Bollywood filmmaker tackles rural suicide

NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - A new Bollywood film puts the spotlight on the sensitive issue of suicide in rural India, where some 150,000 farmers have taken their own lives in the past decade.

The makers of “Summer 2007” say they hope to raise awareness of the plight of cultivators in Vidarbha region -- an arid cotton-bearing plateau in central India.

While India, Asia’s third-largest economy, grew 9 percent in 2007/08, an inescapable cycle of debt stalks the farmers of Vidarbha.

In “Summer 2007,” which opens in cinemas on Friday, five medical students from Mumbai stray into a village, unprepared for the deaths and misery they encounter there.

“They get embroiled into this whole saga of who’s responsible, why is there so much poverty and disparity,” said Atul Pandey, the film’s producer.

Farming and related activities provide a livelihood for more than two-thirds of India’s 1.1 billion people.

“A Bollywood film has certain set notions. It’s always a little difficult to say something which is not a love story or a revenge potboiler,” director Suhail Tatari, 44, said.

The five medical students can do little to alleviate the suffering of the villagers and yet “Summer 2007” ends on a note of hope.

“Nobody has a solution to farmer suicides. They’re not able to write off the loans or get all the bad guys arrested,” said Pandey. “(But) they are able to carry a kind of compassion for the poor citizens of the country.”

The film also explores the possibility of micro credit as a solution and has a character inspired by Mohammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel peace prize winner and founder of Grameen Bank, Bangladesh’s biggest micro-credit institution.

In the coming months, Tatari hopes to show the film to locals in the Vidarbha region and other areas reporting farmer suicides.

Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee