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(aka "Bhopal" or "A Prayer for Rain")

 

directed by Ravi Kumar
UK/India 2014

 

BHOPAL: A PRAYER FOR RAIN is a dramatization of the 1984 Bhopal disaster - in which over five hundred thousand people were exposed to a leakage of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas from Union Carbide's plant with anywhere from two-to-three-thousand casualties (including the residents of the surrounding shanty town - told from the perspectives including local reporter/activist Motwani (Kal Penn, SUPERMAN RETURNS) whose friend died from contact with a single drop of MIC, rickshaw puller Dilip (Rajpal Yadav, FORGOTTEN SHOWERS) who is willing to do unsafe labor at the plant to feed his family and give his sister a dowry, and Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson (Martin Sheen, BADLANDS) who became the target of blame by the Indian government and activists (while Union Carbide blamed an Indian saboteur). BHOPAL: A PRAYER FOR RAIN spreads the blame around with penny-pinching supervisors (GOOD NIGHT GOOD MORNING's Vasanth Santosham and GODMOTHER's Vinit Kumar) who keep productivity up even though the farmers are not buying pesticides because of the drought (as well as repairs and workarounds to rundown equipment), a safety officer (Joy Sengupta) who quits in frustration, a local doctor (Venk Modur) who disregards Rakesh's complaints before his death, locals who are more concerned with feeding their families than Motwani's reports of danger (Dilip's statement to Motwani of "You believe anything to feed your family" goes both ways), and greedy politicians. The film also concedes that the company was warned that MIC coming into contact with water could cause a "runaway reaction", and that there were safety procedures in place were not maintained (and the supervisor shut down the freon that to freeze the MIC in order to save money).

The film may seem to soft-pedal Anderson's role in the events leading up to the tragedy, presenting him as an idealist preaching social responsibility while his conflicted liaison (David Brooks) openly bribes politicians and the company's evil accountant (co-writer Martin Brambach, THE LIVES OF OTHERS) conspires with him to find reasons to shut the plant down; although his motives stem from a resentment over how "Mother India bit Uncle Sam's hand" using Food for Peace aid to finance public development schemes and spark the "Green Revolution". When reports of the death toll come in, Anderson blames them for "Indian-izing" the plant ("we gave them everything and they let us down") and tows the company line by claiming that MIC is "nothing more than a potent tear gas" and claiming no responsibility since the Indian plant is actually part of Union Carbide of India Limited. The titular "prayer for rain" refers to the drought that had farmers spending their money on feeding their families rather than buying pesticides from Union Carbide for non-existent crops.

The script is high on expository dialogue scenes in which characters take the time to explain their actions and the motivations behind them (somewhat necessary to give context to events that have their roots in other events decades before), while some of the early scenes of Dilip seeking a job and interacting with his family seem moments away from breaking into a Bollywood musical number, but the gas leak sequence (which occurs during the wedding ceremony of Dilip's sister) never loses sight of the human tragedy amidst the swirling camera shots, tilted angles, and booming crane shots. Penn is quite different here from his more familiar roles in the HAROLD & KUMAR films and the HOUSE M.D. series as a reporter who has one foot in social justice and the other in tabloid sensationalism, but Sheen's characterization seems hampered by too little screen time (although that may be an issue of research since the late Anderson has rarely commented about the disaster). Mischa Barton (WALLED IN) shows up briefly as a lifestyle magazine journalist who gets an interview with Anderson for Motwani (on account of being a blonde white girl, I guess).

Eric Cotenas

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Theatrical Release: 7 November 2014 (USA)

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DVD Review: Revolver Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Revolver Entertainment

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:41:54
Video

2.39:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.49 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English/Hindi Dolby Digital 5.1; English/Hindi Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles English (burnt-in for Hindi dialogue)
Features Release Information:
Studio: Revolver Entertainment

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.39:1

Edition Details:
• none

DVD Release Date: February 3rd, 2015
Amaray

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Revolver's single-layer, progressive, anamorphic transfer of this 35mm has some minor edge-enhancement (the boosted colors are likely part of the film's design considering the overripe palettes of Bollywood flicks). Audio options are available in original 5.1 - enveloping in the factory and slum scenes - and 2.0 stereo Dolby Digital tracks. There are English subtitles optically printed on the source for the Hindi dialogue. There are no extras.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

Distribution

Revolver Entertainment

Region 1 - NTSC

 



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