Peepli [Live]

Brothers, Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri) and Budhia (Raghuvir Yadav) have problems. Not only do they still live with their Mother (Farrukh Jaffar); a screechy, vulgar woman who spends the whole time lying down, squawking and cursing Natha’s wife, Dhaniya (Shalini Vatsa), but they are about to lose their farm in Peepli. In a last bid attempt to pool some money, the men visit their local politician who is kicking back in his Ray-Bans, eating boiled eggs with his pals. After refusing to help financially, the topic of suicide crops up. Never a welcome visitor, but when it’s offered as an answer to your debts, it becomes a lot more like the bailiff-you-want-to-avoid, hammering down the door and demanding repayment. But since an Indian government scheme pays compensation to the families of deceased farmers, suicide seems their only chance to save the farm.


But rather then draw straws, Budhia gives it a little bit of the old crocodile-tears-sympathy-encouraging spiel, weeping how he will be the one to die for the sake of the farm. This works a treat and forces Natha to offer himself up on the same platter, only for Budhia to roll off the plate of responsibility, leaving Natha holding the card of death. Brotherly love!

When a nearby journalist overhears their conversation, he runs a piece on it and then hello, media frenzy. Everyone wants a piece of the action! The television channels flock to the village like chickens being chased, and as Dhaniya says, the house is “turned into a circus…so go dance in it!”

Jump aboard my rickshaw of wonder. Apologies for the lack of seatbelt

Peepli [Live] is visually glorious. With wobbly, handheld cameras, and authentic-looking cinematography, with the occasional splash of a colourful garland in the dusty air, it’s everything Slumdog Millionaire isn’t. See it as more of a bumpy-ride-in-a-trailer-on-a-dirt-track, where romance doesn’t get a chance to rear its petalled head.

Whilst described as a satire, it seems to lack the humour to bring home the bacon and feed us the point in a comic way. Less “LOLs” and more in-your-face exposure of the flaws and faults in Indian media and politics. But, don’t get me wrong, I love a good old politically challenging, social questioning. It’s just that I would also like to see more of Natha slipping in a cowpat.

“Smoking pot and eating eggs will never be the same again”

When the film does manage to inject a bit of humour, it’s really done well. One of my favourite parts of the film was when Natha is presented with ‘Lal Bahadur’; the gift of a hand pump for not comitting suicide. The perfect suicide deterrent, an unfitted handpump. Where’s the receipt? But as with all issue-laced humour, Budhia’s telling afterthought is “a handpump for not dying. Imagine what death will bring.” Two unattached handpumps? I’ll leave that to the philosophers.

Regardless of whether the issue-tune is overplayed, you cannot fault Peepli [Live] for wanting to home in on the country’s attitudes towards the rural classes and it makes an interesting and thought provoking watch. Whilst the simple farmers get caught up in the situation and the television crews feed on their every trip to the toilet, Rakesh, a journalist who (in the words of the Ramones), has a little bit of soul, leaves us questioning what is the role of the news – To give the audience what they want regarding the latest fiasco, or to raise awareness in order to help? When one news reporter goes crazy for footage of Natha having a poo in a bucket, I think we know the answer.

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