All of us must be cognizant of news channels and their amusing race for reporting of (frivolous) stories. You sure still remember the story of ‘Prince’ falling into a pit and his ‘rescue operation’ basking the headlines as ‘breaking news’ for days. But all said and done, we have to admit that they do attract eyeballs. Anusha Rizvi, an erstwhile journalist herself has shown us a mirror through PEEPLI [LIVE]. And the reflection isn’t something to be proud of.
It’s a story of Peepli, a poor farmer Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri) and his brother Budhia (Raghubir Yadav) from Mukhya Pradesh, indebted of a government loan and unable to repay it. The threat of his land getting auctioned looms large on them. Natha along with his brother Budhia (Raghubur Yadav) are informed of a government program that provides aid to the family of indebted farmers who have committed suicide. After an argument (hilarious) between the brothers, it’s finally decided that Natha will bear the brunt of ending his life.
Local elections are imminent and after the media comes to know of this development (impending suicide), it snowballs, involving scheming politicians, bureaucrats, local henchmen, all trying to have their share from the pie. Whether Natha will commit suicide or not becomes a matter of national interest.
Anusha Rizvi takes time to introduce the principal characters. But once that is done and you are acquainted with the dialect, you become part of the activities of the village. It almost feels that you are experiencing it ‘live’.
The gloomy issue of farmers’ suicide has been brilliantly executed in a light-hearted satire. It’s entertaining and at the same time poignant. At no point does it become preachy or goes over-the-top in its narration.
Although the core issue is the farmer’s suicide, Anusha Rizvi touches many a pain areas through her excellent script and narrative. It takes a dig on the news hungry media, scheming politicians and the complex government schemes. It literally shows how politicians and media don’t want to address the issue but want to encash it for their own benefit.
It is laden with some thought-provoking dialogues by Anusha Rizvi. We are tempted to mention a few like ‘Zinda rehte hue kuch kiya nahin, marne ke baad sarkar kya karegi’ or ‘Na marne ka hand pump, to soch marne ka kya’, which move you.
There are copious scenes that completely crack you up. A TV journalist is interviewing Natha’s bachpan ka dost after he goes missing. Then there’s another journalist Kumar Deepak (Vishal O. Sharma) who examines Natha’s faeces to determine his state of mind. There’s also a poll conducted by a news channel to determine why Natha absconds. One of the reasons given is ‘terrorists’. There are many other scenes which deserve a mention but we suggest you experience it yourself.
You will surely get goose bumps with the scene which shows the hand of a dead body. Also, note the scene in which journalist Nandita Mallik (Malaika Shenoy) confronts Rakesh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) about him being in the wrong profession.
The climax is a high-point of the film which elucidates the rural-urban divide. The revealing fact of plentiful farmers leaving their profession in a country that ‘lives in the villages’ is disconcerting.
Omkar Das Manikpuri is sure to get an award or two for his blank face performance. Raghubir Yadav is meticulous. Malaika Shenoy is awesome. Shalini Vatsa (Natha’s wife) is top class. Farrukh Jaffer (Natha’s mother) is hilarious. The constant bickering between the saas-bahu is funny at times. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is good. Vishal Sharma (Kumar Deepak) looks a quintessential journalist and is amazing. Naseeruddin Shah can be termed misfit in this lesser-known-artist setup.
PEEPLI [LIVE] is a brilliant satire which is riveting and heartfelt. Most importantly, it makes you think, and rethink. After LAGAAN this could be yet another journey for producer Aamir Khan all the way to the Kodak Theatre. Surely worth having a ‘peep’.