A bouquet of flowers picked along the way ….

Peepli [Live] (movie review) August 14, 2010

Filed under: Movie Reviews — gurdas @ :

Peepli Live

Peepli Live did not just live up to my expectations, it exceeded them. Giving me a side splitting and yet brooding glimpse to an India I know exists, an India I have experienced first hand, but an India I rarely hear about. An India most urban dwelling Indians think exists only in movies. Actually, that India does not exist in movies because movies are mostly about urban subjects. Peepli [Live] is rustic, charming, and satirical.

A satire on the poverty that runs across the nation and the mockery we have made of it. Peepli Live is powered by exceptional screenplay and the most original dialogues I have heard in a long time. And it is rustic – generously populated by slang that designer wear, polished, English speaking Indians might cringe at. But a language spoken by numbers greater than the entire population of United States. The characters are real and believable. The clothes they wear depict the reality of their existence. Their scraggy beards, dirty loins, and hand woven beds are common sights in rural India. The movie has its flaws but they do not interfere with the story telling. I will have to nitpick to tell you where the movie fell short. Yes, it was that good an act.

The storyline is simple. The farming brothers Budhia and Natha (100% real ‘non-english speaking India’ names) are facing the prospect of losing their land. The way out? Natha will commit suicide, Budhia will collect money that the government will pay to the dead farmer’s family, and use that money to pay off the debt on the land. Around this simple plot is woven the story of greed, treachery, labour, honour, politics, shamelessness, conscience, and most importantly a complete lack of empathy. The only other primetime Bollywood movie from recent times that scratched the vast but overlooked subject of abject poverty was Swades. But unlike Swades, Peepli [Live] has no parallel stories. There is no love story here. No song and dance sequence. But just like Swades, Peepli [Live] is honest cinema. The farmers are real. So are the goons. Omkar Das Manikpuri (Natha) is a find. I knew what to expect from Raghubir Yadav and he delivers. Watch out for Natha’s wife Dhaniya played by Shalini Vatsa. And Natha’s mother will rock your bed just like she keeps rocking her own!

You will also meet ‘Lal Bahadur’, a pumping thumping ‘character’. And you will come across Hori Mahato, who becomes a metaphor for things we overlook. You will have questions about the exit of Rakesh, and what truly is the role of the media. For a change, you will be laughing and thinking at the same time. The songs are catchy and the lyrics convey the same feel and message as the movie; and you will want to dance and think at the same time.

The movie did slip in a few sequences and it seems the compromise was made to gain dramatisation. For example, when the news channel vans first roll into the village, they just come in unreal synchronisation. And that last scene at the warehouse seemed loose. Other than this, the movie is tight and pulls out some daring acts which could have fallen flat but do not. Often, the film easily slides from a hilarious moment into one that leaves you pondering. The satire is not sugar coated and there are no long preachy sermons.

I am tempted to watch it again next weekend to (re)enjoy some of those dialogues – exquisite gems that come and go so fast you are left thirsting. Peepli [Live] deserves a peep. Actually two.


9 Responses to “Peepli [Live] (movie review)”

  1. Parminder Says:

    Very well put!

  2. sushant Says:

    good one paaji this ! …. recently i watched aisha and really cursed myself within 30 mins the movie started and walked out of the theatre immediately .. with absolutely zero chemistry between the flat and uninterested actress sonam kapoor and abhay deol …. a way too clean Delhi …. with no signs of city’s ugly realities – dust, pollution, traffic jams, exploding population, poor urban planning, the little beggar children who approach the air conditioned car windows of the elite, and the poor and their slums that make the outer peripheries of the wealthy south Delhi colonies. the actress character appears to be condescending and arrogant with no concerns for the general society. Otherwise Aisha could have been a fascinating and effective sociological study of the India that few of us are privileged to see. Aisha could have been contemporary take on Emma with an edge, a commentary of what India’s elite have become, but it too much of Clueless and a wannabe sex and the city (which used to be a show with lot of authenticity about single women in a big city) which is a set of superficial films, wrapped in its world of high fashion, and somewhat racist rich white characters. After watching Peepli Live, i wished Aisha had looked out of her AC car watching our helpless protagonist Natha standing on the street corner as he headed for a construction job.

    • gurdas Says:

      Sushant, what a wonderful comment you have put up. And I loved your last sentence. Thank you!
      I have not seen Aisha and will never do. I have no hesitation in saying that I am a cinemaphile and the only way to benefit from my love for this art form (and remain sane) is by avoiding trash as much as possible. Most often than not, a reading of the synopsis and reviews from other users tells me what chances I have of liking the movie. Luckily, every single movie I have seen in the last one year or so has been stellar. In the US, we are blessed with Netflix and I will have need a few lifetimes to complete the treasure of movies they have. I now see films from other cultures more often, so my list is populated by Swedish, Danish, Korean, Italian, German, Chinese, Japanaese, and French cinema.

  3. Jaspal Says:

    Good Gurdas. Will be seeing the movie for sure..

  4. Puneet Bakshi Says:

    I watched the movie today , and i must confess, i was moved to tears by the portrayal of rural india in the movie. I felt guilty and sad and helpless ,all at the same time about how we have let the disconnect between the two Indias deepen to these levels.. I found your review absolutely on the mark.. in fact as i walked out of the hall, i could myself think of only 2 weak scenes that seemed unreal.. ok maybe a third when the in media room, the team discuss the saif – kareena-sharmila non-story.

    I have travelled extensively into the remote villages of the country with the politicos during the election time carnival, being a chopper pilot, and i must state that the actual scenario in most little villages is grimmer than what u see in the movie..

    Anyways , I am glad to have discovered you and your Blog .. will subscribe … keep up ..


    • gurdas Says:

      Puneet, thank you for stopping by. Our urban lives make it easy to disconnect with total reality. We live in bubbles. I look forward to receiving more insights from your travels.

  5. Peepli [Live] is great movie i have ever seen !!!

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