First things first; Peepli Live is no Lagaan (that’s how the promos began with Aamir taking potshots of himself) but does not fall short of a remarkable experience. Aamir Khan scores a home run this time too and continues his successful run as a producer, delivering movies with good content.
With Peepli Live, debutant director/writer Anusha Rizvi tackles the prevalent and burning issue of farmer suicides. However, the movie is not a preachy and boring lecture and ends up being an engaging eye-opener. The film canvasses a beautiful landscape of rural India. We find that Natha (Omkar Das) and his brother Dudhia (Raghubir Yadav) are debt-ridden and are about to lose their only valuable possession; their land. Dudhia pleads to the local politician who mockingly suggests the idea of suicide to receive Government compensation.
What starts of as an idea ends up being a rollercoaster ride which transforms the Peepli village into a political battlefield and press conference room. Cunning Dudhia smartly encourages Natha to commit suicide. A local newspaper journalist, Rakesh (Nowaz) overhears their conversation and innocently writes a news article on it. This snowballs into a chain of events and brings all the power-hungry politicians and TRP-greedy journalists to the village.
Peepli goes turns into a high-security zone and a mela overnight. However, no one cares about the plight of Natha and several other suicidal farmers. Without doubt, Peepli Live is a humorous yet tongue-in-cheek depiction of current day India.
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Several scenes stand out in the movie: like the one when a Government official hands over ‘Lal Bahadur’to Natha and Dudhia. Also the scene when Rakesh realizes that a local farmer dies in the pit dug by himself is moving. The music is splendid and has been composed by Indian Ocean and other folk artistes.
Anusha Rizvi scores and how! You never feel that she is a debutant director gauging by the way in which she handles the story maturely. The use of irony and ‘Satire’ is evident throughout the movie. Instead of lengthy dialogues, Anusha presents the facts in a realistic manner via crisp and expletive dialogues.
Hats off to the ensemble cast for delivering such first-rate performances. Omkar Das, Raghubir Yadav, Shalini Vatsa (Natha’s Wife), Farrukh Jaffer (Natha and Budhia’s mother) and Nowaz enthrall the audiences. Naseeruddin Shah (Salim Kidwai) is brilliant as usual. A good casting choice indeed- by choosing theatre actors over commercial celebrities.
Hats off to Anusha Rizvi for delivering a socially relevant message rather than debuting with a candy-floss flick and Aamir Khan for taking the risk of green lighting a supposedly off-beat project. Peepli Live is one of those few movies which entertain as well as enlighten.
By Akshay Rane