Thursday, 12 August 2010

Peepli Live - Reporting live from the real India

Peepli Live is a much talked movie about to be released in India on August 13 . It is very different from the usual glamorized Bollywood love stories. It displays the heat an d dust of an ordinary Indian village and the struggles of the farming community.The video of the movie trailer is in Hindi, but here you can catch a glimpse of the heat dust and tears of rural India. I am sure it is available with English sub titles or voice over.

Here is a review published in The Times of India


Enter Peepli, a small village in the hinterland where a farmer duo, Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri) and Budhia (Raghuvir Yadav) are struggling to hold on to their land. Threatened by extreme poverty, they fall upon a novel plan. Natha decides to commit suicide to avail of the Rs one lakh compensation package doled out by the government. But before he can do that, the news spreads like wildfire.

The unknown hamlet soon becomes the favourite hunting ground for the voyeuristic news channels, hungry for TRPs, unscrupulous politicians, eyeing their vote banks, fumbling bureaucrats, foxed and clueless about the strange turn of events...Can the farmer's family hope for succour? Is India equipped to handle its swelling population of forgotten and marginalised citizenry? Does Natha survive? Good questions....

Movie Review:

And that's the bottomline of Peepli Live, a small little film, that showcases the real India without glossing over the contradictions of our fumbling-bumbling democracy or getting overtly sentimental about garibi (poverty) and the attendant grime that goes with it. Refreshingly, the film unfolds like a hard-hitting satire that turns its tongue-in-cheek gaze over almost all that's incongruous in contemporary Indian society: the rural rot, the yawning rural-urban divide, the vote-bank politics, the out-of-sync bureaucracy, the we-give-a-damn political class, the TRP-lusting media and the total insensitivity towards real people, real problems, real solutions for a real India.

So, we get to savour this delightful scene where the caretakers of the Indian state try to prevent Natha's suicide by gifting him a `Lal Bahadur' (read hand pump water pump) without providing for the requisite funds for its fitting. Needless to say, the hand pump lies unused in the destitute farmer's courtyard and doubles up mostly as a plaything for the village urchins. Then again, there's a local politician who tries to gain mileage by gifting him a colour TV, quite like Marie Antoinette's famous blooper: 'If they don't have food, give them cakes!' And finally, there are the state officials who go through their entire gamut of garibi-hatao (end poverty) schemes, only to realise there is nothing tailor-made to prevent a farmer from committing suicide.

All this while hordes of television news channels have descended onto the non-descript village and transformed it into a comedy circus, complete with cameras that intrude right into Natha's house and try to do an expose on his poop as well. It isn't really difficult to recognise the various real-life TV journalists who are good-humouredly spoofed at in Peepli Live. And nobody should actually take offence, because it's all such fun, despite being a serious indictment of India's skewed development schemes.

The high point of the film indeed is its smart and sassy script. But more than all this, it's the life-like portrayals that add a refreshing authenticity to the film. Handpicking the actors mostly from Habib Tanvir's famed Naya Theatre troupe was indeed a coup for debutant director Anusha Rizvi. The show stealers here are Raghuvir Yadav, Omkar Das Manikpuri and Farrukh Jaffer. Jaffer's old and acrimonious mom act is absolutely brilliant, even as Natha's face mirrors the pain, anguish and confusion of a simpleton trapped between the contradictory pulls of a hungry family on the one side and an uncaring state -- and polity -- on the other. The music of the film deserves a special mention, with folksy lyrics and tunes by Indian Ocean, Nageen Tanvir, Brij Mandal and the rest. Just a word of caution: The film does tend to get repetitive midway and the story goes a bit low on the emotional conflict of Natha and his family, leaving them mostly as bystanders in the circus that revolves around them.

But by and large, Peepli Live is a lively and living document on the `other' India, that lives beyond the neon lights and the cruising metros. Another ace up Aamir Khan's sleeve! This time as producer of a film that has loads to say, without being boring and didactic.

4 Fertilize my soul:

Zimbabwe said...

I like realistic films and book. Have a nice next day :)

Felisol said...

Dear Amrita,
I've promised Serina to read a book called India written by a Norwegian Torbjorn Faroyvik.
I will read it, when I've finished the Ulysses.
I think it is necessary to all of us to get solid and updated information on the second largest and by far the best educated country of the world.
I'm not much of a cinema goer, but I might just have to see this one.

Holly, the Old Western Gal said...

Very interesting movie, Amrita. And clever of them to make it a comedy, because you have to laugh through the tears in a place like India, which has such poverty combined with such hope and brilliance.

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

It seems to be a very interesting movie for you to post it in your blog. I have not seen any Bollywood movie yet except for the Slumdog Millionaire and I don't think it was a Bollywood production. The plot as you narrated is very interesting. Thanks for the post. God bless you always.