Earlier this year, Well Done Abba, a movie by Shyam Benegal released and dealt with similar issues...those of the Real India hidden behind India Shining. His earlier movie Welcome To Sajjanpur also talked about our country's real issues. Neither of these two movies from Mr. Benegal did well at the Box-office. However, this one may just hit the bull's eye. This one comes from the person who has mastered the art of film marketing and science of Box-office success so well, that people may just go in droves to the multiplex to see his movie and walk out in awe of the man, who is present only in credits along with his wife, Kiran Rao as the Producer. But, he has completely taken over the psyche of the audience. When people look at the screen, they keep thinking, it's Aamir's movie...it must be great. The same people who missed out on two little gems from Mr. Benegal may think, why don't more people make such movies?
Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri) couldn't repay bank loans and about to lose his land. At home, he has to deal with a disgruntled wife and a bed-ridden mother and feed 3 children. When he goes to the local leader for help, he comes to know about a government scheme, which gives a reward to farmer's family if he commits suicide. Budhia, his brother eggs him on to commit suicide, though he is not quite convinced. Rakesh, a local daily reporter catches Natha's announcement of his grand plans to commit suicide and this appears in the local daily and the word reaches a city new channel.
Ever hungry for sensational news, the media arrive in droves once ITVN News reporter Nandita Malik puts this in the national mainstream news. After that, it's a free for all fare. Local vs. state politicians, state vs center politicians, administrators, policemen, everyone gets their piece of action as the whole nation gets obsessed with the concept of live suicide by a farmer, which becomes a national issue. The statistics of farmer's death boils down to one person. and Natha becomes a spectator in this media circus around him. The movie also talks about government's various schemes and their implementation issues with a tubewell (scheme) being named Lal Bahadur. Wonder, if Mr. Shastri would be happy to see the tubewell get such a great moniker in Aamir's movie. Also, waiting for someone to sue the film makers for defaming the great man. Wonder of wonders, it will mean more publicity for the movie and possibly, more business.
To cut the long story short, the film is a satire on our lives and talks about media's obsession with fabricating breaking news on their channels and the length to which, they can sometimes go to get ahead in the TRP race and the circus of politics in tandem with the media circus.
Anusha Rizvi deserves credit for making such a bold and hat ke debut. Of course, she deserves more credit for finding Aamir Khan as the Producer. Not to forget about the co-director, Mahmood Farooqui who is also Casting director which has been truly wonderful. The actors, who are mostly unknown have done a fabulous job. Only two known faces were Raghubir Yadav and Naseeruddin Shah (cameo). Omkar Das Manikpuri makes a great debut as Natha, the lead character. One just hopes, that he doesn't get caricaturised as Rajpal Yadav, in search of commercial success. Farooq Jaffar as the Amma and Shalini Vatsa as Dhaniya are great. The music blends well with the movie.
Overall, it's a wonderful little film, you must go and watch in the theaters. It's great to have a good laugh about our own lives on the big screen. And when you come back home along with your wit, it will be time to catch some breaking news LIVE on TV. This provides equal dose of entertainment because the circus continues in our daily lives.
Just like LIVE news on television, Peepli Live may occupy your mindspace for the weekend, but unlikely to stay there for long. It'll be time for something else, next weekend.