DAM/AGE traces writer Arundhati Roy’s bold and controversial campaign against the Narmada dam project in India, which will displace up to a million people. The author of The God of Small Things, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 1998, Roy has also published The Cost of Living, a book of two essays critical of India’s massive dam and irrigation projects, as well as India’s successful detonation of a nuclear bomb. In her most recent book Power Politics, Roy challenges the idea that only experts can speak out on such urgent matters as nuclear war, the privatization of India’s power supply by Enron and issues like the Narmada dam project.
As the film traces the events that led up to her imprisonment, Roy meditates on her own personal negotiation with her fame, the responsibility it places on her as a writer, a political thinker and a citizen.
As she puts it in DAM/AGE, “The God of Small Things became more and more successful and I watched as in the city I lived in the air became blacker, the cars became sleeker, the gates grew higher and the poor were being stuffed like lice into the crevices, and all the time my bank account burgeoned. I began to feel as though every feeling in The God of Small Things had been traded in for a silver coin, and I wasn’t careful I would become a little silver figurine with a cold, silver heart.”
The film shows how Roy chose to use her fame to stand up to powerful interests supported by multinational corporations and the Indian government. For her, the story of the Narmada Valley is not just the story of modern India, but of what is happening in the world today, “Who counts, who doesn’t, what matters, what doesn’t, what counts as a cost, what doesn’t, what counts as collateral damage, what doesn’t.”
In a clear and accessible manner, the film weaves together a number of issues that lie at the heart of politics today: from the consequences of development and globalization to the urgent need for state accountability and the freedom of speech.