Published on Apr 06 2013 // Filmmaking

Guest Article by   K. Vidya sagar  , Asst professor from INDIA : The Reflection of Farmers and their issues in Contemporary Indian Cinema with special reference to the Film Peepli Live 


The Reflections of Farmers and their issu es in Contemporary Indian Cinema with special reference to the Film Peepli Live– A critical analysis.


In a country like India where Agriculture is seen as the building block and alluring aspect of the developing country. The lives working relentlessly behind the legitimate cause are often neglected and rejected in the acting society. There can be many instances where the farmers in India are left betrayed and brutalized for less or no gaffe. The society has taken many drifts since from the Agrarian Society by switching its priorities. However the acting society may dwell in Information Age, the waves of the agrarian society are still felt and left with the farmers who feed the generation at the rate of noble and humbleness. In return the difficulties of the farmers at the contemporary are addressed by the information vehicles in a more efficient, effective and pertinent dynamics. At present the farmers are fed up of looking heights for the drops of water that showers the land with blessings, difficulties in understanding the role of markets, its alliances and the government are still chasing the backs of Indian farmers further led by the severe illiteracy, poverty and far reaching material satisfactions. It is the Media which is planting the green leaves of hope on the barren lands of a country surrounded by the abounded resources. In particular to the context of Film medium it is clearly evident with the films like Peepli Live (2010) directed by Anusha Rizvi, Kisaan (2009) directed by Puneet Sira, Summer (2008) directed by Suhail Tatari, Sontha Ooru (2009 ) directed by P. Sunil Kumar Reddy. The credibility of these films is evident with the respective director’s dialogue on choosing the Films subject.

“We are always talking about India being a superpower, and just 70 KM away from any of us, the reality is something else, where 70 Percent of the people are unhappy” said Suhail Tatari, Director of Summer (2008) while asking about the choice of the subject.
The film makers are now more active than before, presenting the social disparities and difficulties in a more valuable way that is appreciated by all the sections in a society is turned as new mantra for the Film success, (Perhaps it must be the Film Auteur Activism) and the alternative subjects has become the core elements of a film that is provoking and persuading the domain of audience which includes the Public and Public Servants.
The present study tries to enunciate the critical analysis of the films that are reflecting the farmer issues in connection to the social condition of the films temporal setting, with special reference to Peepli Live.
Key words: Peepli Live, Agriculture, Growth, indian cinema



Agriculture as one of the most conventional sector dominates the Indian economy. The advantages of the agricultural sector is well known for its employment, income generated, acts as a catalyst in the foreign trade and commerce, above all the genuine mission of providing food to the nation and its mankind. However, if we make an attempt to witness the share of agriculture in the Nation’s Gross domestic Product (GDP) may lead you to the disturbing truth that share of agriculture in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has dropped by nearly 5 per cent in the last eight years to 14 per cent, due to higher growth in other sectors. It is true that Agriculture & Allied sectors which used to contribute 19 per cent of GDP in 2004-05 have come down to 14 per cent in 2011-12 at 2004-05 prices, according to government data. It is truly a disturbing factor in a country like India which we call it as the developing country literally means the holistic development, rather than tending towards sides. Development is not taught, but it is caught is the renowned notion in the field of Development communication, but it contradicts with the current state of Agricultural sector, the lives behind the genuine cause should be initially provided with sufficient information by teaching them the innovative aids in the field of agriculture, later can accept them to catch up with the true meaning of the Development. As we all know, teaching can happen with the help of medium that essentially carries the information toi the domain of farmers – In fact we require a great deal of responsibility from the sides of message delivery systems, in addressing the informational needs and problems of the farmers towards an error and problem-free path of the development. Film as one of the fascinating and alluring aspects that actively run in the Indian society acts as effective agents which can truly disseminate information with a bit of responsibility and commitment to the field of agricultural development by closely holding the aspects of it. Perhaps Norman Denzin, film scholar has rightly mentioned in his concept well-known as Cinematic Society, which enunciates that the society we live in is defined and determined by the Cinema. Cinema has a unique favoritism in the domain of Mass – Audience and can bring great Mass-Mobilization towards the subject it bears. Development is an innate desire of human being, an urge to excel in the respective discipline by taking a new stage in the changing situation. In order to attain a new stage in the context of Agricultural Development, the farmers should be provided with the information about emerging innovative concepts and should be provided with a platform to practice or act upon the information received. Another important aspect and worth taking a note is thinking of development having an unresolved fatal errors is a prototype of foolishness. It is quite essential to address the problems that are survived and consistently prevailing in the society which are closely associated to the Farmers and Agriculture. It is Just to think a moment of Media and with special reference to the role of Indian films in addressing the problems of farmers on their way to the development is the core element of the current Research paper.


This film is a total black comedy. It is not about love, it is entirely different. And if you like this one, you should definitely watch the other one – Well Done Abba! Both films are about poor people dealing with bureaucracy in India. India and China all have large population of farmers, poor people. And both countries have tons of bureaucrats to deal with.
Natha Das ManikPuri (Omkar Das Manikpuri), better known as Natha, is a poor farmer from the village of Peepli in “Mukhya Pradesh”, who struggles to farm enough money for his family made up of his elder brother, Budhia Das Manikpuri (Raghubir Yadav), his wife, Dhaniya (Shalini Vatsa) and his ailing mother, Amma (Farookh Zafar), who spends most of her time lying down and screaming at Natha and Dhaniya. Natha and Budhia often pretend to go out farming when actually they save up whatever money they have to buy alcohol. This has left the whole family famished and now the banks are demanding repayment of loans or else the family will be stripped off their land and house. In the meantime, the Mukhya Pradesh Government have called a by-election due to continuous criticism of their blind eye towards the desperate poverty that surrounds India’s largest state. The opposition Apna Dal Party believe they have a chance to form the government in this election as the people have lost faith in the long-serving Sammaan Party and its Chief Minister, Ram Babu Yadav (Vishal O Sharma) who, along with Federal Agriculture Minister, Saleem Kidwai (Naseeruddin Shah), believes in the industrialization of rural areas.
To save his land and to save his family from becoming homeless, Natha, encouraged by his brother, decides to commit suicide after he attends a session with the rural headmen for help and they suggest him that committing suicide is a good way to get money waived off, after which his family will receive heavy compensation for his death. While Natha and his brother are discussing the same at a local tea stall, this news gets reported by Rakesh, a local reporter from Peepli. This report then gets picked up and highlighted by the national English news channels and reaches the Chief Minister. The media starts surrounding Peepli sensing the possibility of a sensational suicide story. One ITVN journalist particularly keen on filming the event of Natha’s death is Daytime Presenter, Nandita Malik (Malaika Shenoy). She joins the local reporter Rakesh Kapoor (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and takes desperate measures to interview Natha and his family on the subject of Natha’s suicide. However things get more tricky when rival Hindi news channel, “Bharat Live” finds out about Natha and Peepli. The news channel clashes with ITVN and each try to film Natha’s death in their own manner. The Sammaan Party also soon discover Natha’s plans and try to buy off Natha with sops to prevent him from committing suicide. Opposition Parties like the Apna Dal and the CPI also get involved and plan to use Natha as a path to power in the elections. Peepli soon becomes the centre of attention across Mukhya Pradesh.
Nandita’s frantic attempts to interview Natha get worse when Rakesh does not find Natha or anyone else in Peepli to interview. She seems unimpressed with Rakesh’s compassionate stand towards Natha and believes that as reporters their duty lies in reporting and following the news and nothing else. On the other hand, “Bharat Live” continues to be successful in their attempts to interview. Yet as time goes on, Natha does not die. Meanwhile the Sammaan Party realize that if Natha commits suicide, they will lose the elections. The rural headmen secretly kidnap Natha and hold to ransom for money from the opposition. Yet their plans are foiled when Rakesh discovers Deepak and his men holding Natha hostage at a Peepli barn. A rush occurs when people from Apna Dal, the CPI, ITVN, Bharat Live and Peepli villagers all rush to find Natha. In the confusion, a spillage accident from a Petromax lamp sets fire to the barn, which explodes and Rakesh is killed. The Government officials mistake Rakesh for Natha and refuse to pay Natha’s family the compensation money due to the death being an accident. Meanwhile Natha is in fact alive and flees to Gurgaon and is seen working as a daily laborer in the construction industry.His family loses their land to the bank.
Music of the cinema is just awesome with some rustic, satirical and deep hitting words. Desh Mera, Zindagi se Dartey ho are two tracks by Indian Ocean which complement the story and carry the story forward. The songs show the futility of life and the courage to stand against all odds, being human. Nageen Tanvir has sung Chola mati ke ram which is again a commentary on the futility of life that no one has come to live forever. Raghubir Yadav has sung the Mahangai Dayan which is so contemporary and so hard hitting that Opposition wanted to use it against the ruling UPA government (though the story would have been the same even if they ruled!!!)
Natha (Omkar) is one such farmer who is about to lose his land due to government debt. He has some options but all of them direct to the agonising death in a way or other. He can take money from some money-lender but why would one give him money. He doesn’t have any asset to back. Finally he gives a thought to suicide –a recourse that would entitle his family to claim benefits from government’s suicide aid scheme.
films like this which have contemporary relevance should be able to generate some debate and boil down some blood inside us.
She takes on everyone. News channels who spend days covering “Shilpa Shetty’s relationship with Prince William”. The constant war between Hindi news channels and English channels, with its very recognisable stars. The big city star anchors who exploit their small town journalistic contacts, for whom a story is just that, a story. The appalling medical care that sees patients putting on the IV drip themselves. The schemes, from Lal Bahadur to Indira Yojana to Jawahar Yojana named after prime ministers of the past. The politicians, only too ready to play one against the other, Centre against state, one caste against another.
A Dalit leader called Pappu Lal gifts Natha a huge television set, while an eager-beaver babu hands out a ‘Lal Bahadur’ (a hand pump in bureaucratic parlance) to the farmer. He has no use for either. A local henchman whose mobile ringtone goes Pappu can’t dance saala throws his own rough and ready brand of politics into the mix.
The sneaky, oily politician played by Naseeruddin Shah who is worried that the star anchor is ignoring him. The tea drinking bureaucrat who wants a fact finding mission for everything. The chief minister with a pappu cant dance ringtone who is desperate before a by-election. The government machinery that provides a handpump but no money to fit it, that gives a poor landless farmer a TV but no food to eat, and that asks him to die so his family can at least claim the Rs.1 lakh compensation for families of those farmers who commit suicides.
It’s also about the price of fame in contemporary India. Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri), the farmer who is encouraged to commit suicide by his good-for-nothing brother (Raghubir Yadav) becomes a celebrity, his little home with the handpump in the centre, the focus of the media circus. So much so he cannot even do potty without being accompanied by guards. One party wants him to die and become a martyr, another wants him to stay alive. The city folk adopt him, staging candlelight vigils.
Not just because it was shot in an actual village, Badwai in Madhya Pradesh, or because Rizvi and her crew spent 45 days just prepping for the film–so much so that her actors gave villagers their new clothes and asked them for their worn ones. But because Rizvi is such an acute observer.
The high point of the film indeed is its smart and sassy script. But more than all this, it’s the life-like portrayals that add a refreshing authenticity to the film. Handpicking the actors mostly from Habib Tanvir’s famed Naya Theatre troupe was indeed a coup for debutant director Anusha Rizvi. The show stealers here are Raghuvir Yadav, Omkar Das Manikpuri and Farrukh Jaffer. Jaffer’s old and acrimonious mom act is absolutely brilliant, even as Natha’s face mirrors the pain, anguish and confusion of a simpleton trapped between the contradictory pulls of a hungry family on the one side and an uncaring state — and polity — on the other. The music of the film deserves a special mention, with folksy lyrics and tunes by Indian Ocean, Nageen Tanvir, Brij Mandal and the rest. Just a word of caution: The film does tend to get repetitive midway and the story goes a bit low on the emotional conflict of Natha and his family, leaving them mostly as bystanders in the circus that revolves around them.
The film explores the clinical and incongruous response of the media and the ruling establishment to what is a life and death question for a farmer on the brink of becoming just another statistic in a never-ending tale of woes. This coldness is best captured in the nonchalant refrain of the natty agriculture secretary: “we must wait for the court’s order.”
A film that ends by informing the audience that “8 million farmers quit agriculture in India between 1991 and 2001″ and does so with the muscular backing of Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan and UTV Motion Pictures, one of the biggest production houses of the Mumbai movie industry, is nothing short of a miracle.

Farmers in India became the centre of considerable concern in the 1990s when the journalist P Sainath highlighted the large number of suicides among them. Official reports initially denied the farmer suicides but as more and more information came to light the government began to accept that farmers in India were under considerable stress. On figures there was much debate since the issue was so emotive. More than 17,500 farmers a year killed themselves between 2002 and 2006, according to experts who have analyzed government statistics. Others traced the increase in farmer suicides to the early 1990s. It was said, a comprehensive all-India study is still awaited, that most suicides occurred in states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Punjab.The situation was grim enough to force at least the Maharashtra government to set up a dedicated office to deal with farmers distress.
In 2006, the state of Maharashtra, with 4,453 farmers’ suicides accounted for over a quarter of the all-India total of 17,060, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). NCRB also stated that there were at least 16,196 farmers’ suicides in India in 2008, bringing the total since 1997 to 199,132 .According to another study by the Bureau, while the number of farm suicides increased since 2001, the number of farmers has fallen, as thousands abandoning agriculture in distress. According to government data, over 5,000 farmers committed suicide in 2005-2009 in Maharashtra, while 1,313 cases reported by Andhra Pradesh between 2005 and 2007. In Karnataka the number stood at 1,003, since 2005-06 till August 2009. According to NCRB database number of suicides during 2005-2009 in Gujarat 387, Kerala 905, Punjab 75 and Tamil Nadu 26.In April 2009, the state of Chattisgarh reported 1,500 farmers committed suicide due to debt and crop failure. At least 17,368 Indian farmers killed themselves in 2009, the worst figure for farm suicides in six years, according to data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

Research by various investigators like Raj Patel, Nagraj, Meeta and Rajivlochan, identified a variety of causes. India was transforming rapidly into a primarily urban, industrial society with industry as its main source of income; the government and society had begun to be unconcerned about the condition of the countryside; moreover, a downturn in the urban economy was pushing a large number of distressed non-farmers to try their hand at cultivation; the farmer was also caught in a Scissors Crisis; in the absence of any responsible counselling either from the government or society there were many farmers who did not know how to survive in the changing economy. Such stresses pushed many into a corner where suicide became an option for them .
Research has also pointed to a certain types of technological change as having played an instrumental role in the problem. One study from the Punjab showed dramatic misuse of agricultural chemicals in farmer households in the absence of any guidance on how to correctly use these deadly chemicals and linked it to the rise in farm suicides wherever farm chemicals were in widespread use.[24] Important research in Andhra Pradesh showed the very rapid change in seed and pesticide products to have caused “deskilling” in the cotton sector.
The Indian government had promised to increase the minimum rate for cotton by approximately Rs 100 ($2) but reneged on its promise by reducing the Minimum Support Price further. This resulted in more suicides as farmers were ashamed to default on debt payments to loan sharks. “In 2006, 1,044 suicides were reported in Vidarbha alone – that’s one suicide every eight hours

The government set up a dedicated group to deal with farm distress in 2006 known as the Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavlamban Mission, based in Amravati A group to study the Farmers Suicides was also constituted by the Government of Karnataka under the Chairmanship of Dr Veeresh, Former Vice Chancellor of Agricultural University and Prof Deshpande as member.
It’s official. The country has seen over a quarter of a million farmers’ suicides between 1995 and 2010. The National Crime Records Bureau’s latest report on ‘Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India’ places the number for 2010 at 15,964. That brings the cumulative 16-year total from 1995 — when the NCRB started recording farm suicide data — to 2,56,913, the worst-ever recorded wave of suicides of this kind in human history.
Maharashtra posts a dismal picture with over 50,000 farmers killing themselves in the country’s richest State in that period. It also remains the worst State for such deaths for a decade now. Close to two-thirds of all farm suicides have occurred in five States: Maharashtra, Karnataka, A.P., Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
The data show clearly that the last eight years were much worse than the preceding eight. As many as 1,35,756 farmers killed themselves in the 2003-10 period. For 1995-2002, the total was 1,21,157. On average, this means the number of farmers killing themselves each year between 2003 and 2010 is 1,825 higher than the numbers that took their lives in the earlier period. Which is alarming since the total number of farmers is declining significantly. Compared to the 1991 Census, the 2001 Census saw a drop of over seven million in the population of cultivators (main workers). The corresponding census data for 2011 are yet to come in, but their population has surely dipped further. In other words, farm suicides are rising through the period of India’s agrarian crisis, even as the number of farmers is shrinking.
While the 2010 numbers show a dip of 1,404 from the 2009 figure of 17,368, there is little to cheer about. “There was a similar dip in 2008, only to be followed by the worst numbers in six years in 2009,” points out Professor K. Nagaraj, an economist at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, who did the largest ever study of the farm suicides covering a decade (The Hindu, November 12-15, 2007). “This one-year decline does not in any way indicate we have turned the corner. This dip happened mostly because of one-off falls in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. In fact, a look at the ‘Big 5′ who drive the numbers shows the fallout of the agrarian crisis to be as grim as ever. They have actually increased their share of the farm suicides.”

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