“Veedhi varai poraattam, vetri kidaikkum varai serndhu poraaduvum,” We will take the battle to the streets, we will fight together till we win. It is with these poignant words in a song that ‘Anugundu: the Atom Bomb’, a documentary on the people who are agitating against the setting up of the nuclear plant at Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu, begins.
The 48-minute documentary is a personal project of Manila C Mohan, a journalist with a leading literary magazine in Malayalam. A reporting assignment took her to the coastal village of Idinthakarai, the epicentre of the movement against the Kudamkulam project this April. The never-say-die spirit of the protesting people there, she says, moved her to undertake the project.
“What really struck me was the nature of the movement,” she said. “It is truly a people’s movement. Each and every person is so politically aware and they know exactly what they are fighting for - their home and their lives. Any child on the street can tell you what is happening.”
This is substantiated in the documentary which has recorded what individuals in the area, not just the leaders of the movement, have to say. For example, Rajitha, a school student says - ‘They probably think we are still illiterate and unaware of the dangers a nuclear disaster poses’. Padmini, an elderly resident, says in a voice choking back tears - ‘If they want to save the country by sacrificing us, let them go ahead and kill all of us’. ‘The government is playing with our lives. A nuclear plant is not supposed to have human residence within five kilometers but the Kudamkulam plant has colonies within 2 km of it’ - says S P Udayakumar, leader of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE).
The film is full of these voices and images from the protest which have been going on for over a year. It also shows scenes from the aftermath of nuclear disasters at Chernobyl in Russia and Fukushima in Japan. Manila, who is director and producer of the film, says that critics may argue it is one-sided. And she agrees it is.
“I want the voice of these people to be heard,” she said. “The mainstream Tamil media has been ignoring them for the most part. The protesting people won’t take any sort of monetary help and are funding their protests themselves. There is very little awareness even among people in other parts of Tamil Nadu as to what is really happening.”
The documentary, narrated in Tamil by poet N Sukumaran, is not a commercial venture, says Manila. “There was no remuneration given to anyone involved,” she said.“It was taken up by my friend Afsal Mahmoud, a visual editor, and I, out of personal interest. It is only meant to make the public aware and to sensitise them about what is happening at Kudankulam.”