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With an acceptance rate of just 0.1%, India’s most prestigious medical school is much more competitive than any Ivy League university. But for these students, getting in is the easy part. Questionable administrative policies, isolation, hazing and intense academic pressure all too often ends up in tragedy. The film is a year-long exploration of life inside campus.
The result? A truly surreal portrait that taps directly into a state of mind. In this case, it’s a state of collective madness—a spell that is only broken when another student succumbs to the academic pressure and does the unthinkable…


  • Standing Ovation for "Placebo"
    Filmmaker Abhay Kumar’s documentary film “Placebo” received an overwhelming response during its premiere at the fourth Dharamshala International Film Festival here.
    The film, which takes a dig at the loopholes in India’s education system and delves into the day-to-day routine of four young aspiring doctors at a reputed premier institute, was screened here at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, McLeodganj, on Saturday.
    “Placebo” has received various international honours at film festivals like International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam 2014, Cleveland International Film Festival 2015, Brooklyn Film Festival 2015 and New York Indian Film Festival 2015.
    In “Placebo”, Kumar goes on to a journey to talk about the self-inflicted violence on the campus of an medical institute and embeds himself in the dorms of the medical institute to take a closer look at patterns of student violence.
    While four students agree to be followed by the camera for a year as part of this observational experiment Kumar later starts infiltrating this complex mindscape of restless youth and soaring ambition.
    “There is no secret solution to the problem of competition. There are a lot of us, so there has to be competitive minds. The key here is about these things which we are not talking about,” Kumar, who was available during the screening, said.
    “The more I have travelled across the world with this film, I have realised that back here, we do not even have the basic vocabulary to even address to ourselves in our heads that we might be the best,” he added.
    Kumar also said that he does not have personal grudge about education system in India but the reason behind making the documentary was to have a “conversation start-up”.
    “These are very uncomfortable moments and it’s a very personal film that I’ve gone through myself. This churning that we all go through when we are young and trying to find out what we want to do is placebo which is given to us that if you will get into an institution that can give you success,” he said.
    Kumar feels that the suicide numbers are rising “exponentially” in India.
    “India has the highest suicide rate in the age group of 15-29 in the world. And this is when 65 percent of our population is below the age of 35. We are young country but there is some problem which is not being spoken about,” he said.
    Talking about releasing “Placebo” in India, he added: “It took us a long time to get in the film to India, like almost a year and a half travelling around the world.
    “But the institute, where we shot the film, still does not know that this film exists. It’s been kind of a legal nightmare for us trying to figure out and that’s why we have had secret screenings of this film and the character in it has not been exposed much before. After watching it, what people think about this will determine the future.”
    DIFF, the four-day independent film festival which started on Thursday, will next screen films like Ruchika Oberoi’s “Island City”, Gurvinder Singh’s “Chauthi Koot” and Neeraj Ghaywan’s “Masaan” on its last day.

Festival Participation

  • IDFA - First Apperance Competition - 2014
  • HotDocs, Toronto
  • EBS International Documentary Festival
    Special Jury Award
  • Cleveland International Film Festival - 2015
  • Brooklyn Film Festival - 2015
  • New York Indian Film Festival - 2015

Additional Materials

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