VIDARBHA JANANDOLAN SAMITI
11, Trisaran Society, In front of
Tel No. (07235) 227387/ 227564 Mob No. 9422108846 / 9822593943
Ref: VJAS/PMO/590/2010 Dated 25/09/2010.
Hon'ble Information and Broadcasting Minister,
New delhi-110 011
SHRI L. SURESH,
CHAIRPERSON,FILM FEDERATION OF
Subject- Demand to cancel 'Peepli (Live)’s official Nomination to the
1.Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti (VJAS) , farmers advocacy group in vidarbha ,the epicenter of Indian ‘Agrarian crisis’ which has claimed 2,00,000 farmers suicides in last decade and Maharashtra western region which is termed as dying field of cotton farmers where more than 40,000 farmers committed suicides has objected the basic theme and script of film Peepli Live produced by a mainstream filmmaker Aamir Khan and Directed by Anusha Rizvi as a black comedy or lampoon or satire on very serious issue of agrarian crisis with hooking to absolutely wrong end that the ‘farmer is committing suicide for compensation’ , vidarbha farmers and farm widows arranged massive protest on 15th august on the day after the released last moth and urged Maharashtra Govt. to ban it’s screening immediately as it is hurting sentiments of 8 millions of distressed and debt trapped farmers of Maharashtra who are being forced to commit suicide due to wrong policies of Indian Government . We have officially lodged our complaint to Film Censer Board cancellation censorship certificate to the film which is pending before authorities for the final decision with the our valid objection that The film shows how the protagonist of the film (Natha) decides to commit suicide as he is about to lose his plot of land because he is unable to pay back the bank loan. The protagonist's brother encourages Natha to commit suicide so that his family can live off the compensation money. People all over
2.Now Film Federation of
3.We recalled that when vidarbha farmers and widows objected the Peepli (Live) with the arguments that issue of farmers suicide is painted in the movie and it has insulted the whole agrarian community and our objection was reciprocated by BJP national leader L.K.Advani as he was also pained with main theme of satire and wrote own his blog
Peepli Live theme should’ve been NREGA, not farmer suicide: Advani
LK Advani wishes farmers' suicide wasn't the subject of Peepli Live
"I told Aamir Khan: I have been to villages in Andhra and Vidarbha where many such suicides have taken place. And I can well imagine how distressed these families would feel if they were to see the film and find that the tragedies they have passed through were being made an object of mockery. The film would have been very effective if it had chosen some subject like NREGA as the central theme
The villages which film goers generally see in Bollywood movies are phoney, studio outfits. As a rule, the actors are no different. They also are patently urban folk and not the farmers, rural folk etc, they portray in the film... But I wish for the main theme of the story, the film-makers had chosen some subject other than farmers' suicide.”
4.When section media reported that objection to movie is from the so called farmers leaders that when TEHELKA organised a screening of the film recently for Vidarbha farmers in the vidarbha villages and found that Urban audiences may be toasting the film but Vidarbha farmers strike a different note
Here are the true reactions of the farmers
WHEN WILL you commit suicide so that I can become a Thekedar,” asks Natha’s son in Peepli [Live]. The scene, along with many of its satirical moments, has given the audience a reason to chuckle and its producers a reason to smile. But for those whose lives it sought to mirror, the film is a mockery of the reality they are a part of. This was evident when TEHELKA organised a screening of the film recently for Vidarbha farmers in the Pandhar Kawada village.
Labelled as the ‘suicide belt of
Sitting in a corner, Indubai Balakrishna Ashtekar, searches for a chapter from her life. As she finds it missing in the film, Indu begins to tell her story. Her husband Balakrishna was a farmer in Sakra and took a loan of Rs.60,000 from local moneylender Vijay Badkulvar. After paying the interest, the loan amount rose to Rs. 84,000. Having paid Rs. 65,000, he was hoping that the moneylender would waive off Rs. 19,000. It turned out to be wishful thinking. He mortgaged his land amid preparations for his daughter’s wedding while Badkulvar went to court. Unable to keep up, Balakrishna committed suicide in January this year. His suicide note held Badkulvar responsible for his death. Even though investigations followed, the police favoured Badkulvar. “Farmers do commit suicide, but not because of any compensation that their families can receive after their death,” says Balakrishna’s widow.
A similar view is echoed by Aparna Sanjay Malikar who lives in Barakathva village Her husband met with a similar fate after failing to repay a bank loan of Rs. 1.5 lakh.
The farmers often take loans from banks to buy seeds. But after a disappointing harvest, they find themselves unable to repay. Last year, the rainfall was below expectations while this year it has surpassed all. In both cases, the profits are affected and, consequently, the debt remains unpaid. Some of the farmers who also take loans for their children’s education, marriage and health are left in the lurch. While Peepli [Live] has been lauded for its unique theme and entertainment quotient, no one in the audience seemed to believe that the film even came close to mirroring their dilemmas.
‘The film insults the wives and children of such families,’ says Bharti, the widow of a deceased farmer
Some of them even lament that as the number of people committing suicides rose in Vidarbha, cases were filed against the moneylenders. “As a result, most moneylenders have stopped giving loans to the farmers,” says Devdutt Anandrao Jadhav, a farmer from Ghatanji taluka. This state of affairs, like several others, does not find a mention in the film. No wonder then that most audience members found it making a “mockery of our situation”. “No farmer would like to die hoping to get compensation for his family after his death. In fact, most families do not even get money,” says Bharti, widow of a deceased farmer. “The film insults the wives and kids of such farmers.”
MOST VILLAGERS seemed to believe that theirs is a peripheral reality that can only make for a black comedy — nothing more, nothing less. Kishor Tiwari, president of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, an organisation working for the welfare of farmers, says Peepli [Live] did well in urban centres because the audience there is far removed from reality. “Thank god, it did not come to villages,” he says. Mohan Yadav, who also works for the Samiti, says, “The film shows how media and politicians get involved when Natha announces that he’d commit suicide. In reality, when farmers commit suicide, even the Tehsildar does not bother to check.”
More voices come up as the screening reaches its final scene and the farmers sense a disconnect from the film’s social milieu. Bheemebai Takaam, an Adivasi woman from Yavatmal, throws light on a recent incident that ended in dozens of farmers being arrested in Dharmagota. Their crime? They had been using government-owned land for farming.
Commercial success, great acting, superb direction, Peepli [Live] has had several feathers in its cap. For these farmers, however, the film is little more than a fable.
5.Here are the reports of some famous documentary makers who have made very serious documentaries on farmer suicide and has very strong opinion that farmers suicide can not be issue of any type black comedy or satire ,
Peepli Live' is not about farmers, say documentary makers
MUMBAI: What is common between Anwar Jamal and Prashant Pethe? They have made features and documentaries on farmers and do not believe that "Peepli Live" has much to do with the acute problems faced by
"'Peepli Live' is a film about the insensitive middle class, the media, politicians, etc. Nowhere is it a film about farmers. Where are the causes that lead to his condition, his problems with seeds, monsoon, pesticides, etc.? The real issues of farmers are never touched upon," says Jamal, director of the moving documentary "Harvest of Grief" on farmer suicides in
While most know
According to a report, 200,000 farmers have ended their lives since 1997 and it is said the rise in indebtedness is the root cause of farmer suicides.
Deepa Bhatia's "Nero's Guests" is a gut wrenching documentary that shows the contrast between city life, and that of farmers in the country. The film, which took her five years to make, travels to the farmer suicide capital of the world - the Vidarbha region of eastern
Deepa, a reputed editor of Bollywood, says, "Farmer suicide is a crisis of huge magnitude that has not got adequate space either in the media or in the mind of the middle class. Sadly, most urban people don't engage with society. I wanted to understand the issue and having known P. Sainath, I found in him the right means to approach the subject."
Deepa had collected over 500 hours of footage for this hour-long documentary.
Satish Manwar, director of what is by far the most popular feature film on farmer suicides and also the most poignant - the Marathi film "Gabhricha Paus" (The Damned Rain) -, says, "
"But it is an issue waiting to explode and unless we as a society pay attention to it, it will snowball into a major internal crisis."
The desire to engage was what prompted Satish, himself from the dry Vidarbha region, to slog for four years before he found a financier. "It was a 'different' and difficult subject which no one was willing to fund. Finally after a producer backed out, Prashant Pethe produced it."
This black comedy about a wife, who, distraught by a neighbour's suicide, does her best to keep her farmer husband in high spirits, proved to be a critical and commercial hit and has recovered its money.
But even Satish feels that "Peepli Live" is not really about farmer suicides. Yet, neither he nor anyone else has any complaints about "Peepli Live" as a film and believe the very fact that it got made is a cause for celebration.
It no doubt brings farmers' plight into the limelight. They now want to ask the people "what do you do, now that you know?"
"You have to decide that for yourself. I can only show you and I have. There are so many issues; just start engaging with life around you and do what you can," says Deepa.
6.Honorable Minister when a Ph.D. Student ,Department of Social and Political Thought
Peepli [Live]: Peeping Live Through The Fake Realities On Screen
By Nishant Upadhyay
30 August, 2010
Over 200,000 farmers have committed suicide across
In brief, the story is about 2 brothers Natha and Budhiya. Unable to repay a bank loan they took for farming they are on the verge of loosing their ancestral land, unless they pay interest on the loan. With nowhere to go and full family to look after, Budhiya persuades Natha to commit suicide when they learn that the government is willing to compensate families of dead farmers with Rs. 1 lakh. This “sensational” news of a farmer suicide is soon picked by national news channels. The story is less about Natha but more about how he becomes the focal point for media and politician circus. His plight becomes a tool in the hands of those with power (media, politicians and police) for personal gains. The film offers an excellent critique of media and politicians. But that is not something very novel now. What the film could have done was to give insights to the politics of suicides and agriculture. With less surprise, the film fails to do so.
Aamir Khan is touted as the new liberal, politically conscious and aware of his moral responsibilities. His previous films have to be acknowledged for raising issues like anti-colonial politics (Lagaan), “radical” student politics (Rang De Basanti), competitive pressures faced by middle class children (Taare Zameen Par) and Indian society's obsession with career oriented education aka engineering (3 Idiots). A lot could be said about these films, but I just want to say one line. Despite my strange liking for Aamir Khan and his work, these movies dealt with the issues in a very superficial ways and barely touched the surface.
True to his approach of mainstreaming serious cinema, Peepli [Live] is a big disappointment on many fronts. It is true that this is a popular multiplex film, then why should I spend so much time and energy critiquing it? For a political cynic like me, such attempts are of no worth. But I think it's important to critique it since the film and its reception collectively presents a pseudo liberal aura of political consciousness, intellectuality and morality. So a film that prides itself on being politically and intellectually driven (along with the audiences), and yet fails to go even a nanometer beneath the surface needs to be critiqued.
It would be unfair to say that the media has not covered the issue of farmer suicides. It has, but not enough to understand the issues clearly. Apart from the reports by P. Sainath and Vandana Shiva, there has not been much information available on agrarian crises. Experts and intellectuals blame these suicides on the polices of trade liberalization, corporate globalization and large scale industrialization of agriculture. The beginning of present agrarian crisis needs to be located to the 1980s when the terms of trade were going against agriculture , urban-biased policies were dominating the capitalist state policies, and farming was becoming a loosing proposition. The crises are ecological, economic, and social, each inter-linked with the other. So right from Green Revolution and its terrible aftermath in Punjab and production of Bt-Cotton, to large scale land acquisition of agricultural lands for not-so-public projects (like SEZs, malls, sanctuaries, townships etc.), introduction of GM food crops, contract farming, land displacements and many others, have led to the present dismal state of agriculture in India. Things are so bad, that the farmer can no longer sustain her family and opt for suicide as a final solution. It's not that the state is not aware of this. In fact, it is the neoliberal state that is actively working to undermine agriculture and “move” the country towards “modernity” and capitalism by adopting industries and disowning agriculture. The government's urban-centric policies are forcing farmers and agricultural laborers to quit agriculture and move to cities. This is supposed to somehow narrow the disparities gaps between rural and urban
Against this backdrop, Peepli [Live] hardly talks about the factors that may have led to Natha and Budhiya to talk about suicide. Somehow the film ends up trivializing and mocking such a grave issue. I wonder how hard it would have been to throw a line or two about this context in the middle of the whole mocking of individual media persons and politicians? How hard is it to critique the state policies, corporate houses, class/caste relations and capitalism? I guess...very! Which class and corporate interests is the film catering to?
In the quest of neo-realism and authenticity, the cast of the film is mostly unknown and new. The village was also quite “authentic” looking village. The village characters are made realistic by making them swear a few times in each line and speaking aggressively. So I guess a person is more of a real villager if s/he swears a lot. That's authentic! The film at moments is no better than some orientalist images of poor
Caste is always downplayed in Bollywood. There's a small reference to a dalit leader hijacking Natha's suicide as a caste issue, but caste relations are not questioned or challenged in the film. What role do caste relations play in the village and farmer suicides? Many reports have shown how indebtedness and agrarian failures have affected people from lower castes and class backgrounds more than those from the upper castes/classes. There is an expected silence on the caste question.
The portrayal of the female characters in the film is also very disappointing. The English news channel reporter appears to be unconsciously chasing leads for her personal gains and pride. Natha's mother, although bedridden, is always swearing and complaining. And Natha's wife is shown to badger and assault her husband, brother-in-law and mother-in-law. She is always shouting and abusive. There is not a single positive female portrayal in the film. In the hit song Mahangai, about rising prices, inflation is the husband's other woman who is eating away all the money from the farmer's pockets, wreaking havoc and ruining lives. The song is also performed in an all-male gathering. From a feminist perspective, there is a gendered dimension to the farmer suicides and indebtedness. These dimensions are much deeper than just shouting, complaining and swearing. How women positions and interests are compromised in times of financial crises? How do these suicides affect the “left-behind” women? Many reports, like by P. Sainath, have shown that women farmers have also committed suicides in large numbers, but the official (and unofficial) records deny these claims since women are hardly the owner of the land. Thus just because women are not the legal owners or workers on land they are denied the label of a “farmer” and hence their sacrifices and suicides are not worthy enough to be accounted for. The feminist movement(s) since their beginning have always stressed on price rises and agricultural problems, and made these issues their central issues. This gender discrimination and imbalance is a major issue in rural
In the closing scene we see that Natha is working as a construction worker in
I must also confess that I saw this film in a posh multiplex and along with the expensive tickets also bought the the giant combo deal of popcorn and drinks. I did initially feel guilty of buying this and watching Peepli [Live] and the apparent contradictions of my social positioning and politics. But that guilt soon withered away, when the popcorn and the drink became the only way I could sit through 96 minutes of torture. Along with the disappointment of the film, I was also annoyed by the way people around me reacted to it. Somehow for most people in the multiplex the film was a laugh riot. They laughed every time any of the village character swore, they laughed anytime the two brothers spoke. In the opening scene, traveling in a tempo, Natha asks his brother what will happen if the land is sold. It is a powerful scene. Yet people around me found it super amusing. I really failed to understand that why such a film generated so much laughter. Given the superficiality of the script, it was still not a funny film.
There seemed to be a strange tribute to the protagonist of Munshi Premchand's Godaan, Hori Mahato in the film. In the novel, Hori is a poor peasant who is desperately longing for a cow, since cow is a symbol for wealth and pride. He does get the cow but ends up paying for the cow by his life. Similarly in the film, Hori, a landless peasant, makes a living by digging earth. He dies while digging earth, which was his only way for survival. Thus Hori's plight hasn't changed in more than 60 years. While making this tribute to one of Hindi literature's biggest protagonist, the film still failed to question the continuance of farmers' plight and agrarian crises. Primarily because the film cunningly takes up from the moment the real event has already taken place. In a sensitive narrative, like the works of Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal and Govind Nilhani, the film probably would have ended with the farmer succumbing to the pressure of the financial crisis, minimal profit (or usually loss), government extortion and feudal oppression and consequently deciding to commit suicide. But what this film chooses to portray instead is an epilogue filled with media clowns and political ring masters.
The directors Anusha Rizvi and Mahmood Farooqui worked within the theatrical traditions of Habib Tanvir's Naya Theatre for the film. Naya Theatre traditions bear a great degree of respect for the poor and the oppressed. In this theatrical space, satire and humor is used extensively to make critiques of the state policies and the capitalist system. In his plays, Habib Tanvir always reserved the space for swear and aggressive language for the most downtrodden, the most oppressed. It's meant to give them the power to make the sharpest critiques and show their anger(s) and frustration(s). His most popular protagonist under this tradition is Charandas Chor. Even in the Sanskrit Natya-Shastra (Theatre), Vidhushak played this role. He would comment on contemporary situations and thus transcend the spatial and temporal dimensions of the narrative, and speak in languages other than Sanskrit to underline his class differences and political positioning. This feature is shared by different performance traditions and characters like Shakespearean character Falstaff. Perhaps due to this reason, we hear foul language mostly from Natha and his family. But this tradition becomes humorous and comical. The language looses its anger and critique and for the audiences it becomes comical (more so when the female characters use foul language). This transition from theatre to film thus is very fractured and weak. Instead of showing respect and solidarity with the oppressed and their problems, it ends up making them humorous. The film would have been much better as a theatrical performance, but as a film it is a dismal rendition of the theatrical traditions and styles.
A farmers advocacy group in Vidarbha, the area with the highest suicide rates, Vidarbha Janadolan Samiti (Vidarbha People's Movement Committee) has asked for a ban on the film. The group has urged the
The storytelling style is different, but the film refrains from making a strong statement. It failed to highlight the real issues and concerns of farmers. The real questions and problems are camouflaged behind the media and politician circus. The attempts for a satire turns out to be a sad caricature of the rural life. The village life has much more depth and layers than what this film set out to sketch. The agrarian crises is not a myth but a harsh reality that sooner or later the country will have to face. The film didn't seem to leave people questioning and disappointed with the status quo. It lacks the anger and creativity and leaves the audience unaffected. I am quiet confident that the filmmakers and the multiplex audiences would pat on their backs for making and appreciating such a political and moral film. This is the only way for the liberal middle class mind to free itself from its guilt and apathy. But how long can these minds run away from their guilt and apathy and not ask the questions and realities that haunt
Nishant Upadhyay is aPh.D. Candidate, Department of Social and Political Thought
7.Hon,ble minister would please arrange to read these comments that throw light on the fact how the movie has done larger damage to farmer suicide issue wrote jaideep hardikar who has been keeping watch on the vidarbha agrarian since 1997
Peepli (Live) is a missed opportunity
DNA / Jaideep Hardikar / Monday, August 30, 2010 18:16 IST
In 2004, reporting on the continuing agrarian distress, we stood surrounded by a group of farmers in a cramped hut of a village where a peasant had taken his own life. As the widow poignantly narrated to us the tragic process that had led her husband to commit suicide, a slim man, a farmer, sitting in the gathering said in the rustic local dialect, even as others giggled: “Amhi bi lainit havo ji [We, too, are in queue]."
Vidarbha’s countryside is full of such dark humour, which comes alive even in gloom.
Once the gathering had stopped giggling, the man added with chilling poise: “We must fulfil different conditions before we die if our families are to get compensation.”
As we found out and reported later, the man was right. The government indeed had some 40 conditions for the bereaved family to get compensation, a pro-forma that was dropped later to give quick aid to the families, a majority of whom are still to come out of trauma.
The first comment was dark humour; when he added his observation, it became satire.
That small event had ‘text’ (something had happened); ‘context’ (it’s been going on); and ‘sub-text’ (what people think about it), something that I expected to see in Peepli (Live), given the expectations aroused in the run-up to its release. It’s being lauded as a landmark film, but I came back unimpressed.
The film, seen like any other movie, is good, but in the context of discussion on it, it fails to meet those expectations and inexplicably stops – every time it promises to – short of entering into serious satirical depths.
I love good humour and effective satire. And I think our generation is missing films from that genre that blend contemporary issues with satire. The one movie that immediately comes to mind in that league is Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. I am not comparing the two films, but Peepli (Live) neither comes through as satire nor as a comment on the issue. I’d rate Well Done Abba, a Shyam Benegal film, as one recent film in that league.
Peepli (Live) uses the farmer (Nattha) as a hook, something that a television serial Bairi Piya did some time ago with the stereotypical portrayal of farm widows. Farmers’ suicides as an issue are on the public conscience. So they get used as a hook, but the film’s central plot gets lost in how the media trivialises an issue – any issue. Or their saturation coverage!
It’s a film that, like many other attempts in recent time, tries to scratch the surface, but as a commercial reality stops probing the core. In the process, it harps on stereotypical portrayals and flows with the popular general perceptions: corrupt and selfish politicians, poor and drunkard farmers, insensitive babus, quarrelling women, and raucous media.
A friend once argued, villagers are neither Luddites nor slaves; can we, as the media, not drop our preconceived notions about village life and look through the changes? In Peepli (Live), the filmmakers have not even attempted to show that changing village life.
The film has its moments and there are scenes that make you laugh, and some that are poignant and a telling comment on the state of affairs in the country, the most sensitive one being where Budhiya and Nattha (the two farmer brothers) are talking about how they are set to lose the land their forefathers tilled for ages.
This is the scene where the two talk of committing suicide to save the land for their future generations. Or the one where the babus deliver a hand-pump (Ek Lal Bahadur) as a solution to their problems!
Every time I thought the film was about to enter into depth, it stopped and deviated to another episode. It avoided getting into detail. There isn’t a scene where either Nattha or Budhiya are shown working their farms. You don’t see them as farmers.
I also found the characters half-baked: Nattha, Budhiya, the village itself, Nattha’s wife and mother (who are always quarrelling with each other), and even the agriculture minister Salim (played by Naseeruddin Shah).
In the end, I wondered, what’s the message that the film is attempting to deliver? Does it make me more sensitive or aware about the issue? Does it challenge my assumptions? And of all the questions, will it stay in my conscience for a long, long time? Alas, no!
Jaideep Hardikar, DNA's correspondent in
8.‘Peepli Live has made big question mark to 1,60,000 farm widows who are demanding compensation after their bread earner farmer committee suicide due to debt and crop failure as this movie shows that vidarbha cotton farmers are committing suicides for getting aid where as Govt. of Maharashtra has rejected more than 90% cases of farm suicides rejecting claim of dying family member of debt trapped farmer more Peepli Live will give strong support to politicians, bureaucrats and their apathetic approach towards problems that farmers are not forced to kill themselves where as they themselves killing for compensation hence we demanded the ban of the film and cancellation censorship certificate to the film but concern authorities has turned blind eye on issue resulting it’s nomination to as India's entry to the Oscars Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language film category.
You are kindly requested to arrange )" cancellation of Peepli Live nomination for
Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti