Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Farmers' Woes on Celluloid as "Peepli Live" is hoax

Farmers' Woes on Celluloid

Here are four films that take a more in-depth look at the issue of farmer suicides than the recent 'Peepli Live' did

By Satyen K Bordoloi
Posted On Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A still from Harvest of Grief

If you really care to know these, here are four films — two feature and two documentaries, each moving, poignant and true — that delve into different aspects and reasons for farmers plight and their suicides.
Nero’s Guest – Director: Deepa Bhatia (2009): Over 200,000 farmers have committed suicide since 1997. A calamity of this proportion, one would think, would have made it to national prominence, beginning with the media. Obviously, it has not. Nero’s Guests follows India’s only journalist to cover rural India as a beat – P Sainath of The Hindu – and the man largely credited to bringing the agrarian crisis to national consciousness by his ceaseless writings. The film follows him through Mumbai into the suicide capital of the world – Vidharbha in Maharashtra, as he tries to put farmer’s suicides into perspective.
Sainath is aghast that in a country where 70% people live in rural areas, no newspaper or TV News Channel has a rural correspondent. His image is reflected here as the angry young man of Indian media as he seethes with anger reminding us that while there were over 500 accredited journalists covering India fashion week, hardly an hours flight distance away in Vidharbha, the farmers who produced the cotton worn in this fashion show, were killing themselves often at the rate of 1 an hour.
Gabhricha Paus (The Damned Rain) – Director: Satish Manwar (2009): Ghabricha Paus is a scathing Marathi feature film that delves into the various problems of farmers in the country, right from the lack of rain, to excess rain, high seeds and pesticide costs, debts, and a unconcerned and apathetic government. Sonali Kulkarni gives the performance of a lifetime as a hassled wife, who scared by the suicide of a neighbouring farmer, tries her best to keep her farmer husband in good spirits. Her husband, a never-say-die farmer, meanwhile is irritated by her antics even as he grapples with insurmountable odds.
This debut feature of Satish Manwar, who himself hails from the Vidharbha region, is beautifully shot and its execution is poignantly restrained. There is no attempt to turn the plight of farmers into a weepy melodrama. It is a mature body of filmmaking that will not fail to tug at anyone’s heartstrings. Credit also goes to producer Prashant Pethe who funded this truly different film even as scores of producers backed out in the five years that it took Satish to make this film.
Jhing Chik Jhing – Director: Nitin Nandan (2010): It is not surprising that most feature films on farmers suicides have been made in Maharashtra. Farming is in disarray worldwide, yet it is Maharashtra that sees the largest ratio of land to famer’s suicide in the world. Jhing Chik Jhing takes the perspective of a child, who overhears his parents planning suicide for the entire family because they do not have a few thousand rupees. Determined to do something, he decides to win a race at school because a misprint in the notice board shows that the winner will get a large sum of money.
The film, though melodramatic, lays bare the apathy of society towards a suffering farmer. When the child exposes his father’s state of mind in school after he is not awarded the said money, the village blames the farmer for thinking such a heinous thing. But he in turn asks them what else could he have done when no one cares.
Harvest of Grief – Director: Anwar Jamal (2010): Punjab, thanks largely to the Green Revolutions of the 60s and a skewed portrayal by Bollywood, is believed to be a land of plenty, of green fields and happy people. However, Harvest of Grief paints a very different picture. It tries to find out the reasons why over 40,000 farmers have committed suicide in the state in the last two decades.
Besides the farmers plight, it also takes into account the traumatic consequences of the same on women, who find themselves unable to cope in a patriarchal society. With opinions from experts and activist on the agrarian crisis in the country, it also explores the human and social cost that the Green Revolution, touted as a solution to food shortage in the country, has had on the farmers of Punjab. It puts the blame of agricultural crisis on economic liberalisation, globalisation and the “myopic business strategies of profit-seeking multinationals.

Copyright 2008 Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. . All rights reserved.

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