The development of human society has always been accompanied by the sharpening of inequality and the gap between the rich, and the poor, the strong and the weak, the powerful and the powerless. In this respect, the nature of people plays a vital role as it is this nature that does not allow humanity to eliminate inequality and live according to the laws and morality. Nowadays, politics also significantly affects the developmental processes in society and modifies human nature. The essay The Greater Common Good by Arundhati Roy and the film DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy by Aradhana Seth integrate these three major points, i. e. human nature, the struggle of the powerful and the powerless, and the role of politics in it, and consider them in the context of Indian society.
Human nature is the most original, and consequently the initially considered, problem raised in the essay and the film under consideration. In the essay, this problem is addressed through numerous philosophical remarks of the author who supports her point of view by quoting famous Indian policymakers like Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi (Roy, 1999). As well, the author integrates her personal emotions about the dam-building project with the public protest actions and political events that surround this event (Roy, 1999). Together, all these literary devices add to the credibility of the essay and to the reader’s understanding of human nature as one of the main causes of human misfortunes.
In the documentary DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy, the director Aradhana Seth resorts to the visual narrative technique to address the human nature problem. The documentary integrates the pieces from the essay with the real-life footage of the public protest actions against the dam-building project in Narmada Valley (DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy, 2002). As well, there are numerous insertions of the political speeches that illustrate vividly how human nature is able of subjugating the dignity to the financial interests of politicians and rich people in India (DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy, 2002). Moreover, the documentary features the interviews of ordinary people, mainly those to be displaced by the dam-building project, who do not understand why they have to pay with their land and their own lives for the wishes of the rich (DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy, 2002).
What is more interesting is that the author of the essay The Greater Common Good, Arundhati Roy, is perceived as a moral and strictly ethical person by both the readers of the essay and the audience of the documentary. Such a perception is formed by two major factors. First of all, Arundhati Roy is concerned about the problem that does not affect her directly (Chitram, 2009). In the documentary, she notices that she stands for the rights of the citizens of Narmada Valley just for the fairness of life, not because the building of the dam is going to destroy her own house (DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy, 2002). The second factor is that Mrs. Roy is firm in her beliefs no matter how the situation develops. She starts the campaign being confident about the correctness of her views and does not stop even when the Indian Supreme Court files a lawsuit against her, demonstrating the role model of how the powerless might defend their values in the struggle with the powerful.
The Strong and the Weak
The literary devices that Arundhati Roy uses to address the problem of the struggle between the powerful and the powerless are not numerous but rather effective as the reader understands from the first lines of The Greater Common Good what those powerful and powerless classes of the Indian society are. Among the devices, the use of appeals to the reader in the form of questions, numerous quotations, and irony can be mentioned (Sigamany, 2009). The questions like “What kind of country is this? Who owns it? Who runs it? What’s going on?” (Roy, 1999) characterize this essay that not only tries to answer them but also provokes readers’ thinking on these, and numerous other, issues.
The documentary can also be described as the film depicting the power of the people in their struggle with the government for freedom and rights. Generally, the documentary by Seth is rich in three types of scenes that include interviews by Arundhati Roy and famous Indian politicians, accounts on dam building, and the video coverage of public protest demonstrations against the dam in Narmada Valley (DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy, 2002). These demonstrations are rather numerous, and they show how people can, and want, to defend their rights. Finally, the film illustrates how Mrs. Roy not only calls for protests but takes an active part in them (DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy, 2002).
Thus, the moral character of Arundhati Roy can be observed in the highlighting of the controversy between the powerful and the powerless as well (Chitram, 2009). For example, in her essay, Mrs. Roy mentions several times her inclination to laugh when she hears how powerful people try to make concessions to the powerless ones. Arundhati Roy thinks it is better to laugh and refuse than take the concessions in the form of children parks for the people displaced from the Narmada Valley (Roy, 1999). Finally, when convicted to one-day imprisonment by the Supreme Court for the court offense, Arundhati Roy does not lose her commitment to the needs of ordinary people and shows by her own example how a seemingly powerless person might win the powerful system (DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy, 2002).
The topic of politics is also touched upon by Arundhati Roy in her essay The Greater Common Good as one of its major focuses. The major literary device the author uses in her essay to address the topic of politics is the simplicity of her writing (Sigamany, 2009). As Mrs. Roy mentions in the documentary DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy, her aim was for the essay to be accessible and comprehensible for the widest audience possible (DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy, 2002). Here, the main weakness of the essay, and the documentary, is observed. Mrs. Roy calls the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank the main agents of the dam building and the accompanying displacement of Narmada Valley citizens without presenting any specific evidence to support this claim.
Nevertheless, even this weakness is compensated by the visual narrative of the documentary in which the officials of the World Bank are shown as visiting Delhi and speaking about their great concern for the lives of poor people in India (DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy, 2002). Again, Mrs. Roy cannot but laugh at hearing this, and the film audience can share this feeling as it is hardly possible to believe that a person in an expensive suit is actually bothered by the poverty of the people whom he sees for the first, and almost certainly, the last time in his life. This skillfully selected video coverage allows demonstrating that the dam-building pursues strictly political, but not humane, interests, and will serve political purposes but not the purposes of improving the lives of ordinary people.
The moral character of the author, Arundhati Roy, is also manifested in regard to the political problems in India (Roy, 1999). Again, the purely humane, not materialistic, interest of the writer is proven by the fact that she is a famous and rather well off person whose life and wellbeing will not be affected by the building of the dam in Narmada Valley (DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy, 2002). What Arundhati Roy protests against is the political unfairness and inequality that should, and can according to Mrs. Roy, be fought by the public protests and attracting the attention of the global community (DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy, 2002). Thus, Mrs. Roy not only leads the protest demonstrations but also encourages people from all over the world to come to Narmada Valley and join the Narmada people after seeing the potential damage that the dam might bring (DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy, 2002).
Thus, the problems of human nature, the struggle of the powerful and the powerless, and the role of politics in it are considered as central in the essay The Greater Common Good by Arundhati Roy and the film DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy by Aradhana Seth. These problems are disclosed with the help of literary devices, visual narratives, and portrayals of the moral qualities of Arundhati Roy in the public struggle for the land and homes for the citizens of Narmada Valley who must be displaced from the native lands by the flood caused by the new dam planned in the Valley. The skillful appeals to the audience, simplicity of presenting the facts, and the purely moral approach to the tragedy of Narmada people add to the credibility of the essay and the film discussed; they also make both sources into powerful tools of social and political struggle.
Chitram. “Arundhati Roy.” 2003. A Life Full of Beginning and No Ends. 2009. Web.
DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy. Dir. Aradhana Seth. Narmada Dam Project. IMDb, 2002.
Roy, Arundhati. “The Greater Common Good.” 1999. Friends of River Narmada. 2009. Web.
Sigamany, Navin. “The Greater Common Good Review.” 2009. Book Reviews. Web.