Friday, August 13, 2010

Review: Peepli Live

Director: Anusha Rizvi
Starring: Omkar Das Manikpuri, Raghubir Yadav, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Shalini Vatsa, Farrukh Jaffer and Malaika Shenoy, Vishal O Sharma
Stars: ***

Aamir Khan may be putting all his weight behind Peepli (Live) and making a Gulliver out of a Lilliput, but it's important to see this as debutante director Anusha Rizvi venture more than anyone else's. Prior to this, Rizvi was working as a journalist for NDTV, and the script seems to be born out of her on-the-job observations. Because even though the film's central theme is the relevant and burning issue of farmers' suicide and the expanding divide between villages and urban India - Rizvi's focus is primarily on the TRP-driven electronic media, and the limits they can cross! This is a world Rizvi knows and understands well, having been privy to it. The satire is almost entirely targetted at the media, which makes Peepli (Live) a competently and clevely made film, but not terribly fresh or new. Also, it doesn't cover enough in its ambit to qualify as a really powerful satire.

Brothers Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri) and Raghubir Yadav (Budhia) are in a helpless state after losing their land. The local administrators are portrayed as callous louts, who laugh at these two farmers when they approach them for help. A half-baked rural legend about how the government gives compensation of one lakh to the families of famers committing suicide reaches their ears, and it's decided that Natha should die. The news gets leaked and a media circus ensues. Meanwhile, the politicos have their own private scores to settle and the Natha story is used as a pawn in the process.

There are wonderful touches of humour, the dialogues remain constantly crisp and entertaining, sparking with colloquial wit. The references and nuances are all part of a well-reaserched, intelligent script. Rizvi understands the media, its compulsions and motivations, and portrays it very effectively. The characters of Malaika Shenoy (Nandita) and Deepak (Vishal O Sharma - fabulous!), represent the elitist English and desi Hindi channels respectively, and how there is so little to choose between them in terms of their aims. Similarly, the politicians are portrayed as self-serving and manipulative. All this is done with a certain flair, which makes it feel less predictable. In all the madness that goes on, you see a nation without a sense of direction or focus, and where the urban world has started looking upon its villages as distant 'neverlands' and Natha as an exotic creature. All these points hit home and the film has enough moments to keep you interested.

However, one is oddly detached from the story, because Rizvi's target remains the media and politicians, and no one else. The urban-rural divide could have better explored, with more characters from both sides. Also, the film - even if it makes its points well - it doesn't have anything very new to say. The degenerating nature of politics and media is well-known to everyone, so Rizvi is merely stating the obvious.

Besides the feeling of deja-vu, the film starts to seem repetitive after a point. Afterthe premise is established, and you're amused for a while, you sense a strain in the narrative, as Rizvi fills the space with gags (they are all funny of course).

Peepli Live is cinema verite, and offers a slice of today's India. The film is treated like a semi-documentary, and is a far cry from the escapist Bollywood cinema one has got used to. In a bold ending, it does not allow the audience to 'feel-good' and leaves you with the uneasy feeling of having seen things in its bare, raw form.
At a time when hardly any films are made about our village - where 60 cent of Indians reside - Peepli (Live) must be commended for focussing on it. It does not provide any new insights or solutions, but it's a film that will hopefully evoke discussions on various levels.


Anonymous rooney said...

saw it recently.. and loved it .. also pained me to watch this movie and many sequence as though funny they were bitter truth.

above ratings. for me

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