Avatar

Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang Music: James Horner Direction: James Cameron

What more can you write about Avatar? From what you’ve read from Roger Ebert, to various domestic reviewers (in this case, London papers), to Rotten Tomatoes (84% Fresh rating), to Ram Gopal Varma’s blog, it is irresistible to not write anything. In a way, it is better not to write anything about Avatar simply because there is so much to write, more so there’s so much to experience rather than write or speak.

Avatar is not your everyday film. Granted it employs groundbreaking motion capture animation. It has innovative ‘surround, perspective’ 3-D. It is from Cameron who has broken cinematic and technical grounds earlier with incredible success. He has shown frames that you had not seen earlier. In that respect, as Varma pointed out, he was in a way god-like. The lush rain-forest, the breathtakingly huge mother tree, those floating hills, the valley, the Eyowa tree, the customs of the Na’avi, even the cold aggression of the marine chief seems new to us. Beyond the energetic visual treat, the action, the envious imagination of the creator, the mind-blowing 3-D perspective technology, lies something much more than mere entertainment.

If Avatar does not make you question about ecology, the sustainable development, the insane greed of the West (read America), then it has not succeeded as a film. Actually, the film makes you reminisce a lot more than that. From colonialism, oil wars, terrorism, recent credit crunch due to greedy, arrogant, stupid bankers, everything comes to our mind. It must have been a coincidence that Copenhagen almost collided with Avatar’s release because even that came to our mind. Even in the Indian context, it became far more relevant because the Avatar reminder is happening exactly in central and north-eastern Indian states such as Jharkhand, Orissa, and Chhattisgarh where the ancient tribes and villagers are being displaced, ruthlessly, often using force, for the mineral wealth that lies under their villages, hills and forests. Rainforests are being torn down mercilessly by huge corporate companies such as Vedanta, who are ravaging our mountains and forests and indigenous people with the help of central and state governments. I recently learnt that the central government has even formed a special force called Industrial Security Force whose objective is to ‘tackle’ and ‘manage’ the groups that are fighting to defend their forests and mountains. Avatar can’t be more relevant today in Jharkhand than anywhere else. Play this film there to those tribes and they may not be waxing over the motion capture technology; instead you’ll see tears in their eyes.

It is not easy for a filmmaker to pack in so much of emotion, social concern, and such a detailed sub-text in a movie that is supposed to be a mainstream Christmas blockbuster where $300 million is at stake. No other filmmaker possibly would have so much of audacity as James Cameron. Perhaps the only compromise he has had to make was that it has a happy ending. The victims of the greedy bankers, of the oil companies, of Vedanta didn’t have. That’s where the line between fantasy and reality is drawn. That still doesn’t become Cameron’s fault. What he offered there was hope. A willingness to look at issues differently. A willingness to even consider these problems as our own. That fact that he has managed to do that while entertaining you immensely has what made him the king of the world.