Hi reddit, Abhay Kumar here.

You can watch PLACEBO right now on Netflix here. You can also catch it in Pune, India this Saturday at Viman Talkies. Follow their Facebook page for details.

Short bio: With an acceptance rate of less than 0.1%, the AIIMS in New Delhi is one of the toughest med schools in the world to get into. The filmmaker went undercover on campus after his brother, an AIIMS student, was injured in a freak accident. Armed with just a camcorder, he spent 2 years on campus infiltrating the college's complex mindscape. Placebo is the hybrid documentary born out of this journey. It is streaming globally on Netflix now.

Five years after shooting, the film is now available for the first time to the public globally on Netflix, and is coming soon on other digital platforms.

My Proof: http://imgur.com/xcVvpAt

EDIT: Thanks for the questions, guys. The AMA is now closed. I'll be hosting an AMA later on /r/India as well.

Comments: 273 • Responses: 41  • Date: 

HardcoreNerdParty66 karma

How did you get on the campus? Did your friends know about what you were doing? If not, what is their reaction now? How were your grades?

99AK99125 karma

I was not studying there. I just started living on campus. Pretending to be a student. Only the four characters in my film knew i was making a film. Actually even i wasn't sure i was making a film. the camera was more a documenting agent. Thats why i just went in with a small camcorder. Only after when patterns began to emerge and events became more sinister did the film appear

HardcoreNerdParty26 karma

How did you even get away with that?

99AK9986 karma

I think once you see the film you will realise that just the fact that i got away with it is symptomatic of the problem i'm discussing in the film- isolation

Aalchemist60 karma

Hi. What were you looking to document and why is it called Placebo? ... Is there a trailer for it? I guess I'm struggling to understand the focal point of the doc, why's in it for me and why should i watch it.

GiantSteps137 karma

Agreed. I'm sure it is a wonderful film and it sounds like a lot of work went into it, but I just watched the teaser trailer link below and it is honestly still a little unclear to me what it's about.

99AK99-52 karma

I think teasers should hide what the real film is about and you should be surprised watching the film. Its not a popular worldview but still, if it intrigues you, you should give it a shot

legaladult4 karma

Personally, I think that's a good way to approach teasers. Giving away too much can ruin the movie. It should really just tell you enough to get you interested and want to see more, I think.

99AK990 karma

Yeah. Did it intrigue you enough though?

legaladult1 karma

Yeah, I think so. I'll probably check it out today.

99AK995 karma

Lovely :)

99AK9915 karma

Here is the teaser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrdLPrZzjh8

The film documents the other side of the academic dream as sold to us by the society. You will understand why is it called 'Placebo' once you watch it.

rykorotez141 karma

I'm not trying to offend, just offer some constructive criticism but that teaser is just awful. It makes me not want to see the film at all. I have zero understanding of what the film is about from it. I know more about the film from your description than from the teaser. You should really look into cutting a full trailer that will entice people to see your film rather than just leaving them confused.

AcrimoniusAlpaca42 karma

I really agree with this guy. The documentary is pretty good. The teaser is absolute shit.

chaos777b6 karma

yeah agree the teaser is absolute shit

99AK993 karma

I need to sign up on teaser cutting classes totally

99AK999 karma

Constructive criticism duly received. I've heard that a lot. I guess we kept postponing cutting a trailer till the film actually just came out

sakumar49 karma

I grew up in AIIMS (faculty kid) and was moved by your documentary. Are you a doctor as well? What is your brother doing now? Any update on K?

99AK9947 karma

I'm not a doctor. I was already making films before i made this one. My brother is a diplomat now. K is fine. Though i don't know where he is. You should show the film to your parent/s. It would be very interesting to know their take

sakumar29 karma

Will do. Incidentally, here's a photo of my brother and me with our grandparents from a very long time ago. The AIIMS academic building can be seen far in the background on the left.

99AK9920 karma

Beautiful. I met another faculty kid at a screening in NID recently. That place always evokes a physical reaction out of me :) (AIIMS i mean)

unknownseven45 karma

I'm just about to watch your documentary, but I understand the level of pressure and weight of expectation placed on students is severe - leading to abuse, depression and in the worst cases suicide.

Do you see any signs that the situation may be improving? Is there a desire for change from certain sectors or do you think that such stress is an inevitable by-product of entering such a prestige, demanding and competitive school environment?

99AK9977 karma

Pressure will always increase. The question to be asked is, are we giving young minds the tools to deal with that pressure? Or are we just assuming they'll be fine? Our inability to simply talk about uncomfortable things is now showing these cracks. 65% of India's population is below the age of 35. India has the highest suicide rate in the world in the age group 15-29. It's not hard to put 2 and 2 together

tscribs15 karma

Pressure will always increase?

99AK9926 karma

When it comes to numbers vis-a-vis resources available

Drugonaut30 karma

So what's wrong with this institution and why was your brother injured?

99AK998 karma

The film is not institution specific. It just happens to take place there because my brother studied there. What is wrong with the institute is exactly the same thing which is wrong with our society- being satisfied with placebos. the reason for my brother's injury is in the film.

Drugonaut20 karma

Heh, I'll just have to see the film to find out then.

99AK998 karma

You should :) Just the fact that this film got made and is out there is a strange thing

sakumar23 karma

After the 2009 no-ragging court ruling, it appears that AIIMS's solution is to prohibit upperclassmen from speaking to freshmen. Is that correct? For how long does that rule remain in effect? It seems like a ridiculously draconian approach to the hazing problem.

99AK9936 karma

The thing is, ragging should be banned. No doubt about it. But when you take out an existing form of interaction (however flawed) but do not replace it with another, and expect things to sort out on their own, that is not going to happen. And the results are for everyone to see. I think we need more proactive approach towards tackling the problem of isolation and dealing with pressure

sakumar15 karma

Holy hell! Our son goes to Duke University. Here's how his move in went. The kids with the same-colored T-shirts are upperclassmen.

99AK993 karma

So much joy :)

bunkermichda13 karma

some people have expressed hatred towards the documentary on social media. What would you say is the biggest failure of the film?

99AK991 karma

I could respond to that if i have access to that hatred. For some reason the criticism hasn't reached me

YouDeserveTheWorst60 karma

You must really enjoy your little bubble where no one gives criticism. Ive seen some even in this thread that you seem to ignore the point and simply regurgitate your own opinion.

Similarly the trailer (which is garbage) and your "explanations" of the film here are clickbait if nothing else so i wont be bothered not wasting my time watching your film

99AK99-1 karma

Hi. To be fair all the criticism about the teaser started coming in when i had left the AMA (hella different timezones). They are duly noted.

'You will not be bothered not wasting your time'. Does that mean you will actually watch it :)

luluheart5 karma

He did make an error by using a double negative, but it was just that - an error. You knew what he meant. By being a smartass in the comment section is how you get people not to watch your documentary. Just a constructive criticism.

99AK992 karma

Well i guess if redditors can give it to person doing the AMA they can take some back too. It's all in good faith. I'm not here to please everyone. If you're turned off, so be it good sir

luluheart1 karma

I'm a lady :)

99AK992 karma

Good madame then :)

overdew10 karma

I'm about to watch this now. Congrats! Do you plan on pursuing a medical or film career?

99AK9943 karma

I can already deliver a baby and have played at major film festivals till now. So i'm thinking something else. Maybe a tiramisu chef.

JamesTheJerk18 karma

Pfff, babies deliver themselves. /s

99AK9920 karma

Truer words were never spoken. Only babies and dandruff deliever themselves

somanykitties9 karma

so did you attend lectures? is this going on YouTube anytime soon?

99AK9919 karma

No lectures. You'd be surprised by the number of kids who pass medicine without attending lectures. a lot of it has to be memorised by rote from books. Well its exclusively on netflix for now and itunes globally in a month. It should eventually find its way to youtube. However, now is not the time

I_love_pillows9 karma

Did anyone ask why you were taking videos so frequently?

99AK999 karma

Like i siad, most of my filming was with the characters. even when i was in public, i was shooting very casually. After a point i was a ghost

bunkermichda9 karma

What were your thoughts when you cut together the documentary ?

99AK9914 karma

Well since the project was a really long one (i shot 1000 hours of footage) the central thought was to finish it. The level to what we wanted to take it, is another story though. I had always wanted to make a documentary which bridges the gap between how we consume documentary and fiction cinema

PageMeForLOUDNOISES10 karma

How did you choose through 1000 hours of footage down to an hour and a half long doc?

99AK99-13 karma

Well that is what they would call editing. It took an year to wade through again and again and again to sculpt out a honest, coherent narrative

fuckatruck7 karma

Was there anything that you encountered during your time there that genuinely scared you?

99AK9917 karma

Absolutely. Life is terrifyingly fragile- even inside the corridors of excellence. To see a 20 year old killing himself and to feel that void is never a good thing. I wonder how these young kids internalise this and carry on

Severus_Targeryn7 karma

I watched the movie during the screening at BITS Goa. I wanted to know how did you get the audio so right, given that it was recorded on a camcorder?

99AK9917 karma

We worked a lot on it. It helped that i was working with one of Europe's finest sound designers. We couldn't clean the audio much since we did not have much bandwidth to work with. So we started adding layers of noise to trick your ears into thinking it's not there

ButyrFentReviewaway3 karma

That's brilliant, care to delve into that a little more? Like background noise duplication+inversion?

I'm literally just starting the documentary as I type this.

99AK996 karma

Well to be fair i wouldn't know the technicalities of it since the sound designer was handling that. I was giving my inputs on whether it works or not. The sound was worked upon in protools though

shadowbannedguy17 karma

How did you get lodging in the hostel? Whose bed did you sleep on, and so on? How often would you leave campus?

99AK9914 karma

Easy. I was in my brother's room. But i didn't stay there all the time. I took up a place close by. shooting hours were chaotic as there was no shooting agenda. It was 'anything goes'.

shadowbannedguy15 karma

Did AIIMS take any steps that you know of to prevent outsiders from getting in like you did?

99AK995 karma

I hope not ;)

shadowbannedguy13 karma

Placebo 2?

99AK999 karma

If there is justice in the universe, hopefully not :)

Severus_Targeryn5 karma

Did K really came up from Singapore to BITS Goa after the screening during TEDx?

99AK9910 karma

I think he was already in India by then. But yes he was there

[deleted]4 karma

Sorry if this has been asked, but did you sell the doc to Netflix after it was finished? Or did you offer the idea to Netflix, and then have them pick it up and then finish it.

99AK992 karma

They picked it up after the film was finished

desii7213 karma

What is K smoking throughout the documentary?

99AK995 karma


Rohubhai2 karma

  • Which documentary films and filmmakers do u look up to?

  • Do you agree that you sometimes put your film above your family/friends need as your brother claims at one point? And if so is that something u regret? Is it possible to balance or do u feel one must always be at the service of art? Why did you choose to keep it in? Was there anything you kept out for personal reasons?

99AK995 karma

I haven't actually seen a lot of documentaries. However i can share with you the film which inspired me to make Placebo. 'Bombay Beach' by Alma Harel. Her work is groundbreaking.

And i agree with your second point. artists can often have tunnel vision vis-a-vis their art/creation which can make them oblivious to very obvious things. I have no regrets with regards to how i conducted myself. There was absolutely no question about not keeping it. I think it's one of the most honest moments of the film. And telling of what the film is actually trying to communicate. The only stuff that was kept out was which would not serve the narrative of the film. In this film, nothing was too personal.

Griz-Lee2 karma

Any idea why this doesn't work in Brazil? I guess it's not launched globally?

99AK992 karma

Its launched globally but things never release in 'all' countries. E.g even germany, spain and netherlands are missing right now. It will come however, its a gradual rollout

dissenter_the_dragon2 karma

what hollywood celebrity do you find the hottest? (present or past)?

99AK9911 karma

There are multiple at different times. Do i just have to choose one? I'd say i love Jessica chastain, or cate winslet, or emmy rossum or... I think i've entered quantum space now so im overlapping times

dissenter_the_dragon4 karma

not bad choices at all. me? I'm a classic guy. Michelle Pheifer in her Scarface days.

99AK9915 karma

Those cheekbones could kill a person