x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Engineer directs disaster movie premonition

An Indian marine engineer has directed a 3D action story about an ageing dam that cracks, killing thousands and leaving millions homeless in the hopes of turning the spotlight on real dams around the world that have outlived their usefulness.

DUBAI // An Indian marine engineer has directed a 3D action story about an ageing dam that cracks, killing thousands and leaving millions homeless in the hopes of turning the spotlight on real dams around the world that have outlived their usefulness.

Sharjah-based Sohan Roy recently showed the English-language Dam999, his first movie,to distributors in the US. He plans to release it in April.

"Disaster movies are a big draw internationally, and we hope the film will draw attention to a crucial issue," Mr Roy said. "There are more than 4,000 dams in the world that could collapse any time. Ageing dams are an international problem."

The theme struck a chord with Dr Abdullah Alshamsi, a civil engineer who is the vice chancellor of the British University in Dubai. He recalled widespread property destruction in Ajman and Sharjah when a dam in Oman breached more than two decades ago, causing several casualties.

"An action movie can certainly show how a dam plays a vital role in urban planning, but if not tested can cause suffering and death," he said. "Dams must be checked on a regular basis [and] failure to check them can affect lives."

Filmed in Fujairah and Dubai and in Mr Roy's home town of Kerala, the movie is likely to generate interest in India, where dam projects are divisive issues.

Dr Pyarilal Krishnan, a naval architect who has spearheaded state investigations into marine accidents, said the film would be an eye-opener in his homeland. "The film will have repercussions in India. It warns of impending danger that technical people are aware of, but the common man doesn't know much about. If one dam bursts a stream of others could also burst, causing a major catastrophe."

Mr Roy said he hoped that his movie, inspired by the 1975 Banqiao dam failure in China, would fuel a debate about demolishing old dams. The Banqiao collapse killed 85,000 people in two hours, according to a World Meteorological Organisation report.

Three American actors, one Briton and five Indians including the award-winning Rajit Kapur form the core cast of a movie that focuses on nine lives drastically altered when the collapse occurs.

Kapur plays an astrologer whose warnings about the dam are ignored, while the American Joshua Fredric Smith plays the great-grandson of the engineer who built the dam. Smith takes on the role of the captain of a ship anchored off a village near the structure. Portions of the movie were filmed over 10 days on a tanker off Fujairah.

 

rtalwar@thenational.ae