Saturday, February 19, 2011
#63: Peepli Live
A satire based on the media frenzy that can engulf a topic as serious as farmer suicides, Peepli Live is a wonderful tale of wit and irony.
Set in the fictional state of Mukhya Pradesh, it tells us the story of Natha (Omkar Das) whose family comprising his wife, mother and brother Budhia (Raghubir Yadav) are on the verge of losing their land due to non-repayment of loan they had taken from a bank. A meeting with a local politician makes Natha realise that if he commits suicide the loan will be waived off. In a scene that manifests Budhia's deft conniving skills even as the brothers discuss the best way to save their land, Natha volunteers for the suicide. A local reporter Rakesh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) gets wind of this news and becomes the first to report this in the press. This sets off a wildfire in the media community as national channels descend on the non-descript village that Peepli is and start broadcasting state of affairs from Peepli live for their viewers. Local politicians, central ministers, Natha's neighbors and his immediate family become the source of immense entertainment as each gives their take on the subject of Natha's suicide.
It is the kind of story that doesn't come too often from Bollywood's stable- realistic, humorous and didactic. While the focus of the plot is Natha's imminent suicide, it plays up the media circus in the country that has truly descended itself to absurdist levels. With liberal doses of humor, writer-director and debutante Anusha Rizvi approaches the subject with the manner of someone who has seen it all. Her background of having been a journalist helps her bring the inside-goings of a TV channel in an era of cut-throat competition to the fore. While taking digs at these channels and the politicians, there is always a subtle undertone that actually magnifies the irony of the situation. The performers are brilliant in their roles. Omkar Das, the sacrificial lamb, barely speaks ten lines in the movie but his expressions alone reflect the mood of any scene he's in. The supporting cast rallies around this central character. Their oddities are enhanced by some sharp dialogues and make the movie an absorbing watch.
There are no two ways to say this- Peepli Live is a fantastic movie. A movie like this can renew your faith in Bollywood- a lesson that good cinema is not a destination beyond us. It was India's nomination for the Oscars that saw some needless rants from Anurag Kashyap about how the movie's in the spotlight because it is an Aamir Khan production.
If you ask me, it was India's best bet in 2010. And I would've said the same thing even if it came from the production house of Manikchand Gutka.