Peepli Live

Written by: Anusha Rizvi
Directed by: Anusha Rizvi & Mahmood Farooqui
Starring: Omkar Das Manikpuri, Raghuvir Yadav, Shalini Vatsa, Farrukh Jaffar, Malaika Shenoy, Vishal Sharma, Nowaz

The call to fame of Peepli Live? The production house it’s coming from: Aamir Khan Productions. Aamir, who over the recent years has become the most powerful star in Bollywood in terms of money earned by his films at the box office–and who has successfully ensured over this decade that any movie that has his name attached with it (either as an actor or producer), is a symbol of Good Quality. They have been consistently turning out to be big hits. Now, coming to Peepli Live, it is a satire on the life of Indian farmers and the pathetic state of the plans implemented by the government for their well being. Also targeted is the state of journalism in India. This continues Aamir’s dream run as a producer, as this is an extremely simple but very well made film.

The story is set in a village, Peepli, and revolves around two brothers–Budhia (Raghuvir Yadav) and Natha (Omkar Das)–who are on the verge of losing their land to the bank as they had failed to pay the interest on a loan. On hearing that the government has been paying .1 Million Rupees to farmers who have committed suicide, Natha decides to commit suicide so that his family can get the money and can pay off their debts to the bank. However, the media gets a whiff of this news and within hours Peepli is filled with folks from every news channel with the intention of covering Natha’s suicide. With mid-term elections around the corner and Peepli being the constituency of the current Chief Minister, the members of various political parties also get dragged into the fiasco with the sole intention of garnering votes by taking advantage of the situation. What happens to Natha’s plan of committing suicide to save his land and what role the media and the government play are depicted in the best possible way through the movie.

Omkar Das as the innocent, loving elder brother Natha is outstanding. He’s got very limited dialogue, but his expressions aptly serve to demonstrate all the emotions his character goes through. His reactions to his overnight superstardom, with all news channels covering him, are a treat to watch. Raghuvir Yadav as his slightly cunning elder brother excels–one cannot think of any other person playing this part better than him. And this is surely his best performance. All the scenes involving the two brothers by themselves are hilarious! Their conversations are short, crisp, simple and terribly funny–special mention must be made to the scene where they discuss who would commit suicide! Shalini Vatsa as abusive, outspoken Natha’s wife Dhaniya plays her part well, so does Farrukh Jaffar as venom-spewing, daughter-in-law hater Amma (Budhia’s and Natha’s mother). Again the conversation between the mother and the sons and the mother and the daughter-in-law are hilarious, though there is a liberal use of countryside foul language, which is present all the way through the movie.

All the supporting actors–Malaika Shenoy as the reporter Nandita, Nowaz as the reporter Rakesh from the newspaper agency “Jan morcha” of the Peepli division and Naseeruddin Shah as the Agriculture Minister–are extremely believable in their roles. Due credit to the director duo of Anusha Rizvi and Mahmood Farooqui and the writer Anusha herself, for the film is extremely well directed and written. There is never a single dull moment from the start till the end credits and the plight of farmers, double standards of political leaders, the state of journalism and media In India are excellently brought to life. The humour, which is sarcastic, is mixed in the proceedings throughout, which ensures we see the light side of even the most hard to digest scenes. Of note is the scene where Rakesh the reporter comments on a hard working farmer digging on his farmland. Full marks to producer Aamir as well, for taking a huge step in the right direction. Had his brand name not been associated with this movie, the film might have found it extremely difficult to get a wide release and gain the audience which it currently has. Which is good it has found an audience…for the film does not disappoint. (A similar theme was explored well in Well Done Abba, but that movie did not manage a decent release, showing the importance of a good banner to support such off beat themes.) Cinematography is top class; capturing the entire rural setting and the countryside. There are few songs, but none of them disturb the flow of the movie; “Mehangayi Diyan” is catchy…the lyrics of all the songs are very meaningful.

The Hindi used is the dialect spoken in rural areas and it took me some time to get used to the flow of it! But, technically that adds a lot of originality and gives the right feel to the theme and setting of the movie, so that’s a plus! Overall, it surely is one of the best made movies I’ve seen recently and it does show the plight of Indian farmers (and rightfully takes a dig at the Government for being responsible for it) and also showcases the sorry state of affairs of the Indian media. Not only does it hit all these points, it manages to ensure the audience is kept entertained at the same time: a sure sign of a well-made movie.