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Safety first...?

Dubai-based filmmaker Sohan Roy has gained Oscar recognition for his controversial debut DAM 999. City Times meets the director at the film’s global premiere

By Adur Pradeep (

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Published: Sun 27 Nov 2011, 12:20 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 7:16 AM

Dam999 director Sohan Roy, actress Linda Arsenio and others at the premiere.- Photo by AU Santhosh Kumar

DAM 999, THE 3D movie from Dubai-based businessman Sohan Roy, has created controversy even before its release for the subject it deals with.

The southern Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu have divergent views on the safety of the 116-year-old Mullaperiyar dam, through which Kerala shares its water with neighbouring state Tamil Nadu.

Kerala demands the construction of a new dam in place of the old structure, while Tamil Nadu insists that the dam is safe.

Roy’s movie, though not entirely focusing its attention on dam-related issues, has been banned from being screened in Tamil Nadu.

The movie, which released in the UAE on Thursday, tries to narrate the disastrous effects of dams, with frequent references to the bursting of Bangio dam in China which killed 231,000 people in 1975.

Roy, a marine engineer turned filmmaker, loses a bit of focus by trying to deal with lot of subjects — including Ayurveda, astrology, yoga, marine life and romance — while talking about the safety issues of dams.

As a movie, it has scope for improvement, but Roy’s directorial debut deserves credit for highlighting the safety issues of dams at an international level.

His film shows what disastrous effects Kerala society — or for that matter any community in the world — could face in the aftermath of a dam collapse.

The movie could be a shot in the arm for the social activists who have been demanding the reconstruction of the Mullaperiyar dam. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have already seen numerous campaigns in favour of a new dam.

“I saw the Facebook campaign. It is a good development,” Roy told City Times after the movie’s global premiere at the Grand Cineplex in Dubai last week.

“At least for the last couple of weeks, the dam issue has taken a new turn because of the strong campaign on social networking sites. Before watching the movie itself people accepted the concept; so once they see the movie, the message will spread like anything.”

Roy gained international recognition after the release of the documentary DAMs - The Lethal Water Bombs.

“The documentary was done as a curtain raiser because we did a lot of research on the safety of dams. So it was easy for me to make a documentary because I already had all the content. I was only looking for little bit of visuals and that we shot in between. We got 20 awards — 12 from the United States alone — for the documentary.”

Besides, DAM 999 made news when the movie was officially selected to be placed in the Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

“Normally, Oscar library selection happens after nomination declaration and other things. We got the letter before completing the Oscar screening itself,” Roy said.

Regarding his future project, Roy said: “I have already started my next project - an English movie about Somalian pirates.”

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