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Damn the Dam-999

Director : Roy Sohan
Starring : Joshua Fredrick Smith,
                Linda Arsenio,
                Vimla Raman,
                Rajat Kapoor,
                Thampy Antony & others

Dam-999 was called as a concept movie, showing a dam burst, in fact, an earthquake causing a dam disaster and flooding. The setting was supposed to be Mulla-periyar, a 100 year old dam that was awaiting its death in southern Kerala. This movie directed by Roy Sohan, a native of the same place where the dam exists had won accolades for his documentary ‘Dams – The lethal water bombs’. Perhaps, that was what inspired him to go further to direct a full-length feature film, taking up the cause of his people.  But when you have to enter into a realm of commercial movies, one needs to have a lot of other ingredients in it, unlike the documentary.  And that's how Dam-999 was apparently born, with the pre-release videos claiming an overflow of a gamut of human emotions.  Mulla-periyar dam has a lot of significance with the number 9.  It refers to the 999-year lease agreement that the Maharaja of Travancore entered with the Government of Madras (the English) for using the waters of this particular dam. Perhaps, thats what prompted Roy Sohan to title his film as Dam-999.  It is another matter that the dam burst in the movie happens on 9-Sep-2009 (9-9-9).  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 to 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 Tamilnadu and Kerala whereby operation of the dam was bestowed on Tamilnadu). As of now, Kerala wants a cancellation of the instant pact.

 The agreement was entered into with the sole objective of catering for the irrigation needs of Tamilnadu. But overtime, Tamilnadu uses its water 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 Tamilnadu, it is reluctant to let go the financial benefits that it accrues from the dam by way of Agriculture, Irrigation as also power generation. Tamilnadu generates a whooping 30,000 crore per year by way of Power generation alone. Interestingly, Kerala is one of the state which buys power from Tamilnadu. Now that the dam has started to leak, and after a 1500 (started in 2006) day protest on by the local, it's time, the people of kerala are heard...

The Movie

The film follows Captain Fredrick Browne (Fredrick Smith), Captain of an oil tanker that gets anchored in Kochi. An anglo-Indian, and son to the ex-Mayor of Kochi, he is married to a Pakistani Muslim girl, Razia, played by Megha Burman. His trusted friend Vinay (Vinay Rai), a marine engineer, had a love interest (Meera, Played by Vimla Raman) 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 Jounalist. Rajat Kapoor plays Shankaran, father of Vinay and is an astrologist-ayurvedic vaid, martial arts teacher and ask what not. Vimla Raman's Meera, Vinay's childhood love interest represents the unconsummated love that Vinay is ever pining for.  .

Vinay and Meera's incompatibility is so much so that, as per Shankaran, if they ever unite, it would have invited great mis-happenings and with the trust that Meera has in Shankaran's predictions, she decides to leave Vinay and live a lonely life. IN Meera's own words, whenever she tries to get close to Vinay, something or other happens, and that the cause of the death of Vinay's Mother (Urmila Unni) was attributed to Meera getting close to Vinay during a martial arts practice.

This the point where the film fails as in the end, when Meera and Vinay, did unite, all hell break loose, and the held back pressures are released (by the dam, i mean!).  This simply makes the horoscope-astrology-position of stars as the villian of the piece and is the single character which determines the destiny of all the other characters in the movie.

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 never understand who portrayed what. The director attempts at including too many things onto the movie, right from the pristine landscapes of Kerala (it did seems like a Kerala Tourism Commercial in the first half), the ayurveda, Vedic Mathematics, Astrology, Science and even Love (both requited and unrequited) and as it happens, makes a mess of everything.

The only worthy performances to note 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 to oblivion in 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.  Aashish Vidyarthi has acted well, but he has done much better performances in many other films.  The less said about Rajit Kapoor's character, the better.  As an actor who showed us what acting has to be all about in that one single sequence in 'Ghulam' and movie like 'Making of Mahatma' or 'Suraj Ka saatwan Ghoda', he was given a character that has nothing much to do except for his accented and stereotyped dialogues.  He was made out to be caricature.

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 and looks perfectly grand on paper. But he failed completely while translating that idea on to the screen effectively perhaps, due to the weak characterization or the weak script.

The movie is an average fare, with the 3D effects ineffective and is best Avoidable. What they basically did was to convert a 2D movie onto the stereoscopic 3D and they have done that conversion only in parts.  So viewers were made to put on and take off their glasses every now and then.

But if you still insist, you must go and see the movie, then, you can enjoy the scenic beauty of Kerala. The lady in the lead (Vimla Raman) oozes a winsome charm, but my goodness, the movie hardly doesn't. The movie doesn't even give out the main message of safety concerns of big dams, effectively. The fact that such big Dams are lethal 'Water Bombs' got lost somewhere.  Instead, blaming everything on stars and horoscopes of two individuals was just absurd to say the least.

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 tell...

Tags and Links :- Mullaperiyar Dam, Dam999 the Movie, The Lethal Water Bombs, Vimla Raman, Rajat Kapoor, Linda Arsenio, Ashish Vidyarthi,


Prasanth J said…
Don't you smell a rat, that the movie was released the same time the mullaperiyar controversies are at it's peak? Or rather, the panic among public was created at the right time for the movie release? The mullape
Shaan Menon said…
right @Prasanth J.. so even if smells 'rat' or 'fishy'..whats wrong with that.. @Sohan Roy should be having the conviction of what he wanted to say.. what wrong with exercising this freedom of speech in spelling out what's wrong with the dam... I wouldnt say the panic was created along with the movie release.. because.. the protests have been going on for the last five years.. the controversy is at its peak..and i dont think it is wrong in any way.. that Kerala.. as a whole.. including the Government does some lobbying out there.. even in the form of a movie... but they failed utterly..
Abdul Jaleel said…
Thx for review...where we can see this movie in Delhi?
Shaan Menon said…
Abdul Jaleel I think it is there in most of the movie houses.. near to you.. i suggest Ambience Mall.. PVR... avoid 3D versions.. see it in 2D....
Manish Menon said…
They shud've gone with the actual story.. instead of this..
Shaan Menon said…
I certainly agree to some points that you have discussed on this post. I appreciate that you have shared some reliable tips on this review.

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