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Filming fission reaction like tragedies in Jadugora

By Sukant Deepak
New Delhi, Nov 16 (IANS) A degree in Engineering, double degrees in MBA (Finance & Risk Management) and multiple jobs at some of the most prestigious firms on Wall Street while living in the US for the past 18 years. Still, Saurav Vishnu felt a blank space inside.

A stretch that needed to be filled from the tragedy that continues to eclipse the town of Jadugora -- radiation poisoning. That is when he decided to make 'Tailing Pond', an award-winning short film that qualified for an Oscar consideration on the place near his birthplace (Jamshedpur). It is now being made into a six-part documentary series.

Recalling that it was his father, posted as a police officer in Jadugora, headquarters of Uranium Corporation of India, who gave him the idea to make a film on the people there, Vishnu says when he took a flight from New York to meet the residents of Jadugora and undertook extensive research for three months --meeting people, visiting villages and reading up on Uranium mining, he realised that the residents had been suffering for decades and there was no end in sight for their misery.

"Several times, different agencies tried to raise their voice but for some reason, nothing happened. Frankly, whatever happened was very political. And politics never offered people of Jadugora any help, but in fact, created more problems for them."

Admitting that he had to face multiple challenges while making the film, as he is not a trained filmmaker, and had to learn and unlearn while on the job, Vishnu feels that the biggest challenges were always emotional.

"Working on a story like this changes something inside you over time. Once during a shoot, when we were working with one of the families who had three disabled brothers, I was told that there were a couple of families who had been waiting for me for five hours after making a long journey. They had a five-year-old disabled boy with them and had probably not eaten as well. They told me they could never understand what happened to their boy like all of a sudden, he was left completely paralyzed and his bones went soft. They requested me to feature their kid in the film, but I could not as the film crew was tired, we were in the middle of a jungle and generator fuel was running low. They kept begging. I still remember their eyes, they carried so much -- pain, hope, despair, sadness...Finally, they left crying in the dark. I felt so guilty and sick. I still think about those families, they keep haunting me. I wonder what happened to them and their little ones."

Adding that the six-part documentary series will discuss politics at the city, state and national level reading this issue and how as a nation, we have completely failed to show any empathy to people of Jadugora, he adds, "It will involve interviews from all parties representatives including BJP, INC and JMM to illustrate our unbiased stand."

Talk to him about the fact that very few films/documentaries are made on the environment and climate in India, and he feels that things are changing in India pretty fast. "There is a whole new generation of filmmakers who are gearing up and realising that these important stories must be told now. One of the reasons that we do not witness enough films made on these themes is the lack of funds and the uncertainty of how the movie will be monetized when it hits the distribution channel. We all talk about either art or either money and fame. But success is about a combination of all of them."

With ‘One', a crime drama feature that is in the pre-production stage and Producer on the horror feature film ‘The New Me', Vishnu feels there is a long road of recovery in front of the people of Jadugora. "Their living conditions must be improved, health managed and access to civic amenities ascertained for the people there."