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‘Wonder Woman’ film review: A visual spectacle with brains and heart

Patty Jenkins’s wondrous spectacle is powered by Gal Gadot’s performance as the iconic superheroine.

Patty Jenkins’s Monster (2003) mapped a descent into hell. In Wonder Woman, the journey is reversed, beginning on the ground and moving full throttle towards the heavens.

In one symbolic sequence in the origins story of how Amazonian warrior Diana evolved into Wonder Woman, the titular heroine (Gal Gadot) flies to the top of a church, smashes a sniper’s hideout and floats in the sky, sealing her foretold demigod status.

Best known for directing Charlize Theron as a prostitute who becomes a serial killer, Jenkins has applied her keen eye to the boilerplate superhero movie. She flips the predestination trope so dear to the comic book universe to suggest that Wonder Woman isn’t only fated to change the world, but that it might become a better place with her in it.

Jenkins balances hippy-dippy sentiment with the muscular imperatives of the big-budget action spectacles drawn from comic books. Jenkins’s screen version, which is set against the backdrop of World War I, channels the iconicity of Zack Snyder’s films and the politically astute updates applied by Christopher Nolan to popular yet dated material. Gal Gadot’s titular heroine’s dismay at the state of things – warmongering and weapon-making, sexism, the lack of empathy for the victims of battle, the absence of diversity and tolerance for different races and nationalities, and the general absence of peace – is deeply political and current. Diana’s tender romance with her mentor and love interest Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is also on an equal footing, and allows Pine his standout moments in a movie that is Gadot’s show all the way.

Protected by her mother (Connie Nielsen) and trained in warfare by her aunt (Robin Wright) on the remote Themyscira island, Diana finds the perfect excuse to put her skills to use when Steve’s aircraft breaches the barrier that protects their world. She joins Steve in winning World War I from the Germans, who she is convinced are being controlled by Ares, the God of War.

Diana is an innocent, having been shielded from the real world all her life, but even though she has not had any contact with the opposite sex, she knows how the dating game works. Men are merely for procreation and are unnecessary for real sexual enjoyment, she informs Steve in a paean to self-pleasure that is rarely found in a tentpole movie.

Pine also sportingly lets himself be used as a sex object in a moment that the Indian censors have blurred out.

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Wonder Woman (2017).

It’s not all subversion. Jenkins stages some truly spectacular fights, including an arresting tableau that explains how the Amazonian women came to inhabit Themyscira. The richly textured production design has a vintage matt-finish feel of the original comics like Snyder’s Batmans Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice did. The action sequences are grandly orchestrated and, in fact, allowed to drag on in case Diana’s proto-feminist worldview is deemed to be too preachy.

The beautifully old-fashioned romance between Steve and Diana allows Steve to coach Diana in the one thing she knows nothing about – the sexiness of slow dancing.

Raj Kapoor famously said about his movie Satyam Shivam Sundaram that audiences would rush into cinemas to gape at Zeenat Aman’s cleavage and leave with memories of her performance instead. Kapoor didn’t deliver on his claims since he had no intention of doing so. The inherent sexualisation of Wonder Woman – her barely there skirt, prominent breastplate armour, and perfect curvature – is inescapable, but Jenkins upends the situation with humour. Diana tries out a series of suitably feminine gowns after accompanying Steve to London, but rejects them all. How is one supposed to fight in these, she asks.

Diana’s beauty rarely escapes attention. Am I supposed to be frightened or aroused, asks Said Taghmaoui’s Sameer, one of Steve’s buddies. The answers to both are available in Jenkins’s intelligent and thoroughly enjoyable reimagining of the superhero genre. The director balances spectacle with contemporary concerns, and even though the movie tips towards political correctness – Steve’s companions all represent marginalised communities – and gets its plotlines a bit muddled up, the filmmaker ensures the one element missing from several recent comic book adaptations – wide-eyed wonder.

In a movie filled with striking imagery (the accomplished camerawork is by Matthew Jensen) and visual effects, one of the most empowering shots is of Diana emerging out of the trenches, ready to fulfill her destiny and rewrite received Hollywood wisdom on a woman’s place in the movies in the process.

Said Taghmaoui, Chris Pine and Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman. Courtesy Warner Bros.
Said Taghmaoui, Chris Pine and Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman. Courtesy Warner Bros.
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India’s urban water crisis calls for an integrated approach

We need solutions that address different aspects of the water eco-system and involve the collective participation of citizens and other stake-holders.

According to a UN report, around 1.2 billion people, or almost one fifth of the world’s population, live in areas where water is physically scarce and another 1.6 billion people, or nearly one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage. They lack basic access to water. The criticality of the water situation across the world has in fact given rise to speculations over water wars becoming a distinct possibility in the future. In India the problem is compounded, given the rising population and urbanization. The Asian Development Bank has forecast that by 2030, India will have a water deficit of 50%.

Water challenges in urban India

For urban India, the situation is critical. In 2015, about 377 million Indians lived in urban areas and by 2030, the urban population is expected to rise to 590 million. Already, according to the National Sample Survey, only 47% of urban households have individual water connections and about 40% to 50% of water is reportedly lost in distribution systems due to various reasons. Further, as per the 2011 census, only 32.7% of urban Indian households are connected to a piped sewerage system.

Any comprehensive solution to address the water problem in urban India needs to take into account the specific challenges around water management and distribution:

Pressure on water sources: Rising demand on water means rising pressure on water sources, especially in cities. In a city like Mumbai for example, 3,750 Million Litres per Day (MLD) of water, including water for commercial and industrial use, is available, whereas 4,500 MLD is needed. The primary sources of water for cities like Mumbai are lakes created by dams across rivers near the city. Distributing the available water means providing 386,971 connections to the city’s roughly 13 million residents. When distribution becomes challenging, the workaround is to tap ground water. According to a study by the Centre for Science and Environment, 48% of urban water supply in India comes from ground water. Ground water exploitation for commercial and domestic use in most cities is leading to reduction in ground water level.

Distribution and water loss issues: Distribution challenges, such as water loss due to theft, pilferage, leaky pipes and faulty meter readings, result in unequal and unregulated distribution of water. In New Delhi, for example, water distribution loss was reported to be about 40% as per a study. In Mumbai, where most residents get only 2-5 hours of water supply per day, the non-revenue water loss is about 27% of the overall water supply. This strains the municipal body’s budget and impacts the improvement of distribution infrastructure. Factors such as difficult terrain and legal issues over buildings also affect water supply to many parts. According to a study, only 5% of piped water reaches slum areas in 42 Indian cities, including New Delhi. A 2011 study also found that 95% of households in slum areas in Mumbai’s Kaula Bunder district, in some seasons, use less than the WHO-recommended minimum of 50 litres per capita per day.

Water pollution and contamination: In India, almost 400,000 children die every year of diarrhea, primarily due to contaminated water. According to a 2017 report, 630 million people in the South East Asian countries, including India, use faeces-contaminated drinking water source, becoming susceptible to a range of diseases. Industrial waste is also a major cause for water contamination, particularly antibiotic ingredients released into rivers and soils by pharma companies. A Guardian report talks about pollution from drug companies, particularly those in India and China, resulting in the creation of drug-resistant superbugs. The report cites a study which indicates that by 2050, the total death toll worldwide due to infection by drug resistant bacteria could reach 10 million people.

A holistic approach to tackling water challenges

Addressing these challenges and improving access to clean water for all needs a combination of short-term and medium-term solutions. It also means involving the community and various stakeholders in implementing the solutions. This is the crux of the recommendations put forth by BASF.

The proposed solutions, based on a study of water issues in cities such as Mumbai, take into account different aspects of water management and distribution. Backed by a close understanding of the cost implications, they can make a difference in tackling urban water challenges. These solutions include:

Recycling and harvesting: Raw sewage water which is dumped into oceans damages the coastal eco-system. Instead, this could be used as a cheaper alternative to fresh water for industrial purposes. According to a 2011 World Bank report, 13% of total freshwater withdrawal in India is for industrial use. What’s more, the industrial demand for water is expected to grow at a rate of 4.2% per year till 2025. Much of this demand can be met by recycling and treating sewage water. In Mumbai for example, 3000 MLD of sewage water is released, almost 80% of fresh water availability. This can be purified and utilised for industrial needs. An example of recycled sewage water being used for industrial purpose is the 30 MLD waste water treatment facility at Gandhinagar and Anjar in Gujarat set up by Welspun India Ltd.

Another example is the proposal by Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) to recycle and reclaim sewage water treated at its existing facilities to meet the secondary purposes of both industries and residential complexes. In fact, residential complexes can similarly recycle and re-use their waste water for secondary purposes such as gardening.

Also, alternative rain water harvesting methods such as harvesting rain water from concrete surfaces using porous concrete can be used to supplement roof-top rain water harvesting, to help replenish ground water.

Community initiatives to supplement regular water supply: Initiatives such as community water storage and decentralised treatment facilities, including elevated water towers or reservoirs and water ATMs, based on a realistic understanding of the costs involved, can help support the city’s water distribution. Water towers or elevated reservoirs with onsite filters can also help optimise the space available for water distribution in congested cities. Water ATMs, which are automated water dispensing units that can be accessed with a smart card or an app, can ensure metered supply of safe water.

Testing and purification: With water contamination being a big challenge, the adoption of affordable and reliable multi-household water filter systems which are electricity free and easy to use can help, to some extent, access to safe drinking water at a domestic level. Also, the use of household water testing kits and the installation of water quality sensors on pipes, that send out alerts on water contamination, can create awareness of water contamination and drive suitable preventive steps.

Public awareness and use of technology: Public awareness campaigns, tax incentives for water conservation and the use of technology interfaces can also go a long way in addressing the water problem. For example, measures such as water credits can be introduced with tax benefits as incentives for efficient use and recycling of water. Similarly, government water apps, like that of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, can be used to spread tips on water saving, report leakage or send updates on water quality.

Collaborative approach: Finally, a collaborative approach like the adoption of a public-private partnership model for water projects can help. There are already examples of best practices here. For example, in Netherlands, water companies are incorporated as private companies, with the local and national governments being majority shareholders. Involving citizens through social business models for decentralised water supply, treatment or storage installations like water ATMs, as also the appointment of water guardians who can report on various aspects of water supply and usage can help in efficient water management. Grass-root level organizations could be partnered with for programmes to spread awareness on water safety and conservation.

For BASF, the proposed solutions are an extension of their close engagement with developing water management and water treatment solutions. The products developed specially for waste and drinking water treatment, such as Zetag® ULTRA and Magnafloc® LT, focus on ensuring sustainability, efficiency and cost effectiveness in the water and sludge treatment process.

BASF is also associated with operations of Reliance Industries’ desalination plant at Jamnagar in Gujarat.The thermal plant is designed to deliver up to 170,000 cubic meters of processed water per day. The use of inge® ultrafiltration technologies allows a continuous delivery of pre-filtered water at a consistent high-quality level, while the dosage of the Sokalan® PM 15 I protects the desalination plant from scaling. This combination of BASF’s expertise minimises the energy footprint of the plant and secures water supply independent of the seasonal fluctuations. To know more about BASF’s range of sustainable solutions and innovative chemical products for the water industry, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.