Not often do we come across a movie on the silver screen which defies from the Cinderella storytelling, serves you the harsh reality on a steel plate as it tickles your funny bone and points fingers at a socially accepted norm. Peepli Live is one such movie which takes you in a remote village of India scoffing at the serious issue of farmer suicide which is entangled in the unruly mess of media and politics.
Peepli Live is the story of the sibling farmers namely Natha and Budhia who lose their land to the bank on nonpayment of the loan. The piece of land being their last asset left they visit the local politician and plead him for monetary support. The disdainful politician insults them and suggests that they commit suicide to benefit from the government scheme that supports the families of those farmers who chose to do the same. A witty conversation follows where Budhiya convinces Natha to sacrifice his life for the sake of their ancestral property. Rakesh, a local reported manages to capture this news in the local newspaper which turns into a prologue of media frenzy and political debate.
The movie wears a coarse coat throughout and flaunts its non celebrity actors who make you roll in the aisles with their peculiarly accented dialogues. Natha is a timid man who is beaten by his wife, overpowered by his brother and ridiculed by his children. He is hesitant on expressing his desire to live but that desire too is nullified by his brother and the media. It also shows how futile is the life of a poor farmer unless he turns it into a sort of entertainment, in this case- a live suicide.
Peepli Live doesn’t fail to make fun of the cosmetic politicians at the ground level. Natha’s suicide is a golden opportunity for the opposition to take pots at the ruling party while the party in command tries all possible solution to save Natha from committing suicide. Caste-based political drama of politicians and their goons is not new to the Bollywood industry but it is the treatment of the issue which is commendable in the movie.
Director Anusha Rizvi has taken immense pleasure in attacking the media for its foolishness and lack of newsworthiness which is highly relevant in the 24x7 news era. The fight between the news channels to broadcast the “exclusive” glimpse of Natha when he goes in the fields to beckon his nature’s call makes you fall off your chairs. The overzealous media turns the quiet subdued village into a “mela” as Peepli becomes a talk of the nation. Meanwhile the media scripts not just the answers and opinions of the respondents from villages but also manages to get the Devi Mata’s prophecy on their side, all for the sake of TRPs.
The actors are the torch bearers of Peepli Live although “Amma” (Natha’s mother) remains the show stealer when it comes to tickling the audiences. The performances are real, crude and give life to the black humor that lines the script. The much loved song “Mahangai Dayan” is entertaining but it is the Indian Ocean’s “Des Mera Rangrezi” that adds spark to the situations.
Director Anusha Rizvi’s has debuted with a strong punch and a strong backing by Aamir Khan and UTV Motion Pictures. It would be saddening if Peepli Live becomes an Aamir Khan movie and the brain behind it is forgotten. However one wonders if Peepli Live could manage to get audiences rush to theatres had Mr. Khan not associated with it.