Friday, 2 September 2011

Peepli Live

Peepli Live is a 2010 satire by directors Anusha Rizvi and Mahmood Farooqui.
This is the story of a family in a village called Peepli somewhere in the hinterland of north India. This satire easily compares with Jaane Bhi Do Yaron. The film starts with the protagonist asking someone what will happen if his land which he mortgaged to take a loan - a loan which he could not repay - is after all gone. There is no answer and the land indeed is lost by the family consisting of Nathadas, his elder brother Budhia, Natha's wife Shalini, his mother and his children. Then one day Natha hears that somewhere an impoverished farmer took his own life and then his family got as monetary compensation from the government a sum of money that is considered a good amount in a village. That sparks an idea. Natha, by way of talking, expresses that he might do the same as well. News spread like fire and the real fun started.

The film dissects the political class - both the rugged, dusty village type and the suave, urban type - to the core. Nasseruddin Shah  once more gives a superlative performance in the role of a central minister. With minimal fuss, he handles the media, in a manner, which should be called brutal. He is a smooth talking, easy going chap and has no respect for human lives as he demonstrates his knack of turning any given situation in his favour. The media is of course no better. They sniffed news as Natha's intention became somehow public and that is it. Hundreds of channels descend on the little village - not to save Natha from his poverty, which was the cause for his intention - but to raise their own rating, so that they get richer. This puts the politicians and media in the same boat, they are no different. All they were trying was to get the most out of the situation for themselves. The approach was not very different than those of Neandarthals. Thousands of years of civilization has done nothing to us.

The character of Nathadas Manikpuri is played by Omkar Das Manikpuri who, as far as I know, has acted only in this film. The expression of confusion that he manages to maintain on his face throughout the film is extraordinary. The character Natha is indeed confounded by all that is happening, he has no idea why such a slew of journalists, netas, police etc. is unleashed on his native village. Omkar Das portrays his character very well His elder brother's role is played by Raghuvir Yadav.

Such a subject matter, unless dealt  with subtly - with a lot of humour thrown in - has the potential of making a very unpleasant film. This is what the directors have been very successful in avoiding. They hold the audience captive till the end. Sometimes there are elements for riots of laughter. However, this is not the kind of film which leaves you soothed. It is not an esoteric film either. It is a raw portrayal of what we have reduced our democracy to. It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, that is what the film intended to do anyway.

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