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Debutant writer-director anusha rizvi tells us about the india of today in this amusingly bittersweet satire-peepli [live]. On the week of local elections in the indian village of peepli, two poor farmers, natha and budhia, face losing their land over an unpaid government loan. When a journalist overhears budhia urge natha to "do what needs to be done" for the sake of their families, a media frenzy ignites around weather or not natha will commit suicide.
The high point of the film indeed is its smart and sassy script. But more than all this, it's the life-like portrayals that add a refreshing authenticity to the film. Handpicking the actors mostly from Habib Tanvir's famed Naya Theatre troupe was indeed a coup for debutant director Anusha Rizvi. The show stealers here are Raghuvir Yadav, Omkar Das Manikpuri and Farrukh Jaffer. The music of the film deserves a special mention, with folksy lyrics and tunes by Indian Ocean, Nageen Tanvir, Brij Mandal and the rest.
Peepli Live is a lively and living document on the 'other' India, that lives beyond the neon lights and the cruising metros. Another ace up Aamir Khan's sleeve! This time as producer of a film that has loads to say, without being boring and didactic. --platform47.com
Cinematographer Shanker Raman efficiently captures the rural essence of the film, ably supported by the art and costume designers. With a live in its title and a suicide in its theme, Peepli Live makes for a perfect paradox. And through such contradiction, it highlights the absurdities of existence. Visiting this village is strongly recommended! --platform47.com
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The only thing missing are swarms of flies - I was struck by the fact that the village yards had no flies I could see.
It sends up the professional NGO activists, newsmedia and politicians alike.
It is dark but very funny if you can ignore the underlying grimness. I would compare it to a British film like 'Four Lions' in that regard.
The selective Aamir Khan Productions has produced less than a handful of films since its formation nearly a decade ago, including one--the company's first, 'Lagaan' (2001)--that was nominated for an Academy Award (only the third Indian film in history to get an Oscar nod), and there's a good chance 'Peepli Live' could be the next Indian film to wind up in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Oscar loves social commentaries, even if he isn't partial to comedies. 'Peepli Live' is both.
It's a darkly humorous satire about a debt-ridden farmer who creates a media circus when he announces that he will commit suicide so that his family can receive government assistance. A comedy about suicide is a tough stretch, but reaching in disparate directions is Hindi cinema's forte. In fact, this isn't even Aamir Khan's first comedy about the topic--he starred in the critically praised blockbuster '3 Idiots' (2009), a coming-of-age film about college students cracking under intense social pressure to succeed. The extreme measures of both struggling students and failing farmers are real problems (scores of farmers have killed themselves for government aid in recent years), and while '3 Idiots' takes higher education to task, 'Peepli Live' indicts politicians and the media for preying on the poor, while also making a larger statement about the callous self-interest of human beings.
The story takes place in the fictional village of Peepli (many of the actors are, in fact, amateurs from a small village in the region where the film is set). Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri) is a simpleton who is about to lose his farm in foreclosure. He has a wife, three kids, an older brother--who's a good-for-nothing bachelor, presumably because of his penchant for pot-smoking--and a bedridden elderly mother--whose ranting and insults are the funniest parts of the movie. This is not a loving family and their village is not an idyllic community. The people here are nasty. When Natha turns to the local crime boss for help, the mobster jokingly suggests that Natha kill himself for the money and his brother Budhia (Raghubir Yadav) convinces him to do it. Natha's perpetually angry, suffering wife thinks it's a stupid idea--because she thinks everything Natha does is stupid. No one cares if he dies, not even his kids. And yet, this man doesn't really want to die, even though he has little reason to live. After a local reporter catches wind of his plans, the story goes national, and journalists and politicians descend on Peepli like vultures. The situation turns into a ridiculous feeding frenzy with the not-yet-dead Natha offered up for public consumption. With the whole country waiting for him to die, Natha is afraid to back out.
If you don't laugh at life--the old saying goes--you'll cry. And true to Bollywood tradition, 'Peepli Live' makes sure we do both.
- The Bollywood Ticket: The American guide to Indian movies (Subscribe: The Bollywood Ticket)