Climate change may still be in the realm of elite debating societies in the West, here in India is both very real, and killing off the humans under its shadow every effectively.
And if climate change is a very human effect on the planet, it is ironic that a large number of the deaths it is causing in India come via yet another very human concept – suicide.
One of the worst affected parts of the India is Bundelkhand. Once a much-prized location, both food-secure and rich in agriculture, it has essentially turned into a dust-bowl for nearly a 15 years.
From 2003 to 2010 it suffered drought, a year of floods, and then back to drought. This year, 2017, the rains have been on time for the first time in nearly a decade.
To quote a report in the LiveMint from 2015 by Sayantan Bera – “Over the years, the luckless farmers of Bundelkhand have tried everything in the book to meet the challenge of unpredictable weather.”
‘Kadvi Hawa’ a.k.a ‘Bitter Wind’ seems to be a stark and unflinching look at that reality. The film follows the family of a former blind farmer and a loan collector who are trapped by circumstance, climate change and the metaphorical dust of Bundelkhand.
It is rare for Indian cinema to tackle climate change at all, and it is a visual pleasure to see this crucial topic being presented so well by such creative heavyweights.
The film is directed by Nila Madhab Panda, who has consistently made films on social or ecological issues. His most famous one being the highly acclaimed ‘I am Kalam’. It stars the ever talented Sanjay Mishra, Ranvir Shorey and Tillotama Shome.
Mishra plays a visually impaired farmer, who seems to be the narrator in the trailer, highlighting to us, the viewers, the reality of a world which we perhaps have never seen so vividly.
Mishra stumbles around with his stick while struggling to explain to his grandchildren how there were once four seasons, including a long monsoon. As far as the kids now, rains are not a season, just something that happens for two or three days.
And while water is scarce, as Mishra notes with weariness, every child born in the region comes with a loan “already written in his palm”. “Well everyone has their own compulsions,” Shorey replies with disinterest in the trailer, another cold reality we have to face.
Shorey plays a loan collecter from Odhisa, working in a financial institution of some sort, whose thankless, and in context especially cruel, the job involves taking loan collections from farmers who are committing suicide in droves, rather than face another day filled with despair and the loan collector.
It is not that he is free from the effects of the climate either.
He comes from Odisha, where the surging sea is eating entire villages at a time. Indeed, he has nobody left in his family – all of them have drowned. So perhaps he has very little heart to care for these farmers.
The trailer is certainly extremely promising, and one hopes the film will give its viewers a wholesome sense of the reality that is consuming tens of thousands of Indian farmers.
And much like the characters in the film, everyone seems powerless to do anything about it. Perhaps the film has an answer? We can all find out on 24 November 2017, when it releases.