The UAE-based filmmaker Sohan Roy talks about finding inspiration in the water for Dam999.
Get set for a watery thriller in UAE cinemas
A 24-hour television channel dedicated to the shipping industry may not be viewed as the ideal place to begin a film career as an action director, but for the UAE-based Indian filmmaker Sohan Roy the job planted the seeds for his new 3D thriller Dam999, which hits UAE cinemas today.
The ensemble film follows nine different characters - from mariners to family men - as they come to terms with the looming disaster of a bursting dam.
Released under Warner Bros, the film received its world premiere at this year's Cannes International Film Festival, where screening rights were snapped up for Asian theatres.
It also boasts an international cast with Bollywood favourites Ashish Vidyarthi - renowned as the "most punched" villain in Bollywood - and Rajit Kapur mixing with Kabul Express star Linda Arsenio and Joshua Fredric Smith.
"We couldn't believe how well it was received at Cannes, as the theatre was full and was one of the most promoted films in the Cannes film-market," he says. "Now that Warners has taken on the project there are a lot of expectations that it will do well, so I am very excited about what is happening right now."
Roy credits his film experience to running Marine BizTV from Ras Al Khaimah and creating documentary content for the channel.
"It is a great place to work, and in RAK everyone is very supportive," he says.
"With the channel I am always working on different productions, and with my experience in the industry it gives it more quality."
Roy's in-depth knowledge of the high seas and filmmaking are drawn from a previous career in marine energy: he was a marine architect before moving to the UAE in 1992, where he worked in ship consulting before launching Marine BizTV in 2007.
One of the documentaries Roy created from the channel was Dams - The Lethal Water Bomb. Released earlier this year, the piece focused on Kerala's decaying Mullaperiyar Dam. In Dam999 Roy takes the warning even further, this time in a fictitious, 3D version, by constructing a disaster scenario based on 1975's China's Banqiao Dam tragedy. It is regarded as the world's biggest dam failure, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people after torrential rains caused the dam to burst.
"Nobody talks about the dam issues and I think it's one of the biggest threats to humankind," he says.
"There are similarities between the Mullaperiyar and the Banqiao Dams as they are similar in capacity. And with Mullaperiyar right now, it is in the media about how dangerous it is."
But Roy says Dam999 is to be enjoyed first and foremost as a film.
He says despite the 3D action of the disaster sequences - which required more than 12 months in post-production - he also intended his script to be a character drama where the dam acts an emotional metaphor.
"That was important, as we can't sell the issue of the dam just like it is or it will just be another documentary," he says. "So I wanted to tell a story in an emotional way, like we have seen in Titanic. In this film, it's about the characters and their relationships between father and son, husband and wife, sister and brothers - all these people hold a dam in their hearts ... and when the dam collapses, their emotions also burst."
Dam999 premieres in Dubai today and will be showing throughout the week from tomorrow in select cinemas