The destitute condition of India's rural areas and depravity in business and politics have been depicted on screen several times with three distinct approaches. Documentary style, satirical and revolutionizing. One can easily recollect atleast three films that chose these approaches to create different impacts on the audiences. â€œJaane Bhi Do Yaaronâ€ is among the greatest comedies and political satires ever made with its take on builders, politicians and the plight of the common man when muddled in between a conniving cover-up plot. â€œSwadesâ€ depicted rural India's real, warm and deprived conditions from the eyes of an outsider who was keen to change things from the ground level. Its docu-drama style with some memorable characters had an impact that can be simply defined as 'moving'. Then, we have â€œRang De Basantiâ€ that redefined the way we think about our chalta hai attitudes while instigating the desire to be bold, inspiring and rebellious in the midst of India's corrupt political and business environment. Peepli (live) does not follow any of those approaches. Director Anusha Rizvi attempts a social satire about the plight of farmers who are unable to provide for their families and while the film maybe able to touch you, it does little to Move you.
The film tends to look like a documentary by Doordarshan while also going overboard with its satirical take on media's exposure of events. Natha, played by Omkar Das is encouraged by his brother Budhia (Raghuvir Yadav) to commit suicide as upon his death, the government would grant Rs. 1 lakh to his family; which is beyond any amount Natha could've ever earned while farming in Peepli.
While the ensuing effects of a local reporter overhearing Natha's plan build to some funny situations with media's extensive coverage in Peepli, the broader ramifications would threaten the state election campaign of the prevailing party. A helpless farmer's idea to sacrifice his own life for the sake of his family, turning into a roadblock for politicians, is a concept both serious at its core as well as humorous due to the satirical take by the director.
There are some noteworthy scenes that Anusha Rizvi deserves appreciation for:
The heated debate in the newsroom with Naseeruddin Shah as the Agriculture minister
The arrival of the media bandwagon to the small village of Peepli
Backward classes leader 'Pappulal' gaining political footage by rewarding Natha and guaranteeing his death in front of the media
Hori Mahatho's angle to portray irony and tragedy to the happenings in Peepli while lending some gravity to stir up your conscience.
Reporter Rakesh's conclusion
The symbolic journey of the camera in the end to travel far away from Peepli to Delhi?
The cinematography throughout is remarkable. From camcorder like footage to capturing simplistic visuals of the village, its characters and the closing sequence of the journey, the picturization is very different in making reality look real.
But like all movies, the whole cannot be made of such few parts. Peepli has numerous subtle flaws that simply leave an empty feeling in the end. Yes, the tale is touching and the sad state of affairs of our country's majority is tragic but there was immense potential to do a lot more with a subject like this. Agreed that without renowned mainstream actors, one can make a more real-looking film but realism should be in the story ..... not in the face of its protagonists. Therefore, Peepli does lack memorable performances. Every actor was just average and with a pool of such fine character actors around, one can only wonder why we're left with people whom we are to forget in a month.
Veteran actors like Naseeruddin Shah and Raghuvir Yadav have been wasted in roles that made little impact. Naseer should've atleast played the negative role of the politician to add more excitement to the film. Raghuvir Yadav could've played the lead role perhaps? How much life he would've been able to add to such a flawed character!
Kundan Shah's 'Jaane bhi do Yaaron' is a legend because the common man viewed his circumstances as a tragedy while the rest were comedians determined to cover up their folly in a satirical plot. Peepli tends to be a satire on the plight of farmers who cannot afford to make ends meet and support their families. While it does so in brilliant fashion in many scenes with the media, concerned citizens with their candles and overconfident politicians, it gets repetitive, loud (Old Mother and wife), superfluous (media covering Natha's morning ritual) and detachable. The last adjective has been deliberately used because towards the end of all the drama, one does not really empathize with Natha's condition simply because you tend to lose your bearings on whether to be sympathetic, angry, frustrated or to just laugh it out.
The second half of the film introduces some gravity with Hori Mahatho's character, Rakesh the reporter and the lost Natha and it stops being the satire that we laughed over for the first half. Now all of a sudden, we are to become serious, empathize with Natha's situation, understand the TRP hungry media's role in the story and think how this can be stopped! But there too, the movie falls flat.
The conclusion of the film could've either started a small revolution or given the politicians something to think about. But instead, in the midst of development, we see Natha even more helpless than he was with his own people. Imagine if 'Mohan Bhargava' had remained in the USA at the end of Swades or if our revolutionaries in Rang de Basanti had moved on with their lives in college instead of storming into All India Radio.... you cannot imagine that right? But that is exactly how Peepli decides to let you go. You come out with awareness about a farmer's helpless situation but wonder if it could be changed, or whether it was all to be taken with a pinch of salt or if there was an alternative to end such misery. In short, you go in empty and walk out empty.
Mehengai Dayain is true to the film's first half characteristic of poking at reality and while it's a laudable effort by the village troupe, it is not very likely that you will listen to it out of choice at home/car/train/office. What does stand out is Indian Ocean's exemplary work with Zindagi se darte ho and Des mera. The music is fusion desi in true Indian Ocean style with rich lyrics and soulfulness.
Unlike those lyrics, the film is unfortunately quite empty on the dialogue front. Apparently, female reporters who travel from the city are not very comfortable speaking hindi and thus, we cannot expect any memorable dialogues to come from Malaika Shenoy.
For those who haven't walked through small villages may find the film's backdrop quite overwhelming and disturbing and may hopefully donate a colour tv or so to a deserving farmer but the rest of us who have seen some reality even though from afar, will find little worth applauding for in this 90 odd minute saga of suicidal farmers, power hungry politicians and blatantly sensational media.
Peepli (live) will nevertheless be the most outstanding example of how an impeccable iconic figure like Aamir Khan can turn a haystack into a jeweler's store.
6.88 on a scale of 1-10.