From Aamir Khan productions comes a very unlikely film; a tale of two India's, one rich and privileged and the other poor and desperate. So desperate in fact that the protagonist must resort to suicide to support his deeply poor family eke out their miserable existence.
Thus it is that in the village of Peepli (situated in the fictional state of Mukhya Pradesh) there are two brothers. Both farm their family’s land, but the crops having failed this season, they are deeply in debt and unable to pay the bank loan. Having exhausted all their resources, they hear about a government scheme where an amount of one lakh is awarded to the family of any farmer who has committed suicide. Budhia (Raghuveer Yadav), the elder brother convinces the younger, simple-headed brother Natha Das Manikpuri (Manikpuri) to commit suicide.
Before the brothers can put their plan into action however, a local reporter gets wind of the “live” suicide, and soon, Peepli is awash in hordes of journalists looking for fresh grist for the TRP mill. Soon politicians are involved, with the government trying to prevent Natha from giving up his life, and the Opposition trying to egg him on. Will Natha live?
Anusha Rizvi directs with a firm hand and has a fine film to show for it. In her efforts she is ably aided by two most remarkable actors – Raghubir Yadav, an impeccable performer who hasn’t been able to garner much acclaim in commercial cinema, despite his great talent, and Omkar Das Manikpuri, a stage artist who deserves much of the acclaim coming to this film. There are also veterans like Naseeruddin Shah (as suave, smooth-talking Agriculture Minister Salim Kidwai) who essays his small role with convincing ease.
Based on the spate of farmer suicides, Peepli Live is a fine blend of satire and irony, and presents its indictment of society and governance in humorous terms. The well-written script and screenplay uses wit (and some choice epithets) to put out in finely grained display the complete corruption of the system, at whose mercy lies the fate of much of India’s rural poor.
This is not quite the Friday night entertainer, it is not light, frothy or frivolous. Peepli Live is a low-key, moderately paced drama, but it is worth your time. I do wish that more film-makers have the courage to make films, such as this one, which deviate so strongly from the usual mindless song-and-dance masala. Although, if I am truthful about it, films like this one, however worthwhile they may be rarely recieve theater releases like Peepli Live has done. Most often, unaided by an influential production house, they disappear into filmi oblivion. I’m glad this one hasn’t.
Kid-wise : Clean really, except for some verbal expletives/profanity. The film will probably not interest younger kids anyway, since the plot is subtle and slow.