Irada is an Indian eco-thriller co-written and directed by Aparnaa Singh, and starring Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi, Divya Dutta, Sharad Kelkar and Sagarika Ghatge in the pivotal roles. Irada is a dramatised account of the cancer crisis plaguing Punjab, a state has been traditionally known for its agricultural produce, wheat in particular. The worst hit part of Punjab is the Malwa region that's known for its cotton farming.
Studies have revealed that pesticides used in farming are the root cause of high cancer rates in the state. The situation is so serious that on an average, a family has at least one cancer patient. Irada is an attempt to highlight the crisis by exposing the nexus of businesspeople and politicians that is responsible for chemical contamination caused by reverse boring—a process involving deep drilling into the ground to dispose waste. Deep boring is widely responsible for polluting the groundwater.
Ultimately the story suffers from predictable plot elements and clichéd characters... but 'Irada' does draw our attention to an important matter that hasn't captured the media attention it deserves.
Irada revolves around a retired soldier who has lost her young daughter to cancer, a journalist whose activist boyfriend has gone missing, a ruthless business tycoon, a manipulative politician, and an uninterested police officer in the middle of everything. In Irada, director Aparnaa Singh adopts the realistic style of filmmaking that's often associated with documentaries. In fact, the best way to describe this film as a docu-drama that seems to resemble a TV miniseries more than a feature film.
Overall, Irada makes for an interesting movie-viewing experience. The acting performances are solid all around. However, while it is reminiscent in some ways of movies like A Wednesday, Madaari and Law Abiding Citizen, this film fails to match their intensity. Ultimately the story suffers from predictable plot elements and clichéd characters that seem to have been picked up from other movies. Nonetheless, Irada does draw our attention to an important matter that hasn't captured the media attention it deserves. Hundreds of thousands of people are dying every year because of cancer caused by chemical contamination and yet no concrete measures have been taken to put a check on the crisis. One can only hope that Irada will serve as an eye-opener.
Rating: B -
A version of this review was first published in A Potpourri of Vestiges.