THE RAT RACE
DIRECTOR MIRIAM CHANDY MENACHERRY
“You should kill them politely, kindly, slowly,” whispers Behram Harda, the supervisor of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s pest control department, as he drowns scores of rodents in a bucket of water. Former journalist Miriam Chandy Menacherry’s first independent documentary, The Ratrace, is a journey across vermin-infested Mumbai alleys in the company of exterminators.
The narrative thrust is on the layered relationship between the pest and its killer. Rodents are transfixed with a torch beam before their skulls are smashed. But the film’s power lies in stories that aren’t sensationalist. The killers are regular people with practical objectives. Kazi is pursuing an engineering degree and Kamble wants to make a movie. A drummer swaps notes with a dancer after picking up blood-splattered rat carcasses with his toes. There are bitter exchanges about an unlikely pay hike over late night tea.
Adhering to an unwritten code of independent filmmaking, the focus stays on first-hand experiences instead of a broader probe of the impacts on public health. But the unscripted quips keep the documentary compelling, like Harda who says, “The difference between James Bond and us is that he has a licence to kill humans. We have one for animals.”