How do you make a subject like air pollution entertaining while at the same time conveying the essential message across to the intended audience? Answer: take the two most popular comedians in the country and make a telefilm with animation to appeal to viewers of all ages.
That is what the Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) and International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) did: join forces with popular comic duo Madan Krishna Shrestha and Hari Bansa Acharya (MaHa) to produce Dhuwa (Smoke), which was broadcast on 18 October in Nepal Television.
The infotainment format opens with two adorable animated parrots Madan Gopi and Hari Gopi (voiced by MaHa) sitting on a branch of a tree discussing how air pollution and climate change affects their health. The birds point out the major sources of air pollution and how humans have ignored its effects.
On the ground the viewer is introduced to Gangadhar (Hari Bansa Acharya), a chain-smoking plains-dweller who is always hunched around a bonfire discussing the abnormal fog during winter. While his son warns Gangadhar of the consequences of inhaling so much smoke, the Dad pays no heed. When he finally falls sick, a plane is not available to take him to hospital because of poor visibility. He has to take an ambulance to Kathmandu.
When Buddhi Man Kaji (Madan Krishna Shrestha) burns garbage in his front yard in Kathmandu, his new neighbour Ang Tsering Sherpa asks him not to do so. When Sherpa tries to explain how soot particles are trapped by temperature inversion due to the Valley’s topography, Kaji doesn’t take it too well. Sherpa invites Kaji’s family to lunch the next day and shows them a documentary on how the smog and haze is not only blocking the view of the mountains but also melting the snow, the rising temperature causing lakes to form where there once were glaciers. The Kaji family doesn’t like to be lectured, and leaves.
Kaji falls sick and ends up in the same hospital as Gangadhar. By then, both have finally realised the consequences of pollution in the environment as well as health.
The witty dialogue and animated characters make the film a fun watch and the producers succeed in raising awareness about pollution. Dhuwa informs the viewers about the main sources of air pollution, describes its effects on health and climate and points out measures individuals can take to reduce air pollution.
The storyline is a bit rushed, however, with too much information packed into 40 minutes. The moments of epiphany for both characters seem a tad forced. Do they really have to get sick to realise their misconceptions? MaHa are master comedians and have used the infotainment medium for various programs including HIV/AIDS. Dhuwa is not in the same artistic league, but is a good start to raising public awareness about air pollution and its links to health and climate.
Story/Script/Dialogue: Hari Bansha Acharya
Concept: Arnico Panday, Maheswar Rupakheti
Duration: 37 minutes