I was kicked when I saw the trailers of Peepli [LIVE] a few months ago. And after I had the unfathomable opportunity to interview the producer of the film, Aamir Khan, I found myself even more curious about the film. With immense passion, Khan spoke at length about how true to real life Anusha Rizvi’s Peepli [LIVE] is and how incredibly honest the script is. Peepli doesn’t house any big names or stars; you probably will not recognize any of the actors with the exception of Raghuveer Yadav. However, this shouldn’t do anything but convince you to watch the film even more. In the recent past, it is films that do not star big names that have gone on to gain critical and box office acclaim ala Udaan and Tere Bin Laden. Peepli [LIVE] is a take on rural life which is virtually unknown and to most city dwellers. So be prepared to laugh, cry, think and even feel anger, yes your emotions will be tested, as you watch Peepli [LIVE] or so we have been told by the makers. With a name like Aamir Khan backing up the film, you can almost be sure the film is headed places.
Peepli, a small village, is struck by poverty which puts Budhia (Raghuveer Yadav) and his brother Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri), in a dilemma. After losing their land to the bank after they couldn’t pay their EMI (easy monthly installment), the brothers come across a government plan which gives farmers a grant if a family member commits suicide. After major tu-tu-main-main, Budhia convinces Natha to be the goat and sacrifice his life for the greater of the family. But it isn’t as simple as it looks. The media become aware of this incident and overnight, the episode becomes full-blown sensational news which attracts journalists from all over the world. Natha becomes a star as his walk to death is watched by the entire country as a reality show. Politicians get involved and amidst the entire shosha, Natha finds himself stuck and closer to publicized death.
As a first time director, Anusha Rizvi is top-notch. She not only brings to light issues, that hits home in the most satirical of ways and without being preachy. Her script isn’t afraid to point fingers and attack the ignorance of society, the media, the government and politicians in the country who look for cheap ways to bank on such issues. Anusha’s execution of her script is honest, simple and straight-forward. She hasn’t used any fancy camera tricks; most of the film is seen through the media’s camera. Peepli exposes scheming politicians and TRP frenzy journalists – print and television. Her sequences which depict the emotionless folks who do view rural India as ignorant and incredibly insignificant are hard-hitting. Almost immediately, you realize how incredibly uninformed we are as a nation courtesy of the media of course, who give undue importance to issues that are unimportant. Complete power to this ex-NDTV journalist who obviously recognized the need to bring such a subject to the forefront and what better way than through a film. As a writer-director she scores full marks for making noise on behalf of rural India.
As for performances, it is a blessing that Peepli [LIVE] doesn’t list any big stars; they would have totally taken away from the simplicity that the virtually unknown cast of Peepli bought to the film. For the pretty well-known Raghuveer Yadav, Budhia seemed like the ideal role. The actor is incredible. He has an aura that has never been seen before and brings a sense of honesty and realism that is perfect. We need to see more of him. Omkar Das Manikpuri, who plays Natha has a truthfulness and immaturity in his eyes which has been exploited but totally works for the film. He speaks through his mannerisms rather through lines. Vishal O Sharma plays the outspoken TRP craving journalist and works it to the T. His depiction of a number of well-known television personalities is spot on. Malaika Shenoy, the American journalist looking to cover the big news is awesome – as the Americans would say. But the women who take prizes in Peepli are Shalini Vatsa, Natha’s wife and Farrukh Jaffer, Natha’s mother. You laugh your head off as you watch them argue nonstop over trivial domestic issues and so on. Peepli doesn’t need a big name to bring in the crowds and this is a guarantee.
Musically, Indian Ocean deserve a special mention for their fusion and of course, Menghai Daiyan is ‘the’ song of the film. Whether it’s the compilation, the lyrics or Raghuveer Yadav’s singing, you cannot ignore this rustic number.
Peepli [LIVE] is an exceptional watch. For local Indians, the film is essential to watch because it gives you more reason to vote and choose correct politicians while also understanding that the media is not as honest it as it seems. For Indians abroad, Peepli subtly informs you of issues that are probably unknown to you sitting at home all way on the other side of the world. And it does all this without preaching. After watching films with big names and no substance, Peepli [LIVE] comes as fresh of breath-air.