By Neeraj Meghani:
Even if the environmentally conscious generation of ours abhors watching the news on television, there are tools that are far more reaching and effective at rousing minds of the people. Movies on climate change have had, and always will have huge allure for today’s people.
In hindsight, one can not go on to say that all movies and documentaries on the topic have always been accurate and socially responsible. We have had movies such as Before The Flood from Leonardo DiCaprio’s production house that traces the long-lasting effects that global warming has had on global catastrophes in the last decade or so.
On the other hand, all 90s kids have grown up with a significant dose of the numerous documentaries with Sir David Attenborough that National Geographic aired which just made us feel that the world is one happy and beautiful place.
What has to be put across the table is the fact that excessively optimistic or pessimistic views of climate change do nothing but hamper people’s will to act on the issue. The mirror is simple, keep a man in a situation where he is very sad or very happy, and the end result is inaction, through and through.
Movies have not always been on the end of the climate change rainbow though. Less acclaimed movies such as the 2007 Leonardo DiCaprio production The 11th Hour were instrumental in bringing the topic of climate change to a mass audience that eventually propelled the climate change movement manifold.
The movie followed the interviews of numerous climate change activists and prominent scientists such as Stephen Hawking to emphasize the need to work against climate change. Critics say that the movie actually led to something just because of the reason that people could actually connect with the famous personalities shown on the screen and work towards a cause.
One movie that most of us missed was Time To Choose by Oscar winning director Charles Ferguson which was one of a kind and a solution-oriented movie. The 2016 release revolves around numerous innovative solutions that had come up in recent times to combat climate change.
We could argue that the movie never showed the problems we face due to climate change but the simple answer to that is, it never meant to. What we need to realise that there is no rubric set in stone for a movie based on climate change. The possibility that one single movie or documentary could summarise the entire climate change dissent well enough to bring people on the streets, is zero. All movies on the issue can only hope to leave a positive impact on the mind of the viewer, so that they would actually be motivated to do something helpful towards the resolution of the issue.
Maybe we do not still see the run of the mill Bollywood flicks being able to deliver a poignant message, but they do. One careful glance over the repository that our film industry has offered over the years is enough to say that we have not tackled the issue head on.
Movies such as Tum Mile and Kedarnath showed that environmental catastrophes cause widespread destruction leading to an immense loss to life and property, we somehow always spin it to some redundant emotional turmoil that the protagonist has to come through.
To give a parallel, we do show that thousands of people face the reactions of the environmentally detrimental acts that the one percent of the world do, but we never are able to show their plight because our movies sell through the face of the actors, and not of the conscious story line that shows the grim future of our world.
The legendary flick Mother India does talk about a storm that decimates a village, causing floods and the subsequent damage to life but it never tries to dwell upon the question why. We are too absorbed with the songs and the emotional struggles that the protagonists seem to suffer from that the whole implied plot line about how environmental damage can have long lasting consequences is simply gone over our heads before the lights come on at the theatre. Maybe it’s not the audience’s fault at all.
We as an audience have to evolve our tastes. The Indian audience loves sensationalisation of facts, even if that’s what the young generation pretends to abhor. Maybe if we actually start to favour movies and documentaries that actually try to bring up environmental concerns, we could actually help the spread of positive information.
Documentaries such as Shores Of Silence by Mike Pandey or The Truth About Tigers by Shekar Dattatri are documentaries that went on to win the Green Oscars and the Indian audience probably has no idea about them!
This article at best might leave the reader to maybe look up some Indian documentaries and by our standards, that’s a good start. After years of underplaying the impact that cinema could have on Indian efforts against climate change, it’s high time that we actually gave our cinema a chance.