‘2018’ wades through lessons still not learnt

Beyond portrayal of a disaster, the movie has succeeded in creating an empathy and look at how and why the floods came.
‘2018’ wades through lessons still not learnt


Kochi | At a time when the movie ‘The Kerala Story’ has got embroiled in controversies and some States not allowing its screening and some even giving it official sanction, there has come another picture telling a different Kerala story - ‘2018: Everyone is a hero’ - that has grabbed wide public attention. If ‘The Kerala Story’ is all about some women from here joining the Islamic State, ‘2018’ is a tale of the horrendous floods of 2018 that claimed around 500 lives and left over one-sixth of the State’s population directly affected. It portrays, and to a great extent, how people came together in adverse times and saved lives, spreading a message of camaraderie.

The flood film goes beyond depiction of the disaster and even throws up questions of how equipped Kerala is to counter such a catastrophe that can come down on this State any time. The monsoons that followed the 2018 one, have been disastrous though the magnitude was lesser.

But for all the melodrama in the movie, its technical quality and visual effects, especially of the sea, were of very high levels. The picture may not have brought out in full the harrowing experiences of the people, but it succeeded in creating an empathy. Viewers, to a great extent, experienced the August 2018 times when all in one way or the other were affected. That explains why in many theatres, there continues to be standing ovation at the end.

What makes the film relevant are that the conditions of 2018 still remain. That many have not got their promised compensation, that many by deceit took away relief funds, are matters all-together different. The ‘Rebuild Kerala’ mission does not seem to have made any telling impact. The floods that followed, like the 2019 one which took away 48 lives, left many homeless and the one next year claimed 74 lives. The years that followed saw devastating landslips.

Beyond the film, the message is clear and simple. No longer is Kerala safe as it has moved to an unpredictable and impactful landscape. Encroachment on rivers, unbridled quarrying by erasing midlands and high ranges, filling of wetlands that held large amounts of water and were flood-checks, have all contributed to the flood theme of the film.

It was not just the heavy downpour that led to the 2018 calamity which made the much-revered Madhav Gadgil proclaim that it was a ‘man-made disaster’. As many as 35 of the 54 dams in the State were opened at one go. Shrunk rivers forced the water to take its own course, flooding the State. Even after the disaster, there has been no attempt to desilt the dams and ensure better storage capacity.

The only loud criticism, especially in social media, has been that the film failed to portray the role of the government machinery in flood relief. The truth remains that it was mainly the youth and fishermen who devotedly swung into action without any government call or promise, and did an exemplary and enviable job. Viewers galore stepping out of the theatre are instilled with a feeling of guilt or remorse but a conviction too that there is wrong which needs to be corrected. A disaster portrayed quite sincerely and the message of oneness passed quite very well, the film director has reasons aplenty to be satisfied.

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