Published: 22nd October 2019
Why this short film will make you feel the pain of India's farmers
Yashowardhan Mishra, Director and Writer of short film Mandi talks about the agrarian crisis and the problems faced by farmers in India
Whether it is inflation, natural calamities or policy-based development in India, farmers have always suffered from financial crises. There is no doubt that our country was and is called an agricultural country — but farmers still struggle to get the right price for their produce. Unfortunately, they end up paying extra money to sell their own produce in the market. Mandi is a short film that focuses on this particular problem faced by farmers across the country.
Written and directed by Yashowardhan Mishra, this film is shot in a village in Maharashtra. The 10 minute-long film showcases the real incidents that took place in one of the mandis (markets). Danaji, his wife and their son Ganya are the three main characters in this short film. While Danaji's wife expects her husband to sell the onions at the mandi and earn some profit, Ganya wants his father to buy a toy aeroplane for him. To fulfill their desires, Danaji ends up spending an extra Rs 215 from his pocket.
Director's take: Yashowardhan Mishra is happy that the film has conveyed the right message to people
The director says, "I’m a keen admirer of socialist cinema and I believe that it has a great role to play in building empathy towards marginalised sections of the society. The true story of a farmer having to pay money to sell his own produce compelled me to express it through the medium of film. I wanted the story to reach the common privileged Indian and make him/her realise the kind of struggle and humiliation our farmers face on a daily basis. The genuine conversations that Mandi has managed to spark on the internet vindicate our effort and I couldn't be happier."
Though this film has been viewed by many people, Yashowardhan and his team's biggest challenge was to tell the story without trivialising it in any way. "Making such films brings a great sense of responsibility. One needs to have clarity as far as your political viewpoint is concerned. For that, it was critical that I do my research and gain as much understanding of the agrarian crisis as possible before scripting it. Hence, I have been following P Sainath's work. Sainath is the founder of People's Archive of Rural India. His reporting and understanding of rural India is exemplary. A lot of research for Mandi is derived from Sainath's work. It was an honour to show him the film and frankly, a great relief that he liked it".
Yashowardhan who is also scripting a web show, a political satire that looks to appreciate the little boy, Nihaal, who has played the character of Ganya. He says, "We auditioned quite a few kids for the role. Nihaal is a gem. We usually don't expect such young actors to really understand the politics behind the film. But he got it at one go. He is the soul of the film."
The inspiration of the film was a bill given to a farmer at a mandi in Lasalgoan, Maharashtra. Mandi has over six lakh views on YouTube
Apart from the direction, script, acting and shooting locations, cinematography is what stands out in Yashowardhan's film. All thanks to the RED Epic film camera they have used to shoot this film. From a little boy dreaming to fly the toy aeroplane to Danaji's emotional breakdown at the mandi, everything has been captured perfectly. Yashowardhan says, "It was a challenge to shoot at the marketplace at busy times. We had to be quite discreet throughout. We wanted to achieve documentary-style aesthetics for the film to make it look organic and not staged in any way. In fact, a lot of people still message me mistaking the film for a documentary. "
Policies to benefit farmers
When we asked Yashowardhan about the kind of policies that he wants the government to create, he says, "A lot of policies are already existing, but their implementation is faulty and corruption-ridden. The promise of Minimum Support Price should not just be on paper, it should become a reality. Farmers should have greater stake in determining prices of their own produce, just the way it is in any other fair marketplace. Also, we need greater representation of the farmers voice in our mainstream media. The agrarian crisis should occupy the consciousness of the people of the country in a bigger way than it is doing now."
Mandi has been to different places for screening and won awards including the silver award at the
Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI), 2017 - Winner Silver Award
New York Indian Film Festival, 2018 - Nominated for Best Film
Indian Film Festival of Cincinnati, 2018 -Winner - Best screenplay award
Mumbai International Film Festival, 2018
Silk Screen Asian American Film Festival, 2018
Chittagong short film festival, 2019
Chennai international short film festival, 2019