Irada: Bearable Eco-crime thriller

Film: Irada

Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Divya Dutta, Rajesh Sharma, Arshad Warsi, Sagarika Ghatge, Sharad Kelkar, Rumana Molla, Prashanth Gupta

Director: Aparnaa Singh

Indian cinema doesn’t have many eco-crime thrillers to boast of so this one is a first of sorts (barring of course the pedestrian Bhopal Express and Ravi Kumar’s soft-pedalled attempt, ‘Bhopal: A Prayer for rain’—both films were based on the Bhopal Gas disaster and did not play out like mystery thrillers in entirety) Aparnaa Singh’s film is set in Punjab—once the wheat bowl of India, now a cancer stricken state where almost every family has at least one member suffering from the dreaded C. The state that also has a drug menace rampant amongst its youth has a lot to grapple with – mainly because of over-ambitious development that over-rode environmental safeguards to reap rich dividends for criminally inclined politicians of the state.

One such politician is the CM of the state Ramandeep Braitch (played by Divya Dutta with incendiary relish) who okays an environmentally dangerous short-cut for dumping chemical waste deep into the land (called the reverse boring process), practiced by PPFL—the chemical plant owned by Paddy Sharma (Sharad Kelkar) and the sole cause of most of the water contamination in the once healthy state. While Paddy and his trusted assistant (Rajesh Sharma) are chief guests at a book release of ‘One Shot’ by Parabjeet Walia (Naseeruddin Shah), several blasts rock the PPFL plant and it’s totally destroyed.

Subsequent investigations by NIA officer Arjun Mishra (IArshad Warsi) reveal sabotage as a possible angle but the CM isn’t interested in getting to the truth. She has already instructed the insurance company to settle the payout at the earliest and for that she needs Arjun’s co-operation. A meeting with Maya Singh (Sagarika Ghatge) turns up key evidence against the corporation and Param vir chakra recipient Parabjeet Walia is also quite happy to admit to his role in the sabotage. Then Parabjeet Walia is found dead and the CM is all set to hang the blame on his shoulders. Unfortunately things don’t turn out as planned.

This is another of those films that tries to ape the ‘A Wednesday’ set-up, albeit, with middling success. Despite the interest generated from the twists in the plot, the thrill is missing. Arjun Mishra appears to be all too easily mislead and only too eager to do everyone’s bidding–even that of a cancer stricken widow who claims her husband is the one who set-up the blasts. One can see the cancer train coming from afar so-to-speak.

Aparnaa Singh is unable to hold off the revelations until the last moment and as a result there’s little mystery in the telling. Parabjeet Walia spouting shayari at his book’s launch is revealing of the unaccomplished plotting that drives this film’s narrative forward. There’s purchase though in the eventual appeal to be more aware of such calamities waiting to happen—because of our own negligence regarding environment protection laws and their quasi implementation. While the film is interesting enough and a brave enough attempt it’s not something that plays out as memorable or compelling- and this despite the crusty performances of highly dependable actors like Divya Dutta and Naseeruddin Shah.

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Free Press Journal