A spectacularly disturbing scene somewhere towards the end of this film shows Gateway of India neck-deep in water, as Mumbai’s Apollo Bandar stands flooded. A CGI-generated gigantic cargo ship nudges at the historical monument, dwarfing it. The scene would seem straight out of a Roland Emmerich disaster drama, among many others that imagine what is going to happen to Indian cities by the year 2050 owing to our apathy towards climate change.
The Gateway scene seems particularly symbolic. It shouts out how largescale industrialisation has pushed India, its history and heritage to the brink, reducing these important elements of our identity to nothingness.
“India 2050” does for you what we have stubbornly been refusing to do. It imagines what the future is like for the nation if climate change warnings are not urgently paid heed to.
This is a “fictional representation of India’s future under the current threat of climate change”, the 40-minute docu-film announces at the start. As the film opens, rapid CGI-mounted snapshots show us how India could end up in the year 2050, if we continue being indifferent to the signals of climate change.
Vibrant Jaipur is consumed by desert. Delhi blisters in heat, Kolkata is submerged in foul waters, Mumbai fights tornados of doom. Food and water are in short supply, and India’s urban centres have turned into cesspools of death and disease, a voiceover narrates the grim fate of India, as a collage of doom unfolds on screen.
If those unsettling vignettes of fiction seem straight out of a strange, dystopian science fiction film, truth can be stranger. Stranger, for instance, is the fact that we are still not paying attention even as we are being warned.
The warnings, after all, exist right now in 2019. Scientists and environmentalists are constantly telling us how the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air is the highest ever in the past 800,000 years. Dozens of Indian cities face an existential crisis of water. As the film reminds us, these are but only a few of the signs of grave peril.
“India 2050” is blunt in its assertion of awful truths, as it raises discomforting doubts over what kind of planet we are leaving behind for our next generations — will it be a livable one at all?
The film picks as its trigger point in October of 2019 when the annual smog in the north of India acquired a far more sinister form than it has normally done in recent years. The film traces how, by 2019, Delhi has turned into a city where 50 per cent children develop irreversible lung ailments long before adulthood.
It doesn’t take five minutes for the film to furnish enough such details on the fact that the days that are coming look bleak, for a nation that continues to seem least bothered. Issues like crop stubble burning and bursting of Diwali crackers still don’t seem like much of a bother for most of us unless it’s our child in the ICU battling for life with respiratory problems, as the film points out.
The assertions that the film puts forth may not come across as altogether new, but putting all the bits of informations into a comprehensive collage of moving pictures over 40-odd minutes renders a hammer blow. The India of tomorrow that we are talking about here is far from the shining portrait that political promises normally uphold. If we are currently facing the multipronged menace of population overload, unmanageable costs, rapidly degenerating water and food resources, and an economy that threatens to tip over, then environmental degeneration plays a big role in worsening each of these perils.
The film mixes its cold snapshots of contemporary climate calamities with expertspeak, and also heartbreaking real-life stories, brought alive through interviews of those who have suffered. A Delhi couple helplessly talks of their child, who fights for life in the hospital owing to lung disease in the wake of Diwali fireworks and crop stubble fires. A Chennai citizen accounts how her metropolis was reduced to a murky refugee camp in the wake of the 2015 floods.
The film is effective in balancing the facts about today’s irresponsible reality with the nightmarish portrait of future it paints. In imagining an India where all is destroyed by the wrath of avenging nature, “India 2050” squarely points fingers at insensitive man-made reasons — from societal indifference to rampant industrialisation.
The film is an absorbing watch, tautly written and executed. It is a wake-up call for today, to salvage as much of India as we can, for the citizens of tomorrow.
“India 2050” airs on Discovery Channel, 9 p.m. on December 29. [By Vinayak Chakravorty]