|Director Dr. Biju’s ‘Valiya Chirakulla Pakshikal’ is based on the tragedy of the victims of endosulfan, a highly toxic pesticide that used to be sprayed aerially from helicopters in the government owned cashew nut plantations in Kasargoad. Though it is not a documentary in the strictest sense, the movie is devoid of anything cinematic and is a partially fictionalized representation of the environmental disaster documenting the entire cycle of events starting from the usage of endosulfan, to its ban and to the present day struggle of the victims to get their due.
A photographer (Kunchacko Boban) lands in Kasargoad to make a photo feature about the victims of endosulfan in the monsoon of 2001 following a Kerala High Court decision to stay the usage of the biocide in the plantation. In order to understand the gravity of the issue, he meets not just the victims and their families but representatives from a wide spectrum of the populace there. His interaction with an agricultural officer, an environmental activist and a medical practitioner among others makes him realize that it is not just human beings that have been affected but an entire ecosystem.
If human beings faced the brunt of the indiscriminate usage of the pesticide in the form of health hazards, an entire population of fish and birds has been wiped out from the water bodies and the air respectively. After being traumatized seeing the victims suffering from various health related disorders, he uses his camera as a weapon to open the eyes of the society at large to the issue. His photo features coupled with the action of environmental and social activists play a big role in the pesticide being banned by a United Nations convention in the winter of 2011 in Ottawa and subsequently by the Supreme Court of India in 2012.
Critics can certainly question the absence of an objective analysis of the issue at hand as a lot of people have questioned whether endosulfan is the root cause of all the problems in Kasargoad. Dr. Biju has stated that his movie is political and his firm conviction that endosulfan is indeed the villain in the play is clearly visible. He answers the question of the critics by portraying the lives of the innocent children who have become victims for no fault of their own and by asking the question: “If endosulfan is not the cause, then what is?”
Dr. Biju wants the viewer to stand in the shoes of the photographer
played by Kunchacko Boban and understand the complexities of the issue.
On the one hand, it is a lesson on the entire sequence of events to
those who are unaware of the issue. On the other, it is a reminder of
the difficulties that the victims of the endosulfan tragedy face till
date due to the apathy of the state machinery.