Sunday, August 15, 2010

PEEPLI [LIVE] (2010)

Sorry this isn’t happening new age film. Unfortunately the film is more disturbing and hurting personal experience for me rather than entertaining or concerning one. A journalist turned debutant writer-director Anusha Rizhvi has literally ruined the subject of farmers suicide and made a farcical mockery of culturally rooted real India living in small villages. It seems that the film is made for urban audience to have a funny and tongue in the cheek look by lampooning and spoofing the people who lived below poverty line. Rather than highlighting and giving weight to the poor farmer who’s going to commit suicide and his family, the major part of the film hammered us with the farce of excess and exaggeration created by TRP mongering TV media, concocted political circus and above all that loudmouth old age mother lying on bed, giving enough laughing moments to urban audience.

Satire works when film drags you into the character or treatment and strikes you at heart emotionally but rather than satire Aamir and Rizhvi have made a film which is high on hyperbole to tickle urban audience in the name of new age cinema by showing hyperbole reality. Satire works in few frames but the excessive one sided picture and too much exaggeration made the film disturbing mockery of rural culture. When public around me laughing out loudly watching live over dramatized coverage and analysis of Naththa’s natural excretion, it’s hurting me so badly. What a shame!!!

Talking about acting, the film utterly wasted brilliant theater actor like Raghuvir Yadav, appeared on screen after long. Any of his earlier films are far better as films and that’s why in whatever limited role he played it fits his character so naturally. Rajpal Yadav look-alike Omkar Das Manikpuri as Naththa fits in the frame like a real character but poor fellow has nothing much to do except showing his unspoken expressions to camera. Being journalist, director Rizhvi has given much footage to the rivalry of two reporters. Again spoofing English speaking urban reporter Barkha Dutt and Hindi speaking Dipak Chaurasia. Naseeruddin Shah’s presence is suitable cameo but the amalgamated cast of late Habib Tanvir’s theatre is natural and impressive, especially the characters played by local opportunist Bhaiyaji and local print media reporter Rajesh.

There’s just two scenes which let me felt the noble and concerning one. The first is showing the skeleton like man digging his own grave and the last fast and shaky journey bridging the two compartmentalized India- culturally rooted rural to the happening urban, barren village farms to urban skyscrapers luring the middle class to have flat of their own with lucrative hoardings and taglines. But besides these two, the film is hurting one on many accounts. One has to read ‘Everybody loves a good draught’ written by freelance journalist P. Sainath. It’s well researched and brilliant journalist piece of writing neither just reduced to statistics but making you felt the heart of darkness of BPL India still waiting for development after sixty three years of Independence.

Sorry for being too emotional but rather than burning your bucks on this, watch Satyajit Ray or Shyam Benegal’s social reforming cinema or buy the copy of above said book on this Independent day to understand the real rural India from more closer, more realistic and more concerning perspective.

Ratings- 5/10


Pratik Modi said...

Brilliant point of view on this much hyped movie. It is a welcome sane view on the movie which is adored by the media.
Yes, using rural people and their anguish for ticking the urban-educated-english speaking buds is in bad taste.

No doubt, the movie serves the purpose of entertainment, but what is lacking in it is sensitivity and empathy characteristic of the great film makers.

Directionless Wanderer said...

Firstly, a google search got me here. Secondly, since this an old post, I am not even sure you will read or respond (but I hope to have a conversation here). Thirdly, I notice this blog seems to be actively maintained (latest post was just 2 days ago). And I must say, judging by the front active page, your taste is quite diverse and eclectic! I might not stop at this review and I might be persuaded to read more and get enchanted. And fourthly, this is going to be a long reply (broken down into several parts). So if you have anything better to do (like watering a plant or cuddling with your loved ones), then you can stop right here, satisfied with the praise I have showered above! ;)

Now onto the actual review and/or film itself. A small disclaimer: I am no big fan of Bollywood (detesting it with a vengeance) and neither am I a blind follower of "Aamirji". So it is in this context that I would argue that "Peepli Live" is a shining beacon of Indian cinema and also a supremely depressing glimpse into the psychopathic state of apathy and indifference demonstrated by the urban elite.

When I watch "Peepli Live" (and this is possibly my 20th viewing), I do so with a singular wish to convince myself of how truly f**ked this world is. My aim is to get severely depressed and to smoke a cigerette and curse the world and feel helpless and feel ready to explode. And "Peepli Live" not only gets me to that point, it proves that I have every reason to feel this wistful sense of guilt and shame and frustration at actively and passively participating in the freak-show that we call the 21st century globalized world. That I am a reluctant yet cowardly participant to the not so subtle and insidious exploitation of disenfranchised masses. That I am sadly a creature of laptops and cellphones and a slave to the internet and electricity and flushing toilets. "Peepli Live" reminds me both of how fortunate I am and how thankful I should be, and yet at the same time depresses me with a supreme sense of shame and guilt and absolute heart breaking helplessness at being an insignificant nobody with no influence in displacing the poisonous status quo in favor of a more just and egalitarian society.

In that sense, I differ from the viewers you describe - who take gleeful joy in laughing at the excesses of the freak-show called the "Indian Media" and the antics of sociopathic politicians . All the while, the same viewer does not realize that their cousin Mahesh from Mumbai crying about not having the latest I-Phone and their aunt Sonali from Bandra complaining about not getting her dose of "Angry Birds" - are all as much (if not more) participants to this whole screwed up mess.

Directionless Wanderer said...

Yes I get my laughs from the movie. But I don't laugh at the farmers. I laugh at the absurdity of this world. At how absolutely idiotic we have become and how urban India has completely lost touch with reality. I laugh about the hypocrisy of the middle class - championing the media as counter-balance to the corruption in the political establishment - not realizing that the media is instrumental in shaping and benefiting from said corruption.

The one scene which truly captures the essence of the film - is the one in which the Agricultural Secratary, the Argicultural Minister, the Chief Minister of Mukhya Pradesh, the Spokesman for the Communist parties - are all hounded by the media in a round robin way - only to keep passing the buck onto the other. Followed immediately by the polling scene - where a poll reveals that a sizeable number of people blame Terrorists and some even hold America responsible. Even the point of allowing urban Indians to vote through SMS on an issue as tragic as this - speaks volumes about the level of sociopathy inherent in today's world.

It is in this context that "Peepli Live" needs to be appreciated and absorbed. It is not mocking the farmers in any way. That some uncouth and disconnected viewers laugh at the literal jokes (but not at the subtext of the film) is a sad reflection also on how dumbed down the culture has become.

"Peepli Live" is officially the most depressing movie I have watched to date. And I keep revisiting it from time to time to remind myself that I have a privileged life and that my privileges are indeed the result of mass hysteria, widespread apathy, inherent sociopathy and ingrained exploitation.

Phew! There I said it! Bravo if you were reading it till now! And you are welcome to laugh at me! ;) .... I had to do it! That was a load off my chest! Now I can try to go back to watching movies in HD on my large T.V. and try to forget about how f**ked up this world is. And sincere thanks for playing along (if you did).

I look forward to your reply. My recommendation: watch the movie again with a glass of scotch, keeping in mind all the above things. I warn you, once you see the film from this perspective, you will likely be depressed for a whole week! ;)

HIREN DAVE said...


First bear my apology for responding your comment so lately. There's many points on your comments that made me think and will surely catch it as you suggested ;0 Now let me confess very honestly that this review is written under very angry mood and much of it comes through audience's reaction. Sometimes the expereince of watching film depends on whatever company you're in with. Many of my readers disagree with my opinion about this film, though they haven't posted their views on blog and i told them how i messed up the review with angry mood straight from cinema hall...Btw thaks for pointing insight and your personal views about the largest damn-o-cracy, will look forward to more of your opinions about other posts too...