21 Aug 2010
In a 2009 interview, Indian activist, Vandana Shiva, argued, "Over the last decade, 200,000 farmers have committed suicide (in India)…In Vidharbha, 4,000 are committing suicide annually. This is the region where four million acres of cotton have been grown with Monsanto's Bt cotton. The suicides are a direct result of a debt trap created by ever-increasing costs of seeds and chemicals and constantly falling prices of agricultural produce."
Over the years, the plight of Indian farmers has been well documented by progressive commentators, particularly, those engaged in anti-corporate struggles.
Now finally, after more than a decade, Bollywood tentatively dips its toe into engaging with this severe social crisis through the movie, "Peepli Live."
Bollywood A-lister, Aamir Khan, producer of the movie, espouses archetypal conventional wisdom when he contends that “Peepli Live” is not about farmers’ suicides in as much as it set against the backdrop of these suicides. He says that the film is about survival and the growing divide between urban and rural India.
Nevertheless, Khan’s film does shed light on the crass nature of globalised capitalism when debt-ridden farmer, Natha, decides to take his life so his family can benefit from the 100,000 Rupees that the government will pay to his surviving family members as compensation.
Natha’s planned suicide descends into a surreal and farcical event, as the media descend on his village to film the first ever “live suicide.” While politicians jump onto the bandwagon seeking to gain maximum political mileage from his heartrending circumstances.
“Peepli Live” was released on the 13th of August 2010. It also screened at the Sundance and Berlin International Film Festivals.
Watch the “Peepli Live” trailer in the clip above.