- Lal Bahadur. Source: Peeplilivethefilm.com
This is not intended to be a review.
*spoiler alert* Some points give away the story line of the movie.
Peepli Live is a slap fest. It’s a slap across the face, for today’s politicians, the government, it’s babus, their yojanas, and above all, the MEDIA and us, it’s viewers.
Live television has long crossed the boundaries of absurdity. An year ago, the CM of Andhra Pradesh (YS Rajashekar Reddy) passed away in a chopper crash, and the media created a mass hysteria among people and portrayed several hundred ‘shock deaths’ – death of many average souls, who died of shock when they heard the news. For a major part of the week, including the night of the disappearance of the chopper, the news channels went wild, especially the one owned by the CM’s son (and apparently the heir to the CM post in the next few years), broadcast images of people weeping inconsolably for a CM they most probably never saw in flesh and blood ever in their life. His popularity exaggerated and magnified a million fold, and gaining maximum political mileage out of a personal tragedy.
That is a tiny example of our mis-information age, and Peepli Live makes a satire of it. Farmer deaths is something we hear about everyday, (right after cricket, dynasty politics, Pakistan, world, Chinese made gadgets and 10 tips to improve our sex lives). The characters in the movie are in abject poverty, and their cuss words may make you laugh, or cringe, but they are pretty unfiltered.
In the first few minutes you hear a pair of newsreaders relaying the news about Shilpa Shetty, denying the rumor of an affair with Prince William. You thought that was exaggeration? Over an hour into the movie, a TV presenter is shown examining the poop of a person they are unable to get hold of, for a millionth interview.
Budhia, a simpleton who is talked into giving a statement about committing suicide, as he is about to lose his ancestral piece of land, is now on the run because the media had made a circus out of his life, and his tiny little home in an unknown rural town of Peepli. His half hearted suicide talk has become a national sensation, and everybody in an official position in the country, and the media, have a vested interest in his death.
The stress of this turn of events has given him a diarrhea, but the media won’t allow him to attend his ablutions in peace. If this doesn’t tell you something, then good. The real world media has done its job well. We have been desensitized, the level at which we can be shocked is so high up, that nothing trivial like suicides because of poverty, bother us anymore. We couldn’t do much about it anyway.
While the suspense of Budhia’s life or death is gripping the nation, Mahato is out digging a ditch to make money by selling the soil, and ironically, his weak body gives away and he dies in the very ditch he is digging. Nobody give’s a sh*t because they are busy analyzing Budhia’s sh*t.
The outcome of Budhia’s life doesn’t really matter anymore, there’s a wonderful 3 min scene about what ‘yojanas’ can help him. There’s one for widows, disabled and the destitute. But the only one Budhia qualifies for is either ‘Lal Bahadur’(a hand pump) or the 1 lakh compensation that his wife gets if he dies.
Again, a wonderful satire on how our national leaders have been idolized under different schemes (mostly for political purposes). There’s wonderful characterization of IAS level/Block development officers, who say nothing but, ‘yes sir’ to the minister. The educated secretary of Agriculture, who won’t do anything except wait for a court order, and the high rung politicians, for who, everything is just a political game. To get into power, and remain in power. Absolutely no other objective.
Peepli live is uncomfortably funny, has no songs, has exceptionally talented actors, is produced by Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao, and is a very simple and straight story that was born out of frustration with things that are wrong in India today including the media, which has long lost its original purpose of information, and fast moved into the world of entertainment. LIVE entertainment. And Peepli Live is a wonderful window that captures this in less than 2 hrs.