Peepli [Live], an Aamir Khan production movie, is one of best satires that Indian cinema has seen in some time. Directed by first timer Anusha Rizvi and starring virtually unknown faces, it shows the plight of helpless farmer family who are made pawns in the game played by various Television channels, political parties, bureaucrats and local henchmen.
The plot of the film is about Natha and Budhia as two poor farmers, residents of the Peepli. The two brothers face losing their farm lands over an unpaid government loan. They seek help from a local politician, who advises them to commit suicide to benefit from another government program that helps families of poor farmers who have committed suicide from debt. They think long about it and cunning elder brother convinces Natha to commit suicide so that he would get Rs. 1,00,000 from government. A local journalist overhears Budhia to urge Natha to commit suicide. In his zeal to make news out of nothing he prints that and all hell breaks loose.
Mainstream media, in an effort to garner more TRPs start covering the news and giving it a political twist by blaming the agriculture minister and then the chief minister of the state. The rival channels follow them to the village. The politicians get to hear about it and they join in the circus along with the bureaucrats. Everybody invades Peepli, interviewing Natha, his family, his freinds and whomsoever they can find. They camp outside his house and make the entire thing a big farce. No one really bothers about Natha and the reason for which he wants to commit suicide.
The movie ends in a mad chase for Natha and oneupmanship by various media houses and political parties and local leaders with no one really caring about poor family. The end is of course tragic with Natha assumed dead in an accident with the family not getting any money as it wasn’t a suicide.
The movie is a big big satire on Indian system overall, Indian politicians and especially mad rush by television channels to gather TRPs and nothing else. It has shown the true colors of India, which exists today beyond the few big cities. It is certainly an eye-opener.
The film doesn’t star any big stars but mostly theater actors with Raghuvir Yadav as Budhia as perhaps the only known face. Omkar Manikpuri as Natha suits the role however I found him more comic looking than tragic and doesnt have to many expressions of even dialogues. Rest of the caste is unnown but well caste, especially Malaika Shenoy as a ‘Barkha Dutt Clone’ representing English media and Vishal Sharma as Deepak representing Hindi news channels are absolutely perfect and their acts liven up the film. Various other actors have smallish roles with Naseeruddin Shah in yet another cameo as agriculture minister. Naseer nowadays does more cameo roles than anything substantial.
The movie, to be honest is decent and very well made with amazing detailing, which is a rarity in Bollywood cinema. Rural India is shown perfectly as it is and the rural-urban divide is startling in the opening scene and then at the end. The satire works and even if you laugh, with a lump in the heart , at the film you know you are laughing not at the plight of Natha but the general conditions of rural India of today. The movie reminded me of the best satire ever made in a Hindi film history – ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron’ especially with the end. The pace of the movie is bit slow especially in the first half and the language at times crude, however it does sound genuine. Although I do not like when audiences laugh and clap by just hearing crude Hindi words. The movie is good, although not a great movie.
The critics have liked it, common people have admired it and the movie is doing quite well at the box office as well, inspiite of no stars and rural theme thus proving that good content always works. Certainly such kind of films should be made and marketed and released in mainstream. Lastly, a word about the producer Aamir Khan. If it were not for Aamir Khan the producer backing the film, marketing the film, publicizing it at every avenue, I doubt if any of us would have even bothered to see the film. Perhaps the film wouldn’t have got a mainstream release as well. At the most it would have got some awards in some obscure film festivals of the world and perhaps a standing ovation from some weird juries, but it certainly wouldn’t have got the kind of audience it has got now. All credit to the ‘golden’ man Aamir Khan.
My Ratings: 8/10 – Do watch it to know the true India.