September Issue 2010
Movie Review — Peepli Live: Poignant Masterpiece
Aamir Khan made the jump from actor to award-winning producer in a remarkably short span of time. He wowed audiences the world over with the brilliant Taare Zameen Par, and has now produced another poignant masterpiece, Peepli Live. The storyline is incredibly refreshing and engages the audience from start to finish. At a time when big-budget Bollywood movies boasting star casts are flopping at the box office due to poor content, Peepli Live is raking in commercial and critical success with a cast of little-known names — it’s simply unadulterated talent and brilliant content.
The film takes the audience into the heart of India, with its below-poverty-line populaces and the seemingly endless barrage of problems that they face. While it is, at face value, a satire on the farmer suicides that have been taking place in India, at second glance the film holds a depth that no recent release has had. It offers a critique of the fast-paced, consumer-centric society that India has become, and generates a discussion about the vulture-like tendencies of society and those that suffer as a consequence.
The storyline is centred around residents of a sleepy little village in rural India called Peepli. Two brothers, Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri) and Budhia (Raghuveer Yadav), are unable to repay a government loan and thus are under threat of losing their family land. unsure of whom to turn to for help, they approach a local politician Bhai Thakur (Sitaram Panchal), who heaps insult upon insult. While the brothers despairingly listen to Thakur’s abuse, one of the office cronies mocks them by reminding them of a government policy that gives benefits to the families of farmers that commit suicide. The brothers take the mock advice to heart and set about deciding which of the two should make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good of the family. A local news reporter gains knowledge of the situation and jumps on the chance to report it as the story unfolds. He offers the information to a female reporter from a mainstream English news channel. No sooner had the reporter Nandita Malik (Malaika Shenoy) sunk her teeth into the story than a whole horde of newscasters followed suit. All this is taking place with local elections looming around the corner. The politicians play up the situation, adding to the flurry of excitement, confusion and public interest that make up the rest of the story.
All in all, the movie is definitely worth watching. It has gained critical acclaim not only in the subcontinent but the world over. Peepli Live masterfully comments on the many flaws of local politics, the lack of value of human life in a consumer-driven society, and the comical and often cruel role of the media.