• Monday, Nov 18, 2019
  • Last Update : 12:29 pm

Chernobyl: The horrors of nuclear power

  • Published at 05:35 pm June 15th, 2019
Official poster of the record-breaking mini-series 'Chernoby' | HBO

The British-American historical drama, created and written by Craig Mazin and directed by Johan Renck, is already the highest-rated TV show on the planet

Audiences speculated that “Game of Thrones” might have been the best show HBO could ever have produced. Yet, just before the end of the eight-season-long journey series, HBO in association with Sky UK, released an astonishing and record-breaking mini-series titled "Chernobyl.”

The British-American historical drama—created and written by Craig Mazin and directed by Johan Renck—is already the highest-rated TV show on the planet, according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), since the release of its first episode on May 6.

After binge-watching the first three episodes of the miniseries on HBO Now, the first thing that came across my mind was the writer and creator of the show, Craig Mazin, who is famous for co-writing “The Hangover” trilogy. How did HBO place its bets on him to spearhead a major budget production related to something as sensitive as the Chernobyl explosion? However, the network placed their bets right, and it is the best TV show I have ever watched.

The five-episode-long miniseries is the dramatic reenactment of the chain of events that caused the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of April 1986 – and the unprecedented cleanup efforts that followed.

The critically-acclaimed show features Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Emily Watson, and Paul Ritter in lead roles; their performances will surely haunt you as if you had been directly exposed to Chernobyl's radiation.

“Chernobyl” is mainly based on the memories of Pripyat (the Soviet Union city closest to the reactor) locals, as told by Belarusian Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich in her book, “Voices from Chernobyl.”

It dramatized the true story of one of the worst man-made catastrophes in history; revealing how and why it happened, telling the stories of those people who helped and died tackling the disaster, and dissecting the Soviet cover-up.

Another major thing that hit me was how this was one of the rare US productions that handled Soviet people from a humane perspective. Though shot in English, the mood of the show feels very Soviet. Yet it was not like the stereotypical Hollywood productions where every time we see a Soviet citizen in the frame they are talking only about destroying the United States. Instead, the lead trio of the show are seen dedicatedly working day and night to contain the radiation and stop the thermal explosion which could have killed millions of people across Europe.

The direction, cinematography and editing style, cast's Soviet era costumes and makeup, production design of the catastrophe, and everything in between, has set a completely new standard for TV productions.

Even though it appears to be told from a neutral point of view, Russia recently claimed that the show misinformed the global audience and they will produce their own show on the matter.

Russian director Aleksey Muradov, who will direct the Russian “Chernobyl,” told the BBC that their production will show "what really happened back then." The Hollywood Reporter reported that the Russian culture ministry has contributed 30 million rubles ($463,000) to the show. According to the Moscow Times, the NTV show will be based on a CIA agent sent over to sabotage the nuclear power plant.

With the international media's attention drawn to the 1986 nuclear plant explosion and the horrors it brought, I think about how Bangladesh is heading towards nuclear power with the ongoing construction of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant Project (RNPP) in Pabna. When global warming is a harsh reality, the average temperature of the planet is growing exponentially, and developed countries are shifting to renewable energy, then how is building a radioactive power plant in a small, overpopulated country like Bangladesh a good idea? 

I understand that nuclear power has no carbon emissions, and nuclear disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima are rare occurrences, but that does not mean that they are foolproof. Is Bangladesh really ready to cope with even a small nuclear incident? Especially seeing what happens with irregularities already being regularly reported about Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant? 

Siam Raihan is a film editor and a sub-editor at the Dhaka Tribune’s Showtime Desk