Netflix’s Kaala Paani: How Much of the Story is True?

Netflix’s survival drama series ‘Kaala Paani’ revolves around an epidemic named LHF-27 that affects the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, threatening the lives of half a million people. When the local government tries to deal with the unforeseen aftermath of the bacterial outbreak, under the leadership of Admiral Zibran Qadri, a scientist/doctor named Ritu Gagra sets out to find a cure for the same. The Indian series progresses through a group of characters’ efforts to survive the outbreak with or without compromising their personal agendas. Since the series realistically portrays the consequences of an epidemic, the viewers might be eager to find out whether the same has roots in real life. Well, let us share the answer!

The Fictional Epidemic

‘Kaala Paani’ is not based on a true story. Through the series, writer Biswapati Sarkar and his team tried to explore what happens when a large number of individuals are denied the freedom and accessibility to leave the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Sarkar got the show’s basic premise after visiting the Andaman Islands as a child. “The basic idea of people being in cellular jail and they [the guide] are telling you ‘There’s no way [to go], the actual walls are six feet high, the real wall is the water, so nobody could escape, not because the walls are high, it is because there’s water everywhere,’” he told Press Trust of India about the origin of the survival drama.

The thought then stayed in Sarkar’s mind for a long time to lay the foundation of the show’s narrative. I felt, ‘Wow, what if this happens to us, and what if we can never leave this place.’ That thought stayed with me for quite some time,” he added. Sarkar and his team of writers then conceived the fictional LHF-27, a disease that spreads throughout the Andaman Islands, isolating the region from the rest of the world. The epidemic, as far as the writers were concerned, is a narrative tool to lock up the characters on the islands to dive into their psyches.

The Survival of the Fittest

The series can be seen as a critique of the application of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. When the Andaman Islands get plagued with LHF-27, the powerful people choose to exploit the tribal community, the Orakas, living in the region. They consider the tribe inferior to the modern civilized humans, whose lives can be saved by jeopardizing the existence of the former group. Through the actions of the authorities, the show explores how people in power always find excuses to harm the underprivileged and wipe them out of the planet.

Whether it be officials like Qadri or businessmen like Saurabh Wani, they write off the Orakas’ right to exist only because they cannot defend themselves and they do not have access to the wonders of the modern world. Although the challenges the Orakas face in the survival drama are fictional, several tribes and communities have confronted similar threats throughout the world in the history of humankind. ‘Kaala Paani’ sheds light on those threats, which are imposed in the name of the “survival of the fittest,” through the Orakas’ lives.

The Rights and Wrongs

The fictional series also explores the highly intricate conundrum of separating right from wrong, which is relatable and universal. In the show, as happens in reality, the characters are forced to distinguish what’s right and what’s wrong. When the cure for LHF-47 becomes essential, Qadri confronts his conscience to decide whether killing the Orakas is the right choice for the sake of the rest of the Andaman population. Santosh, on the other hand, has to believe that murder is the right decision to safeguard his daughter.

Through the choices characters such as Qadri and Santosh make, the writers succeed in depicting the moral dilemmas humans deal with in the face of severe adversity. Even though the circumstances are fictional, the conflicts that affect these characters remind the viewers of the difficult choices one has to make in life.

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