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Farmer Has Zero Contribution To Emissions, Yet He Suffers Most: Nila Madhab Panda, Director, Kadvi Hawa

It’s not just about banning sale, uses, production, everything should be banned. We are not an environmentally conscious society believes Nila Madhab Panda

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The film ‘Kadvi Hawa’ was recently released, which tells an aching tale of an agricultural society, crippled with farmer suicides due to lower yields as a result of climate change. While focusing on various aspects of change, like droughts in Bundelkhand and floods in Odisha, this film, dubbed as India’s first film on climate change hopes to create a dialogue in this very important environmental issue, by sensitizing its audiences to the woes of those who will and are suffering the most as a result of climate change. In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, Padma Shri winner, Nila Madhab Panda, the director of Kadvi Hawa talks about his motives for creating a film on climate change, his choice of the subject matter and his expectations from those who watch the film. Edited excerpts: 

What instigated you to make a film about climate change?

Well, I come from a region from the western part of Odisha, and we have seen droughts for years, as well as in the coastal parts we have seen so much of floods. This was of course there to talk about the disaster which was happening, and the stories we’re living in for ages in our life. But in 2006, I did a film on environment for Discovery, somebody said that, you know, ‘go to these areas, coastal part of Odisha, where the sea is eating up village after village’. And I said, how can it be possible? The disaster can’t be that fast, that ruthless. So when I went there, I saw a hand-pump inside the sea, and that was a stunning picture. It was a shocking picture for me. So then I started asking people, and the old people said that this used to be in the middle of the village and we used to play with this hand-pump and today this is the state of affair. So things have got that worse so fast, by nature’s fury. I made the documentary, but then I realized that I think it is very important to Indian audiences who love Bollywood, to get the emotion in it and tell the story in a way people can like and relate to. So that is when I decided, it took me many years to frame the story, so that is when I realized that there is so much happening to the world, and it’s very important to bring that out in a film.

Farmer suicides as a result of climate change (lower yields) is a common theme throughout the movie. Why did you choose the woes of a farmer to address the larger issue of climate change?

Well if you see the film, who will be impacted the most and the fastest? People like us probably don’t have any issue of climate change. We don’t really care about the environment, because we have earned enough money to keep ourselves safe. Today the time has come where we are buying oxygen and water both. The Delhi pollution happened so people installed air-filters at home. We don’t suffer really. That’s how we have taken it for granted. But the farmer, who represents a lot of the society, the human eco-chain system, he’s the guy who has zero contribution to any greenhouse gas emissions. And today he is suffering the most. Not realizing the fact that in a developed world, the poor guy because of whom your kitchen is running, you don’t even have the capacity to produce one grain of rice, but you are really killing those people. And we are the people, because of us, they are victims. We want development, they are simply working hard to give you those grains, fruits. So I decided to catch the first line of people who represents this world, who are the creators of the world, and they are impacted the most.

There are two extreme conditions brought about by climate change which are addressed in the film, which is drought and flood. How were you effective in juxtaposing both these problems under the overarching theme of climate change?

The idea is, what is climate change? It is basically you can claim that yes, it rains a little, droughts also happen, what is the big deal? It is not a big deal. The big deal is the frequency and the intensity. So in both the extreme weather conditions there is high intensity and the frequency is more. Every year drought, drought after drought after drought and the scorching sun. Every year floods, cyclone after cyclone after cyclone. So the idea is to represent two extreme weather conditions, tell the story that geographically anywhere you are in the world, you are suffering as a result of climate change

Why did you choose the Bundelkhand region, Odisha and Chambal to be the locations upon which the movie is based? Are these regions susceptible to the effects of climate change more than others?

Indeed, these are areas which are most affected. But at the same time, I wanted a place which will visually represent the adversity. So Chambal if you see, it is almost like a killer. If you go to Odisha during the flood time, you will see that it looks like as if the sea is going to haunt you and kill you. Similarly Chambal, looking at the deserted, arid location, it looks as if it’s going to kill you. So it’s our very own nature itself which is coming to kill us, nature has become the villain. We have made it the villain. 

The film tells a very aching tale of how poverty is deepened as a result of the effects of climate change. The statistics towards the end also point to this fact. Why is it so critical to address what happens to rural areas as a result of the lifestyle of urban areas? Given that the ecological footprint of urban people is much greater than that of rural people.

Well to be honest, we all are suffering. We see the Delhi pollution today, it has made you uncomfortable living here. You have simply closed your house, you are bound not to come out. So everywhere, we thought we can do anything and poor people can suffer but everywhere you are suffering. The dichotomy here, the interesting part here is look at how they are suffering. And it is all because of us. We want air-conditioners, we want private cars, we want this and that, and at the end of the day, we’re the ones with the highest carbon footprint.

Even though the film talks about the effects of climate change, especially on human life extensively, not much was said to address the causes of climate change. Was that done intentionally?

I think we have had enough of talking about it. The causes we all know, it’s nothing new. Even the effect we all know. It’s not even talking about the effect. It is talking about the impact of climate change. So the causes, you see that every day in your house, causes- you see that in your car, I think that much of understanding we have. Effect- we have seen Kedarnath flood, we have seen Mumbai flood, we have seen Odisha cyclone, we have seen drought in this country. The impact you don’t know. The impact is killing you today. Impact to me is my son not going to school for four days. Impact is that guy who is living a fearful life, because someday his son is going to die. Impact is that Gunu knowing that someday his family will die if he doesn’t bring them out from Odisha. The impact will capture the essence of climate change more than talking about the causes.

In the film, Mahua village was said to have just 2 seasons, during the scene on the class on environment and seasons. Are there other regions in India which have faced significant climatic shifts?

Right here, Delhi. We are at November end, December first week. I am not feeling cold yet. So half of my season is gone. What am I waiting for? So Delhi, by Diwali is chill. You start wearing your thin jacket. Today I don’t need it. The whole day I am going out with a t-shirt. It’s like Goa. There are many places, there is Himachal, where they used to produce apples, now they are producing lesser apple and producing baingan and gobi. So there is a major shift. Of course a geographical shift happens, but again, I am talking about the frequency and intensity, it’s faster. So it is basically like what scientists say, the beautiful thing that we have a few number of years for survival, until and unless you do something. Because everywhere, look at the disaster. Look at America. What is the difference between Chambal and California? California is going through the same drought what Chambal has. What happened in Odisha, that village, which is under the sea now, what happened in USA, the recent hurricane, it’s everywhere. So we all are in the same boat.

How do you think urban audiences can get sensitized to this major issue of climate change and actually bring changes to their lifestyle after watching your film?

We are a society which is strongly, very literally, illiterate. Which is why a film like this, where I am not saying that I am teaching you an issue, I’m just showing what the emotional impact to people is. So when you talk about urban audiences, urban audiences are happy with their social media. Environment Day came, they post 2 posts and that’s it. And we think we have solved everything. So we are really living in that world of illiteracy, where we don’t realize what we are doing. Now tell me, forget about all that, every year, Diwali comes, the cracker ban happens for 2 days and that’s it. And after that we don’t even think about climate. Because of pollution, 2-3 days shops and schools close down, after that who cares about Delhi pollution. Why was there so much questioning on cracker-ban? Looking at Delhi’s scenario, anybody using crackers should be criminalized. Fine on your act. It’s not just about banning sale, uses, production, everything should be banned. We are not an environmentally conscious society. I don’t know how many more years you need to be conscious, India being the second-largest greenhouse gas emitter. We hardly bother about it. So it be. I can’t change people’s mind overnight, but at least it will create a dialogue. It will make people talk, which I feel successful about, I don’t care about box-office, I don’t care about anything, but the amount of talk which happened among people, I am very happy. My effort is done. What I could do as a story-teller.

What are your next projects in the pipeline? Are you doing any more future films on the same subject matter, like climate change?

People call me a social-filmmaker, I am not. I talk stories from the society, I love it, what I have lived in and what I wanted to talk, my next film is about children’s rights, which is again close to environmental issues. It’s called Halka. It should be coming next year.

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