So we have come to the 2nd week of our documentary recommendation series. In the last week, we discovered the beautiful world of Malegaon cinema a.k.a. ‘Mollywood’. We saw how people of Malegaon living their passion despite the economic and social barriers. ‘Supermen of Malegaon’ surely captures the life of cinema fanatics to the fullest. But for this week, I have thought to explore the grave subject of the education system of India with ‘Placebo’.
From last some weeks, the new NEP(National Educational Policy) has been a matter of discussion throughout the nation. The effect of these reforms is debatable, time will gradually answer those questions. Though there is one thing for sure that this new NEP has tried to diminish the unrealistic importance of exam and pressure for scoring marks. Nonetheless, this salient feature has been highlighted via discussions, books, movies in past years. There have been several documentary films which have covered this topic with utmost care. But our this week’s selection has been able to create a new perspective on this topic. It underlines the less talked about problems that the students are facing. Which is relevant even in the top corners of the educational institute hierarchy. So for the 2nd pick to the series, here is ‘Placebo’.
- Release date:- 2014; 1 September 2016 (Public Release)
- Director:- Abhay Kumar
- Story by:- Abhay Kumar
- Screenplay:- Abhay Kumar
- Music director:- Shane Mendonsa
- Editors:- Abhay Kumar, Archana Phadke
- Winner in Special Jury Prize for Best Film at EBS International Documentary Festival (2015)
- Winner in Best Film at Mumbai International Film Festival (2016)
Abhay Kumar’s ‘Placebo’ is a documentary film that talks about the issue of student suicides in India. ‘Placebo’ takes a very interesting approach to showcase this subject by using B/W animation along with actual footage. The film was running on film festivals and private screenings from late 2014 for 2 years. It got a worldwide release on Netflix on September 1, 2016.
The film shot on the grounds of the All India Institute Of Medical Science (AIIMS) in Delhi tries to understand the psychological state of a suicidal student in a place of the country’s top-notched minds. In the movie, we get to see 4 AIIMS students as main characters- the relatable guy Chopra, the infantile guy Sethi, Abhay’s own brother Sahil and the most interesting one,’K’. Through the eyes of these diversified characters, ‘Placebo’ tries to understand the mindscape of a place like AIIMS; an elite epicentre of Indian med-students having less than 0.1% of acceptance rate and what this place does to them once they are here.
The film goes beyond that taboo when an unforeseen accident happens on the campus. That seriously injures Abhay’s brother Sahil, a final year student. Because of this incident, Abhay finds instigation to sneak inside the dark curtains of the institute. The film is Abhay’s attempt to come to grips with the fact that his brother Sahil smashed his arm through a glass window, and ended up with nerve damage and loss of motor control. After Sahil’s hospitalisation in 2011, Abhay smuggled himself into the AIIMS hostel and began filming students. Abhay carried over this operation for more than 2 years, capturing over 1000 hours of footage.
A Hybrid Documentary
‘Placebo’ does not give any answers to the why’s but it takes the first crucial step of asking that question to students, parents, teachers, and educational communities. Therefore, Abhay Kumar succeeds to go into disturbing territory. This goes on to leave the audience emotionally drained by the end of the film. ‘Placebo’ hunts through the rarely-probed insides of the exquisite fortress of intellect, AIIMS Delhi. But it goes on to address every educational institute ever existed in India. It is about the high-pressure academic environment, the educational rat-race and depression that leads to violence, suicides in institutions of higher studies. The lack of support systems, an apathetic administration and the constant shrinking job market encourage youngsters to make the most important decisions of their lives unthinkingly based on the validation of society. It is about geniuses wracked with self-doubt and families that do not want us to think for ourselves.
You can watch it on Netflix.