There have been a number of regional language films on farmer suicides. I have read some reviews, and am aware that a couple of them have done well whereas most of these films have simply disappeared from public glare. This does not however mean that these films were not well made, it is only a reflection of audience preference. The indifference that the society is exhibiting to the agrarian crisis is not only confined to the media, there is a visible disconnect that exists all around. Farmer suicides is perceived to be a tragedy in some alien land.
Yesterday, I had gone to see a Marathi feature film (with English subtitles) on farmer suicides. The film Gabhricha Paus meaning The Damned Rain was featured at the Habitat Centre, New Delhi. I knew the film had won several awards and still awaits commercial release. And as expected, I didn't find many people in the auditorium -- so much so for New Delhi's umbilical cord with the rural hinterland.
I sat glued to my seat all through the 100 minutes. It is very well made, and tries to capture the continuing crisis in a simple and humane way. It brings out the tragedy in the Vidharba fields through the eyes of a farmer's family. In a very sensitive way, the film depicts the arduous struggle a farmer has to undergo to survive. Director Satish Manwar has protrayed the realities without getting into any complexities, and without touching on the plethora of issues that afflict agriculture. For his maiden venture, I think Satish Manwar needs to be profusely applauded.
Kisna is a hardworking farmer. He fights against all odds, and vows to continue farming till he dies. His family is conscious that the stress and tension under which Kisna operates can take a toll of him. They try to keep a continuous watch on him, pamper him with good food at times to keep him in good spirits. His wife sells her ornaments to make him replough the cotton fields after the rains have failed. She is a strong support in his farming operations, but somewhere in her conscious she is aware and worried at the suicide tendency (that is mistakenly construed) in Kisna.
The rains come, and as their only child Dinu says it is the damned rain. A heavy downpour washed away much of his crop. And then comes the money-lender taking away what ever little he harvested. And still, Kisna doesn't give up.
All through the film, I realised that providing more credit to Kisna was not the solution. Even with all the loans he had taken, and the money he could get from even selling the last tree on his farm, he remained indebted. As someone has said a farmer is born in debt and dies in debt. Kisna was no exception. And so are the millions who somehow manage to survive against all odds. If only Kisna was insured against the failure of monsoon, he would have survived the crisis situation. The more I think about the film, the more I realise that the only way to pull farmers from the crisis is to provide them direct income support. Farmers need to have an assured monthly take-home packet.
Thanks to Satish Manwar for such a touching and emotional peep into the agrarian crisis. You can find more about the film at http://thedamnedrain.com/main.html