New Delhi — Ravi Kumar initially set out to make a small, independent movie on the Bhopal gas tragedy, but the director said the canvas of “Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain” kept getting bigger as he realized the story behind the disaster needed to reach a wider audience.
"As filmmakers, we have a moral responsibility to tell real stories. It is a story that should be told cinematically and on a bigger canvas. It is not an isolated incident; we see a similar chain of events everywhere. We can learn a lot from Bhopal to ensure that another Bhopal does not happen ever again," said Kumar.
The director said despite the story having all the elements of a great drama — corruption, corporate greed and government negligence — filmmakers did not touch the subject as they were not keen to take a risk.
Produced by Sahara Movie Studios and Rising Star Entertainment, the film stars Hollywood names like Martin Sheen, Kal Penn and Mischa Barton besides Indian actors Rajpal Yadav and Tannishtha Chatterjee.
The film is releasing in India Dec. 5, just two days after the 30th anniversary of the Union Carbide gas leak incident.
"If this disaster had happened somewhere else, there would be many films on the subject. It was not easy for me to work on the story. I shopped around with the project everywhere. For Hollywood, it was too Bollywood while Bollywood thought it was too risky.
"They said nobody would like to watch so many people dying with Rajpal Yadav, but I stuck with his name because he is true to the story. The reason no film was made on the story is because people don’t want to take risks in the film business," Kumar said.
The UK-based filmmaker, who grew up in Madhya Pradesh, decided not to cast any big Bollywood star in his movie, and that made it difficult for him to find a producer.
"If we wanted to make a commercial film, a big Bollywood name would have worked for us. But we did not want that veneer of gloss. Rajpal was perfect for the role and so was Martin Sheen. They all came because of the script and they all belong to the story," he said.
Since it is based on one of the biggest industrial disasters in the world, Kumar is aware that the film will be judged.
"When we started the film, we knew we would be judged by everyone — the survivors, the general audience and the Americans. But we were clear that our responsibility was to the survivors. The reason it took so long was because we wanted to ensure that we were correct and balanced in our portrayal of the incident," he said.