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Greenpeace's new campaign: epic Bollywood posters to fight the govt

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 4:13 IST

The last year has been a rough one for NGOs. Following a 2014 report by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) that accused foreign-funded NGOs of working against national interest, the government has led a crackdown on NGOs across the country.

Between April and June this year, 13,000 NGOs had their licences revoked. But even amid all this, the government has reserved special attention for Greenpeace India. After being singled out in the IB report, things have only gotten more grim for the Indian arm of the international environmental NGO.

One Greenpeace activist was prevented from flying to the UK to depose on the alleged human rights violations by Essar. The NGO had its bank accounts frozen until the courts intervened. It has also had its Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licence suspended, reinstated and, most recently, scrapped altogether by the government.

This last move is arguably the most damaging one so far. It immediately disables the NGO from receiving foreign funding, the source for almost 30% of its total operating costs.

Greenpeace, for its part, has rejected the government's allegations that it works against the country's 'public and the economic interest'. Greenpeace has instead termed the government clampdown as an attempt to 'muzzle dissent in a democracy'.

But even as Greenpeace takes on the government in the Delhi High Court, with the case set for hearing on 17 September, it has also launched a novel new campaign.

In its bid to 'reclaim freedom of speech', Greenpeace's new campaign recreates iconic Bollywood posters to tell the story of its battles with the government as well as its campaigns over the last year.

As Vinutha Gopal, the interim co-executive director of the NGO, stated in response to the FCRA licence cancellation, "Our continued existence has been no less dramatic than the best of Bollywood."

Greenpeace employees and volunteers have come together to recreate and star in this series of posters. In addition to just the posters, they have also come up with alternative plot summaries for each poster recreation, that highlight the organisation's activities. And they've come out brilliantly. From cult classic Andaz Apna Apna to Lagaan, here's a look at some of them.

Greenpeace posters Swades

Plot summary: Set in modern India, Swades is a film that tackles the big issues of freedom, nationalism and what it means to be Indian. Through the protagonists' struggle to defend people's rights, it defines the diverse country that we call 'home'.

Greenpeace posters Lagaan

Plot summary: The year is 2013 and India's greed for coal is growing unchecked. Raess, an Indian steel and power conglomerate, has just secured rights to mine for coal - but its plans will destroy Mahan, one of Asia's oldest forests.

Outraged, the forest community has rallied together as 'Mahan Sangharsh Samiti' (MSS), to save their homes and livelihoods. They challenge Mr Ivar Urai, the owner of Raess, to a game of 'Gram Sabha: a game of real democracy', a sport that has been forgotten by the ruling powers.

If MSS can defeat the Raess team, not only will they save their home, but also protect more than 50 lakh trees and the livelihoods of more than 50,000 people.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham
Greenpeace posters kabhi khushi kabhi gham

Plot summary: Campaigning together for a sustainable future, the Greenpeace India family takes great pride in and shows great passion for the country.

But the Ministry of Home Affairs has other ideas, and launches a protracted war against the family. As baseless allegations and false charges throw the family into dire circumstances, this also makes the family members realise that they need to stick together in hard times and speak up for their beliefs and love for the country.

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron
Greenpeace posters Jaane bhi do yarro

Plot summary: A dark satire on the rampant corruption in bureaucracy, news media and business, featuring two bumbling Greenpeace campaigners who accidentally discover the shady side of the Indian tea industry.

Supported by a cast of skilled comics, they expose the Indian tea industry's 'standard practice' of selling pesticide-laden tea, and mobilise an entire nation to challenge the tea industry to adopt clean and sustainable farming technologies.

Is this modern day Mahabharata going to veer away from the original and go the way of the villains or is there still hope?

A Wednesday
Greenpeace posters a wednsday

Plot summary: Greenpeace India staff and supporters remember the fateful Wednesday that changed their lives. On 11 June 2014, a leaked alleged Intelligence Bureau report branded the organisation as a 'threat to national economic security'.

That day has altered the way it functions - the case of an organisation fighting for India's environment, a leaked and malicious government document and more than 75,000 Indians backing the organisation.

Andaz Apna Apna
Greenpeace posters Andaaz aapna apna

Plot summary: In this tragi-comedy that has acquired a cult status since the first Intelligence report was suspiciously leaked to the media in June 2014, protagonists try and dodge villains.

Watch their hilarious journey as local courts, high courts, tax and immigration departments get involved, playing an elaborate game of hide-and-seek.

The recurring twists come via court judgements which keep favouring the protagonists, though the villains blithely ignore the law. Who will win in the end?

Mr India
Greenpeace posters Mr India

Plot summary: A large-hearted farmer must risk it all and come up with clever ways to save his family farm when he discovers the evil genius Sonmanto's plans to release Genetically Modified Organisms into their fields.

Will he be able to save his community - and all of India - from the clutches of the megalomaniac organisation? Or will "Sonmanto khush hua" be the last thing he hears as he loses everything?

3 Idiots
Greenpeace posters 3 idiots

Plot summary: A classic coming-of-age comedy sees college classmates reunited in a search for their long-lost friend.

Reprising poignant memories of their mad youth, as they railed against social injustice together, they follow a tumultuous trail to track their friend down and ask him to help tell the world their stories. Will he be ready to ignite a new generation?

This isn't the end either, Greenpeace is also inviting submissions for more Greenpeace-themed Bollywood recreations as part of a competition. Here's hoping we're treated to more of these brilliant posters, and, as a bonus, raise some awareness as well.

First published: 5 September 2015, 6:45 IST
Ranjan Crasta @jah_crastafari

The Ranjan (Beardus Horribilis) is a largely land-dwelling herbivorous mammal. Originally from a far more tropical habitat, the Ranjan can now be found wandering the streets of Delhi complaining about the weather, looking for watering holes and foraging for affordable snacks. Mostly human, mostly happy and mostly harmless, the Ranjan is prone to mood swings when deprived of his morning coffee. Having recently migrated to the Catch offices, he now inhabits a shadowy corner and spends his time distracting people and producing video content to distract them further.