Before it's too late

Jun 20, 2013, 09:04 IST | Kanika Sharma

Pradeep Indulkar, designer, engineer and filmmaker, wants Mumbai to sit up and take notice of its surroundings from the Tarapur Nuclear Power Plant to its heritage wonders including the much-neglected Elephanta Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Pradeep Indulkar could be called a crusader in the league of Erin Brockovich. Change of heart can open the most unexpected avenues. An engineer for 12 years at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre; Indulkar turned the corner by becoming an environmental activist and filmmaker.

Tourists roaming around at Elephanta Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

The transformation could surely not have been easy as Indulkar experienced severe allergies, which he finally traced as a community symptom as a reaction to the nuclear presence. His short documentary High Power has won the prestigious Yellow Oscar at the Uranium Film Festival of Rio de Janeiro and put Tarapur Atomic Power Station on the radar.

We, the people
“The plant of Tarapur was set up in 1965 ’67 but these people have no money, infrastructure, electricity (outages happen for six to seven hours at a stretch). Most people here have either cancer or kidney trouble, couples don’t have kids and the IQ level of kids (below five years) is lower than normal; many also suffer from paralysis and high blood pressure problem,” says Indulkar, noting the catch-22 situation the people are caught in.

Tarapur Atomic Power Station

Serendipity happened to Indulkar when he got Tom Alter and Shivani Tibrewala as English narrators; and Vikram Gokhale and Ila Bhate for the Marathi version of his documentary; roping in implicit publicity for the film.

A still from the film High Power

The application to the Uranium Film Festival in February this year has had no looking back as audience demanded encore screenings which eventually led High Power to win the coveted award. “The film is still with the censor board. After it comes out we plan to screen it in many colleges in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Ratnagiri and even distribute DVDs for free at the same time,” fills in Indulkar.

Harm to the heritage
A heritage film, which is yet to be titled, has been Indulkar’s latest preoccupation and is all set to go on the floor. “There has been no video documentation of heritage structures in Mumbai and surrounding areas such as Kalyan, Karjat and Bhiwandi,” he informs.

Irked about the picnic-spot treatment most get, Indulkar hopes to focus on the problem of, “unplanned and unaware tourism”, he says. He evokes several world-famous and unknown tourist sites in the same breath that receive much abuse from ‘tourists’. He agitatedly conveys, “If you go to Elephanta Caves, people don’t know anything about the structure. There are some guides but they don’t know what to do except click some photos, climb on the statues.”

Speaking of negligence towards heritage structures, he says that Jogeshwari Caves and Mandapeshwar Caves of Borivali, have been caused more harm than good due to worship and surrounding buildings. Indulkar hopes to inform tourists and students through his film so that people of Mumbai know the rich heritage they have right in front of them.

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