Call it a concept movie showing a dam burst, an earthquake that caused a dam disaster and flooding. The setting is Mulla-periyar, a 100 year old dam that is awaiting its death in Southern Kerala. The movie is based on a documentary ‘Dams – The lethal water bombs’ directed by Roy Sohan himself. The Number 9 has a lot of significance with this dam, and hence the movie name 999. It refers to the 999-year lease agreement that the Maharaja of Travancore entered with the Government of Madras (English) for using the waters of this particular dam. Roy Sohan tries to bring in the significance of the number 9 to his nine characters as well, with each portraying a different ‘nava-rasa’.
Background of the Movie
Built by the British in 1895, across the river Periyar, it was supposed to last a 50 years, according to its engineer, it has today, far lived its life span. Man’s greed has made the dam last beyond 100 years. After India’s Independence, all those pre-independence pacts have been made defunct, this one, somehow still continues to hold forth causing dispute between two states… (As a matter of fact, the pact was renewed in 1970, between Tamil Nadu and Kerala whereby operation of the dam was bestowed on Tamil Nadu). As of now, Kerala wants a cancellation of the instant pact.
The agreement was entered into with the sole objective of catering to the irrigation needs of Tamil Nadu. But overtime, Tamil Nadu has used its water not only for agriculture, and now its electricity needs as well. Kerala believes that, any form of earthquake or a simple Dam disaster would sweep away four thickly populated districts under it and would cause a collateral damage of 5 million people.
As for Tamil Nadu, it is reluctant to let go the financial benefits that it accrues from the dam by way of agriculture, Irrigation as also power generation. Tamil Nadu generates a whooping 30,000 crore per year by way of Power generation alone. Interestingly, Kerala is one of the states that purchases power from Tamil Nadu. Now that the dam has started to leak, and after a 1500 (started in 2006) day protest by the local, it’s time, the people of Kerala are heard…
The film follows Captain Fredrick Browne (Fredrick Smith), Captain of an oil tanker that gets anchored in Kochi. He is married to a Pakistani Muslim girl, played by Megha Burman. His trusted friend Vinay, had a love interest but had to forgo her because of the incompatibility of his stars with hers’ and left Kochi to marry a foreigner (Linda Arsenio), but she leaves him and his child to become a successful TV journalist. Rajat Kapoor plays Shankaran, Vinay’s father. Vimla Raman is Meera and is Vinay’s childhood’s love interest and represents the unconsummated love.
Quite opposite to the director’s claim of representing a grand story of human emotions with the nine characters portraying the nine ‘rasas’ or the nava-rasa’s, I as a viewer, could not understand who portrayed what. The director attempts at including too many things into the movie, right from the pristine landscapes of Kerala, the ayurveda, Vedic Mathematics, Astrology, Science and even Love (both requited and unrequited) and makes a mess of everything.
The only note-worthy performances was that of Vimla Raman, who exudes her compassionate character (perhaps the Karuna Rasa) and to an extent, Linda Arsenio who tries to match Vimla Raman, scene after scene. Ashish Vidyarthi as the negative character tries his best and does justice to his role, but is sent Into oblivion towards the end. We are never told as to what happened to him after the dam burst and the floods. Since all the other main characters are alive, we may presume that he, too, would be alive.
The Director’s idea of creating an analogy between the dam holding back its waters and people holding back their emotions, only to create destruction, when it is released is commendable. But he fails completely when it came to translating that idea on to the screen effectively.
The movie is an average fare, with the 3D effects ineffective and is best Avoidable. But if you still insist, you must see, then, go there, enjoy the scenic beauty of Kerala. The lady in the lead (Vimla Raman) oozes a winsome charm, but unfortunately, the movie doesn’t. The movie doesn’t even give out the main message effectively, that Dams are those real ‘Water Bombs’, instead, blames everything on stars and horoscopes. And that is where the failure of the movie lies.
P.S Having, said that, this make should have be a wake-up call for us all, for we have almost 4000 colonial dams that have outlived their life-time. We indeed need to have a contingency plan and build newer structures and smaller ones around them before they break. We call them the temples of modern India…and we lambasted the lady who called them the disasters of modern India… At least, now, let us hear what she wants to say.
The author is someone who gets his bread and butter from staring endlessly at the Computers. And frequently he Blogs too at http://shaanmenon.blogspot.com, or rather, we should say, Cogito, Ergo Sum. He blogs, therefore he exists. He mostly blogs about the movies that fascinate him, Books that help him keep alive and also those little musings, including what he thinks to be relevant political issues.