Heading to the villages

Highlighting farmers’ problems Sharad Kelkar in ‘Bairi Piya’.

If Aap Ki Antara dealt with the sensitive topic of autism, Bairi Piya — the latest launch from Balaji is based on the real life struggle of farmers from the Vidharba region in rural Maharashtra. The show, being aired on Colors, was launched in September and has already caught the attention of many a viewer for its unique storyline.

This is perhaps one of the few serials from the Balaji stable to be based in a rural setting. Usually, a typical Balaji storyline is based out of a rich urban business family and deals with their travails of life. However, Bairi Piya is completely rural and perhaps, the result of Balaji tasting success with the rural Bandini and small town Jyoti. This is their attempt to continue the winning streak through the village-based Bairi Piya. Whatever the case may be, it is definitely creditable on the producer and broadcaster’s part to have conceptualised a serial depicting one of the many problems gripping the Indian rural population.

The story is based on the real life incidents of farmer suicides in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra and highlights the problems faced by farmers in recent years. The serial revolves around the life of Amoli (played by Supriya Kumari), an 18-year-old girl. Her family is dependent on farming for making ends meet and gets into a financial mess due to various reasons. A wealthy village Thakur agrees to bail the family out, but only if Amoli agrees to cow down to all his wishes, including sexual favours. The serial talks about how Amoli struggles to maintain her values and self-esteem despite all odds playing against her.

“I had heard about farmer suicides before, but only after I was selected for Bairi Piya did I realise the seriousness of the issue. I hope this serial will make many like me aware of the plight of the people who grow the food we eat. They are so poor, face so many difficulties and are always under debt. Yet, they continue to struggle to feed us and we don’t do anything in return,” says a passionate Supriya who was last seen in Agle Janam and learnt Marathi for Bairi Piya.

However, not everyone thinks that Bairi Piya is a good depiction of what is actually going on in Vidharba. An NGO (Vidharba Jan Andolan Samiti) working with the farmers in Vidharba had lodged a formal complaint with the Maharashtra government claiming the serial to be a complete misrepresentation of the events leading to farmer suicides. It has even questioned the very basis of wives and daughters being kept as mortgages with money-lenders in return of loans. At the time of going to the press, there was no response from Ekta Kapoor on the matter.

The serial also marks the return of Sharad Kelkar, who sky-rocketed to fame with his portrayal of Nahar in Saat Phere. Unfortunately, due to a knee problem, he had to move out of that show. “I am playing the role of Thakur Digvijay Singh in the show. When the role was first offered to me, I was very excited. Till then, I had played only goody-boy roles like Nahar. This was the first time I would be playing a character with shades of grey in it,” says Kelkar.

He goes on to explain his character further, “Thakur Digvijay is a happy-go-lucky person when it comes to his personal life, but is completely different when it comes to work. He is a money-lender who gives money to people in need, in return of mortgages. It is a very challenging role to play. Kudos to Ekta Kapoor for making a serial with such a bold and relevant storyline.”

Kelkar also did a lot of homework before playing this role. “I come from Gwalior and have seen thakurs all over the place. I have seen how they function, how they walk, talk and live life.”

If the rumours doing round are to be believed, Supriya’s father will borrow money from Kelkar and will be forced to give away his daughter as a result of not being able to repay his debts. Kelkar will marry Supriya, and there may be a love-track between the two of them. (As if we were expecting something else!)

Watch ‘Bairi Piya’ from Monday to Friday at 8:30 pm.

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