Ravi Kumar, the film released in December 2014 in Indian theatres. It had already won appreciation in the theatres of New York and several other cities of the United States a month earlier. It also became the biggest crowd-puller among Indian films in 2014 outside India.

Hollywood star Martin Sheen, Mischa Barton, India-American actor Kal Penn and Bollywood actors Rajpal 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 a rickshaw puller Dilip (played by Yadav), who gets a job at the Union Carbide plant.

The film was also nominated for Asian Future Best Film Award at the Tokyo Film Festival in the following year.

One Night in Bhopal, 2004

One night in Bhopal is a firsthand account of the eyewitnesses

Far from fiction, the documentary 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 December 3, 1984.

This documentary features people who witnessed the disaster first-hand. Their shocking statements about the unimaginable horrors faced by the victims that night sends chills down one’s spine. It shows how the people were full of hope with regard to the factory and the jobs it offered them, and that they seriously believed it would better their future until the incident took place. Then, the film goes on to describe the night of the disaster and its aftermath and how it will have a lasting effect of Bhopal for years to come.

Sambhavna, 2012

Directed by Joseph Malone, co-directed by Charlotte Hardman and shot by two medical students from the University of Liverpool, this 20-minute-long documentary focuses on the Sambhavna Clinic, that provides free medical care to victims. Malone interacted with people in Bhopal over a period of two months before finally releasing the resulting 20-minute documentary online in 2012.

It also reminds the audience of responsibilities of Dow Chemicals, the new owner of Union Carbide, towards the people of Bhopal and to those who were affected by water contamination, caused by the disaster has still not been cleaned up.

Bhopali, 2011

Bhopali stars American linguist & philosopher Noam Chomsky

While most filmmakers took inspiration from the events leading to the tragedy, there were few who focussed on the aftermath in the lives of victims. 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.

Starring the legendary American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, the film is one of the highest-rated documentaries on IMDb.



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