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BGS Film Review

Ravi S

Peepli Live

Star cast : Omkar Das Manikpuri, Raghuvir Yadav, Naseeruddin Shah, Shalini Vatsa, Farrukh Jafar Director : Anusha Rizvi Producer : Aamir Khan

Peepli Live highlights the plight of farmers unable to repay debt and resorting to suicides to make ends meet. The movie also takes a satirical dig at the self centered politicians, the callous bureaucracy and the overly intrusive 24/7 news channels, which have become the sine qua non of the modern day. For those living in the towns and cities, it touches a chord with the way the farmers lead pathetic lives.

Farmers Budhia and his younger brother Natha, are in debt, having lost their piece of land unable to repay a bank loan. With elections round the corner, they meet the local MLA for monetary help. The MLA along with his cronies around him, talk of a government scheme that provides a compensation of Rs. 1 lakh for farmers who commit suicide. The idea of committing suicide is planted in the heads of Budhia and Natha. Budhia and Natha finally decide that they will take this route to get the required money from the government. The exchange between Natha and Budhia as to who among them would commit suicide, with no forethought of the consequences of such an act, makes for hilarious viewing.

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BGS Film Review

Ravi S

Reports in the television talk of increasing farmer suicides and give a chilling statistic of one farmer dying every 8 hours. In an interview to one of the news channels, the Agriculture Minister stoutly defends saying that most of the deaths were natural and of old age. One cant help associating the comment with one made by one of the ministers a few years back, defending the farmers suicides. Ironically, the Agriculture minister talks of industrialization as one of the means to stop farmer suicides.

News channels vying with each other for Television Rating Points (TRPs) are brought out rather starkly in the movie. Nandita, reporter of ITBN, an English news channel, is ticked off by her superior because of low TRPs as compared to the other popular Hindi channel, Bharat. The close relationship between the politicians and the media is also well brought out in the movie. The recent Paid news controversy comes to mind, when the Chief Minister talks to Vishal from Bharat TV on him getting at least 15 stories prior to the election. The bureaucracy is not spared either the callous attitude of the Agriculture Secretary, saying that suicide is a legal issue and waiting for court directive before he can take any action smacks of utter insensitivity to the problems of the villagers.

In the midst of all this, news of Natha wanting to commit suicide appears in the papers. With all the negative publicity generated by the news of suicide, Natha is called by the Local MLA and is given a sound thrashing. There is a poignant dialogue in the movie where the teashop owner talks of how the govt doesnt do much even when alive, what can you expect when one is dead. (zindagi rehte hue kuch nahi kiya, marne ke baad sarkaar kya karega)

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BGS Film Review

Ravi S

With the prospect of elections, Nandita representing the ITBN channel, interviews Natha and does a story on farmer suicides to increase its TRPs. Soon a slew of TV channels descend in the village of Peepli intruding into the privacy of Natha and his family. They dont spare other villagers too asking them inane questions, reminiscing of their childhood days with Natha, and how they feel hearing about his impending suicide, besides reporters giving their own interpretations of their interactions with the locals side tracking the main issue at hand the suicide of Natha. Again a sad reflection on the current day 24/7 channels which believe in what ever it takes to up their TRPs.

Political parties trying to make the most of the situation offer freebies such as TV and hand pump to Natha and his family. Meanwhile, the Chief Minister, desperate to diffuse the situation in Peepli, comes out offers 1 lakh rupees to Natha and addresses the press that Natha wouldnt commit suicide. Again self seeking politicians appeal to the Election Commission to have that order set aside.

The intrusive attitude of the media comes out in the open when they follow Natha even when he goes for his morning ablutions. The sight of the Bharat TV cameraman who climbs up on top of scaffolding and tries to spot Natha while at it was truly sickening. Worse is when the reporters analyze the spot where he defecated and talk philosophically, about Nathas state of mind.

Natha, in the mean time absconds, possibly abducted by the local goons. Natha is spotted in a hideout far away from the village by a local stringer. As soon as the news

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BGS Film Review

Ravi S

reaches Nandita, all TV reporters descend on the possible hideout. The police follow suit and in the melee, unfortunately lighting a petromax, the hideout is burnt. The viewers are supposed to believe that Natha dies in the accident. For Nathas family, they dont even get the money promised since the death was by an accident and not by suicide. The film taken in subdued lighting, ends with the bright images of highways, construction of buildings and malls almost suggesting that the future lies in industrialization and not in agriculture. The film aptly ends with these

lines - 8 million farmers quit farming between 1991 and 2001. The gloomy issue of farmers suicides has been brilliantly told in a riveting fashion. It truly reflects the sad state of affairs in the modern day the prying nature of the media lapping up every morsel of news that comes their way, the scheming, self seeking politicians, who are concerned only about winning elections and nothing else, and the insensitive bureaucracy, who go by the rules of the book, without being empathetic to peoples problems.

A superb movie by a first time director, Anusha Rizvi, it is no surprise that this has been selected as the official Indian entry for the Oscars this year. The two farmers played out by Omkar Das Manikpuri and Raghuvir Yadav are brilliant in their portrayal. Malaika

Shenoy and Kumar Deepak excel in their role as two reporters from rival channels. Farukh Jaffer as Nathas mother and Shalini Vatsa as Nathas wife and Naseeruddin Shah as the Agriculture minister play their part. All in all it is a brilliant satire which hits you hard !!

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