During the British Raj, Indian freedom fighters referred to the cellular jail in the Andaman Islands as ‘Kala Pani’ (translated: Black Water). Due to the remote location, the brutal methods of torture, the unforgiving conditions of the island, and the inevitable death, it was considered the black zone, and since water was on all sides, it came to be known as Kala Pani. The new Netflix series Kaala Paani (Dark Water) is not a series about India’s independence; instead, it takes us into the future. The year is 2027, and it has been seven years since the deadly coronavirus disrupted the lives of billions across the globe. The memory of superspreader disease is still fresh, and the sight of masks, frequent temperature checks, sanitization, and containment zones immediately reminds people of the pandemic years. Therefore, when tourists suddenly came across the precautions taken by the administrative bodies in the Andamans, they became suspicious. Is it the coronavirus again? And if not, what was the reason behind the sudden panic? The horrifying truth eventually surfaced, and a fun vacation in the islands turned into a nightmare.
What was the leptospiral hemorrhagic fever?
A self-sufficient, no-nonsense professional, Dr. Saudamini Singh was the Chief Medical Officer at the Central Hospital in Port Blair. She always believed that medical cases were often not as complicated as they were generally assumed to be. Her guiding principle was that the right answer was always the easiest one. Dr. Singh quarantined eleven of her patients who showed similar symptoms. They all had a high fever, a dry throat, and nausea, and what caught her attention was a rare symptom—black rashes on the nape area of the neck. Singh has been researching the disease, and she realized that its symptoms were similar to those of a mystery disease spotted in 1989 in the Andamans.
Singh had called for an expert to help her with her research, but instead, a post-doc fellow from NICD, Ritu Gagra, was sent from the mainland. Initially, Singh was reluctant to share the details with Ritu, but gradually, the young scientist won her trust. Singh was all the more worried because of the Swaraj Mahotsav that was right around the corner. Thousands of tourists were supposed to arrive at the island, and if the unknown disease turned out to be potent, it could be a recipe for disaster. Singh expressed her concern during a board meeting with Lt. Gen. Qadri about the festivity planned by the private company ATOMS. The crooked SDPO, Ketan Kamat, laughed off her worries, stating that the symptoms were caused by adulterated alcohol. Since there were no new cases in the last 48 hours and the police had a confession from the owners of a local alcohol shop admitting to the allegation, Singh’s concerns were considered baseless. Singh had no choice but to allow the Swaraj Mahotsav to take place as planned.
While Singh came to believe that the problem was indeed a simple one, a reply from her patient left her startled. One of her patients stated that he had not consumed alcohol recently, and most people in his locality avoided alcohol during the lunar cycle for religious reasons. Singh realized that Ketan’s explanation was false, and she headed to Jenkins Island to find the truth. She was left dumbfounded upon reaching the settlement near Jenkins Lake. There were dead bodies all around, and everyone died because of the disease. A little girl begged for water, but she refused to drink the water from the lake. Singh realized that it was the water that had infected the people. The pipelines recently installed by Atoms drew water from the lake, which traveled to other parts of the island. With all her strength, Singh tried to make her way through the muddy, marshy trail, but she failed. She suffered a head injury, but until her very last breath, she tried to warn about the possible threat. While Saudamini traveled to Jenkins Island to decipher the truth, Ritu repeatedly went through the information she had and came to the conclusion that it was a waterborne infection spreading through Jenkins Lake. When Singh’s body was found there, Ritu became all the more certain of her theory. A meeting was held with Lt Gen Qadri, and Ritu and Sashi explained to the board how life-threatening the disease was and the importance of taking precautionary measures immediately. Lt. Gen. Qadri announced that isolation was the need of the hour, but at the same time, the general public must not find out about the disease. He believed it would lead to panic and that the situation would be impossible to control. The disease was termed leptospiral hemorrhagic fever, or LHF 27.
Why did Chiranjeevi volunteer for the treatment?
Chiranjeevi, the scorpion of his house who believed in making a profit even in the worst of situations, had a deep-rooted hatred for the indigenous tribe, the Oraka. Chiru’s father lost his life fighting for the rights of the Orakas, and during LHF 27, his mother dedicated her life to protecting the Orakas and ultimately died after she contracted the disease. Chiru believed that the natives did not deserve any special treatment, especially after finding out that they were not affected by the disease. He decided to get hold of an Oraka man and find out how they managed to fight the disease. Chiru abducted a native, Enmae, to get to the bottom of the truth. He gradually realized that his suffering was rooted in the loss of his parents and not the Orakas. He later blamed himself for risking Enmae’s life when the police got hold of the native man.
The police force headed by Ketan was searching for the Orakas to find out about the Andamani Echinacea. Ritu learned about the plant from Dr. Singh’s research, and she believed that it could be the only cure for LHF 27. It was assumed that the Orakas would know about this mysterious plant that was impossible to find. Right before Enmae’s arrest, Chiru found out that Enmae had the same pendant that his parents were gifted by the Orakas. Through the course of the seven episodes of Kaala Paani, we find out that Chiru was adopted. His mother was an Oraka woman raped by a city poacher who threatened to burn her son alive if she dared to give birth. Parvathy and her husband tried to protect the indigenous woman, but the poachers got to them. Chiru’s birth mother risked her life to protect him and ultimately handed her infant to her saviors. After finding out his truth, Chiru suffered from immense guilt and searched for an opportunity to reach out to Enmae and ask for his forgiveness.
After conducting some preliminary tests on Enmae, Ritu was surprised to find out that the peptide required for countering LHF 27 was already present in Enmae’s body. The Orakas had found the cure for the disease centuries ago, and as a result, in the present day, Orakas are immune to LHF 27. Since the plant was still undiscovered, extracting the peptide from the Orakas was the only hope, but the entire process was a risky affair. Ritu warned the administrative figures that it could result in the death of Emnae as well, but saving thousands of lives was considered to be far more important than protecting a native man. Since Ms. Shaw, Director of ATOM South-East Asia Division and wife of Atom CEO Brandon Shaw, was also infected, treating her was a priority. The company agreed to help five thousand uninfected people escape to their private island, Huxley Island, only if they could cure Swasti Shaw.
When Chiru found out that the doctor planned on operating on Enmae, he disclosed that he, too, was immune to the disease because he was half Oraka. He volunteered to go through the process to protect Enmae. Since he was the one who risked Enmae’s life, he believed he owed it to the entire Oraka community. The procedure was headed by Ritu, and even though there were complications in the end, it was a success. Both Chiru and Swasti recovered. Swasti’s recovery proved that Ritu had a theory and that it was the only way to save the thousands of people trapped in the Andamans.
What Was The Attavus Project?
Ketan recognized the word ‘Attavus’ when he communicated with Enmae. The Attavus was the burial ground of the Orakas, and Emnae believed that the city people had disturbed their ancestors, and that was why they were cursed with the deadly disease. Ketan conducted a brief study and found out that the Oraka graveyard was assumed to be a reservoir of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Upon questioning the people at ATOMS about it, Ketan found out that the Attavus project was not as sinister as he had assumed it to be. The Oraka graveyard was part of Jenkins Botanical Park, and the Orakas had spread the seeds of the mystery plant there. Unaware of the significance of the plant, ATOMS uprooted the area to convert it into a helipad for easier accessibility for their CEO, Brandon Shaw. The helipad was built keeping in mind the aesthetic pictures that would be produced with Jenkins Lake as the backdrop. Ketan did not expect the explanation to be as simple and ridiculous as it turned out to be. The reason thousands of people were suffering was that a rich man decided to build a helipad in an environmental buffer zone. Ketan was a selfish man who never cared about being morally correct and did everything for his own interest. The Attavus project proved how one man’s selfish interest could harm an entire population, a lesson that Ketan had to learn the hard way.
Why was Ritu hopeful about finding the mysterious plant?
Ritu was in conflict when Lt. Gen. Qazi announced that to save the lives of the people trapped on the island, it was necessary to sacrifice the lives of the Orakas. Finding another solution was the need of the hour, and Jyotsna was her only ray of hope. As a nurse, Jyotsna had to overcome her traumatic past as she undertook the responsibility of taking care of two kids she found at the Swaraj Mahotsav. Kaddu and Parth were all by themselves, and Jyotsna took it upon herself to help them find their parents, who were trapped on Neil Island. Kaddu often suffered from fits of epilepsy, and Jyostna knew that the only person who could help them was the reclusive, bitter old man who lived in a bunker. Basu was strict about his rules, and he preferred steering clear of strangers. Jyostna convinced him to help her, and she and the kids spent the next few days at Basu’s bunker.
While staying there, Jyostna learned that during the Second World War, when the Japanese army had occupied the Andamans, they encountered the same disease and had lost their soldiers as a result. Basu’s bunker was once occupied by a Japanese doctor, and his diary disclosed that some people on the island were immune to the disease, and the Japanese called them the Chosen Ones. It was in the journal that Jyotsna found the picture of the Andamani Echinacea, and the doctor had also mentioned the locations where it was found. Later, in Kaala Paani, Jyostna accompanied Chiru to the hospital, and that was when she met Ritu. While discussing the possible cure for the disease, Jyostna realized that Ritu was searching for the same plant that the Japanese doctor discussed in his journal. She promised to get the journal for Ritu to help her in her quest for Adaman Echinacea. Ritu was ready to bet her life on information mentioned in a decades-old journal rather than watch the Oraka community perish.
How Does Season 1 End?
During Kaala Paani‘s ending, Jyostna was successful in reuniting Kaddu with her father, Santosh. After losing his wife and his son, Kaddu was Santosh’s only reason to live. Therefore, when Jyostna broke the devastating news that Kaddu was infected, he refused to accept it. Jyostna tried to convince Santosh to treat Kaddu in the Andamans since she was no longer eligible to travel to Huxley Island. Santosh believed that the medical facility was not equipped to treat the disease, and he could not afford to lose Kaddu. He was hopeful that she would receive the right treatment on the private island, but Jyostna was not in favor of his decision. To save his daughter, he was risking the lives of five thousand people, but Santosh did not care. He had spent hours alone in the wilderness with no food or water; he had traveled kilometers pretending to be an ambulance driver to meet his children; he had to cope with the loss of his wife and his son in a span of a few days; and it would all mean something if he at least returned home with his daughter. When Jyostna threatened to take that away from him, he lost his mind.
A few hours back, Santosh was on his knees, thanking Jyostna for protecting his children, and here he was, grabbing her neck with both his hands and choking her as tightly as he could. Good and bad no longer existed for Santosh; it was all about survival. At the end of Kaala Paani Season 1, Santosh boards the ship to the private island with his daughter. While Lt. Gen. Qadri believed that he had successfully saved the lives of five thousand individuals, we can expect the private island to be in a state of crisis as a result of one infected individual in Kaala Paani Season 2. While Jyostna was no longer there to guide Ritu, Basu took up the responsibility of traveling to the islands where the mysterious plant was said to be found. Ritu is the only hope for a cure at the moment.
Season 1 of Kaala Paani ends with the Orakas encircling the police force who follow Chiru and Enmae to their settlement. The police were instructed to bring the Orakas to the city, but the indigenous tribe had already given thought to the threat, and their plan had always been to trap the enemy. Even though the police had guns, they could not use them because the Orakas were extremely valuable at the moment. Killing Orakas meant losing the only hope to counter the disease, and thus, the police were left in a helpless position. It will not be easy to capture the Orakas, and hopefully, Ritu will find the plant before the situation gets worse.
Jyostna’s childhood best friend, Vinayak, looked forward to meeting her, unaware that she was no longer alive. While Jyostna’s life ended on a tragic note, their friendship, in the form of Andamani Echinacea, will live on forever. Unknowingly, Vinayak had brought the seeds of Andamani Echinacea to school during their group project. He wanted their plant to look different, and his mother, Parvathy, handed him seeds of the plant that she knew was of extreme significance to the Orakas. To think of it, it is Parvathy’s relationship with the Orakas that will save thousands of lives. They shared their secret because they trusted her, and she unknowingly handed the medicine for a deadly disease to her son when he was young. The Andamani Echinacea is present within the school premises, and hopefully, Ritu or Basu will find out. Kaddu had taken a few leaves of the plant with her and named it Jyostna, after her favorite teacher. Will Jyostna’s love for Kaddu ultimately save her life? Well, we have to wait for Kaala Paani Season 2 to find out.