Irada- The face of eco-terrorism

Perhaps a comparatively new term, eco-terrorism, has already gained attention of many. Irada (2017) has taken up the term and coupled it with a very recent similar phenomenon of Punjab, India. Nahid Riyasad investigates the movie and its relevance.


Living in the prime age of industrialisation, we cannot simply deny the tremendous effects and affectations of the industrial activities on our lives. This discourse of industrial exploitation of lands and lives has also been adapted in movies, not particularly in movies produced in this part of the world though. In 2017, Aparnaa Singh has taken up this big task and visually has narrated a brilliant story of how industries have been manipulating and abusing peoples’ lives for more and more profit. This new form of exploitation of the nature through industries is known as eco-terrorism. It would not be unwise to connect the incidents depicted in the movie with the reality of our country, when debates about coal and nuclear power plants are at its height. Coming back to the movie Irada, with casting like Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi, the audience is assured that they are going to have a tremendous movie watching experience.

The storyline of this movie is way far from a stereotypical Bollywood movie; there is no hero-heroine, no sudden synchronized dancing on the roads and of course, no romantic melodrama. So what is this movie about? It starts off with an Indian military veteran Parabjeet Walia (Naseeruddin Shah) living in Punjab who trains his daughter so that she can secure a place in the military. That hope shatters though. She is diagnosed with advanced level cancer. Her death reveals a mystery that has been plaguing the vast region of Punjab in present day. In his personal investigation, Shah finds out that there is a corporation that is dumping harmful toxic industrial wastes deep into the ground. As a result, the whole water system as well as the ecological balance of the land has been ruptured. Walia’s daughter, apparently, gets the cancer because of a river, where she used to swim as a part of her training. As an act of retaliation, he blows up the whole factory, using expertise acquired from his military training and some help from inside the factory.

Things start to get interesting from this point on. The corporation has some ties with the chief minister of the state and they pressures the CM to try the responsible ones. The case goes to national investigation agency officer Arjun Mishra which is played by Arshad Warsi. The CM personally calls him and asks to close the case of the industry blasting as soon as possible because the owners want his insurance money. In the investigation, Mishra finds some shocking and horrifying truths about the situation; in fact, it is way grimmer and darker than he thinks it actually is. At one point, after being tipped off by the wife of the prime suspect, he boards a special train. That train is special because any cancer patient and the attendants can travel for free on that train, sanctioned by the government. Instead of vendors selling snacks, the train is filled with insurance agents trying to sell their policies to the dying cancer patients, for their family’s future betterment. This comes as a sudden punch on the face of Mishra and changes his perspective on the case; he gets that much needed epiphany. Another force which is simultaneously at play here, a man was killed for investigating that corporation and his journalist girlfriend takes up that task. Mishra, even after being repeatedly told by the CM to close the case in favour of the owner, he carries his regular investigation to bring out the truth. Will he be able to bring the perpetrators to trial? Will the girlfriend of the killed man get her justice? What will happen to the chief minister or even the industrialist? To find out these answers, you need to watch the movie.

Despite being a fantastic example of cinematography by Ravi Walia or apt musical scores of Neeraj Shridhar, the movie excels in another aspect. The revolutionary story line that exposes a harsh reality of peasant people of Punjab, the political and economical exploitation of people’s lives is what makes the movie important. To start with, these are burning issues in this part of the world; however, we don’t see these issues frequently on screen. Singh dares to take up this issue of how corporations, with the help of politicians have manages to suck the life out of general people.

The movie does not try to be a boring documentary on effects of industrialization on nature and human, rather, it plays smart. The movie narrates the story of the victims in guise of a generous Samaritan and shows, who the actual culprits are. The movie portrays a relationship with the accused industrialist and the chief minister. The CM, also portrayed delicately, is a symbol of the politicians of India. The CM’s abusive nature and thirst for power actually is something that everyone can be seen as translated in our real lives. The movie assures how the politicians are bought and kept in power only to entertain the interests of large corporations.

The movie can be categorised under a comparatively new genre, eco-thriller. The first part of the movie, at least the first hour or so, brilliantly retains the suspense and thrill of a proper thriller. However, the anti-climax part does not do justice. The thrill starts to fade off at the ending. Notwithstanding, there are some closures and comfort at the end of the movie for the audience.

Should we consider this from the perspective of a thriller, this can be roughly labeled as a flop movie because the thrill part might be missing from time to time. The importance of the movie derives from somewhere else, it creates public awareness. Irada addresses an issue that is currently burning India. Till date, Punjab is known as the cancer belt of India and the cancer train does exist in reality. Such number of cancer patients in a certain region cannot simply be coincidence, rather, there ought to be some connection to the heavy industries operating there. The whole ecosystem is at risk, not to mention lives of millions of human beings. Irada is a successful and an important movie because it takes eco-terrorism as the subject matter, which is a very recent phenomenon. The movie covers political-economical aggression on the nature and people’s lives and makes us think about the contemporary world.

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