Thanks to the Mullaperiyar dam controversy, Tamil Naduís major political parties are speaking in one voice for a change. They banned the screening of the film Dam 999, directed by Sohan Roy and produced in Hollywood, which shows the collapse of a dam in Kerala. Although the director denied it was a political film, the number 999 made Tamil Nadu politicians see red. They found it a motivated title, an apparent reference to the 999-year rights held by Tamil Nadu over the Mullaperiyar dam. Disaster movies are about spectacles and these are images we carry with us. Each time there is an incident, we remember what we saw on the screen. In reality, these horrors do not occur with any great regularity. More people die of road accidents than air crashes. Yet, we fear plane crashes more, although we continue to fly. But our decisions are not based on facts. Emotions take over. So much so that the banning of the film (which reviewers say is tedious) was not criticised by even those who support freedom of expression.
The Mullaperiyar dam crisis is an emotive issue for both Tamil Nadu and Kerala. One fears the death of millions (numbers vastly exaggerated) by the crashing of a 116-year-old dam due to earthquakes. The other fears deprivation of water and livelihood in five districts. The Mullaperiyar dam was constructed by the British during 1887-1895 across the Periyar River in the then Travancore state (now Kerala). The dam, with a full reservoir level of