Peepli Live redefines conventional Entertainment in the context of Indian Cinema. Its a satire that treats you to many-a-laughs but as you come out of the theater, there's a concoction of consistent lump-in-the-throat feeling along with a plethora of parched tears. The film reaffirms that Aamir Khan is not merely a great actor-filmmaker with a hawk-like-focus on what works at the Box Office, he is also a wonderful human being.
Peepli Live works at many levels. Works for an audience who values the money spent on buying a cine ticket and expects nothing but a good time. Works for a discerning audience that generally stays away from cinema halls because it abhors the pedestrian content dished out week after week. Like Taare Zameen Par, Lagaan and Rang De Basanti, Aamir Khan takes up a challenge which could have gone wrong very easily. Also, while the above mentioned films had him as an actor, Peepli Live boasts of a deluge of unknown actors with a theater background (Naseeruddin Shah and Raghuveer Yadav being the only exceptions).
Lets delve a bit more deeper why Peepli Live was a risk that could have easily gone wrong. Apart from the unknown star cast, the film deals with the issue of farmer's suicide in rural India. Indian mindset is very price conscious. Anyone spending money on buying a cinema ticket is least interested in getting into the comfort of a cinema hall to watch a documentary laced with facts and figures and tonnes of preaching. Khan understands this very well. The emphasis in Peepli Live is on telling an engaging story of two brothers Natha (Omkar Das) and Budhia (Raghuveer Yadav) who come to know that farmers get compensation on committing suicide.
TRP hungry news channels pounce on this story and milk it to an obscene extreme. The exaggerated reporting gets the dilly-dallying politicos into action and within no time Natha is on the cover of prestigious Time magazine. Natha's wife Dhania (Shalini Vatsa) and Amma (Farrukh Jaffer) are at proverbial Saas-Bahu loggerheads and the expletives shared between the two are an absolute riot. A string of comedy of errors follow suit. In all the humour, the director pieces information on shoddy rural schemes of the country and why increasingly farmers are quitting their ancestral profession and shifting to cities to pursue petty jobs as daily wagers. But it is never hammered across in a preachy manner.
There are several sub plots that rip daggers through your conscience. Old farmer Horey Mahto's plight and his unsung death is like a lonely walk through a tempestuous storm. Local Reporter Rakesh (Nawazuddin) values the ethics of Journalism much more than the high nosed News Room types. And yet, his efforts go unrecognised and wasted. The apathy of the Political and Babu system is showed with a practical perspective and gives you an insight into several issues about which you read and watch on TV on a regular basis.
Director Anusha Rizvi dares to have a unique vision, and for a change in Bollywood, she has a story that has never been told before in Indian cinema. The setting of the film is so Real that you can literally smell the stench and saunter around in the village alleys. It is very clear that she has done a lot of research in terms of getting the Dialect right for the middle of India. Also, she has a strong grasp over the craft of story telling without making any compromises whatsoever. All this is done without having any known stars playing the pivotal characters. A great achievement indeed. Anusha is also the writer of the film and the dialogues are a direct statement on the great divide that's called India. On the flip side, even though the dialect used in the film elicits several funny moments, not everyone will relate to it instantly. Yes, it is a bit hard to understand especially for people who don't belong to that belt.
Omkar Das as Natha is a revelation. He makes you smile, laugh and sympathetic all at the same time. There are moments when his actions speak volumes about the kind of person he was supposed to portray in the film. There's a night scene where his two goats seek his attention. Even though, he tries to turn them away initially as he was caught up with messy thoughts of his own, but then he gives in and embraces them. Touching indeed.
Raghuveer Yadav, as expected is mind blowing. There are several shades to his personality. Helpless, elder brotherly and yet a hint of unpronounced negative sentiments. Farrukh Jaffer as Amma has some of the best lines in the film which she delivers with aplomb, Shalini Vatsa as Dhaniya is wonderful, Vishal Sharma as the wily Hindi News Reporter Kumar Deepak will go places after this film, Malaika Shenoy as suave English News Reporter Nandita Malik has an impressive screen presence and it goes without saying Naseeruddin Shah as the smart politician gives this film a super sheen of its own.
Peepli Live is technically a very competent film. Shanker Raman's camera work is outstanding. There are many scenes which scream out merely through the choice of visuals. Hemanti Sarkar's crafty editing makes the film a breezy experience. Several editing chops are innovatively handled and gets you in the mood that the director aims for. Maxima Basu's costumes stick to the context. Everything is real and natural. Music is popular yet soulful. Mehngayi Dayan Khaye Jaat Hai, Chola Maati Ke Ram and Des Mera Rangrez Hai Babu are great tracks. And will be heard, watched and remembered for a long time to come.
Finally, I'd like to say that Peepli Live is beyond 'Star's (Rating). It is a film that happens very rarely. Don't miss it!