Review - Peepli Live (Albanian, Arabic, Azerbaijani): covers poverty tourism with fervor

wogma rating: Buy the DVD already (?)
quick review:

Peepli Live is pitch black humor - beginning, middle, and end. This Aamir Khan production obviously laughs at everything in the system. Peepli Live slyly laughs at you and me, the audience who finds such a dark world funny. 'Farmer suicides' is not the only issue that Anshu Rizvi, the writer is referring to. Peepli Live points a finger at things far beyond and the irreparable(?) fault deep down in the crux.

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Wogma Review

A 600-seater multiplex hall is filled to capacity for Peepli [Live] a film that has no stars, is about a remote village, and the promo material has made it obvious that one cannot expect any glamor out of it. We know now that the 'we serve masala because that is what the audience demands' days are numbered. fingers crossed Yes, the crowd seemed to be enjoying the film. I understand that 'enjoying' is a rude word to use when you are talking about a film based on others' misfortunes. But it seems only valid, when you see people laughing at dark joke cracked along with the huge roar of laughter every time a cuss word is used.

Once the novelty of seeing everyday talk on screen wares off - the whole-range of Hindi foul language, the young easily-amused boys giggly girls do get involved in the rotten situation that our state is in - at least more involved than one could imagine most of them in reality. Pathos of the central character comes through without him having to speak more than 5-10 lines in all of 100 minutes.

Such subtlety runs through Peepli [Live]and every once in a while reminding you of the moot point it's trying to make. The obvious commentary on the unintelligent coverage of issues by the media, to the absolute ridiculousness of Government yojanas (subsidy/benefit/upliftment programs) is continuously punctuated with references at the level underneath.

It is up to us then, to dig deeper. Going just a skin-deeper there's a ton to see: Contrast between two strong women - one urban, one rural - one empowered and 'master' of her life if not others, the other at the mercy of the feeble men in her life; suicide must not come easy to farmers close to death either; left to the mercy of news-creators a dying farmer's feces and Saif Ali Khan's smooch are competing for headlines - is everything that hunky-dory?; all is not lost for there is a conscientious young bureaucrat/politician/journalist out there. His soul has not on sale, at least not yet; there is more hope because the simpleton will rise and make his own decisions despite the entire world wanting to take advantage of his situation; and on and on and on.

So many things are being said at once - using the lyrics, the music, the backdrop, the props - that in the first five minutes you decide to stop being overwhelmed as you promise yourself another watch to grasp more. This first time I decided to absorb the surface. The performances are so close to reality that it almost feels like a documentary. The focus is on developing and presenting the situation rather than building characters and their arcs. The photography adds to the 'real' milieu by having a home-video feel - with the intentional shakes and jerks.

There are some exaggerations, no doubt. And they make the film a little too slapsticky for my taste and also for the tone of the film. Then again, they are only an extension of what we've seen in real life or read in the papers. The newsy nature and the manner in which the situation rolls out also makes the film predictable.

So, what next? A teeny-weeny bit more than 'nothing'? If even one bureaucrat/politician just scratches his head after watching the film, [Peepli Live] should consider itself successful.

Audience? Hopefully, it won't be mere fashionable to like the film. Hopefully, a few of us will go beyond our 'jobs'. Even if it's not to take on the task of improving a nation, at the very least we can begin and continue to be an audience that demands films out of the ordinary - be they good, bad, or ugly - Peepli [Live]is all three, not in quality but because of its gritty content.

- meeta, a part of the audience

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: None
  • Language: Abusive language throughout, as a regular part of dialogue
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None
  • Concept: The state of affairs in the interiors of our country.
  • General Look and Feel: Grim and rugged.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

  • Direction: 4
  • Story: 5
  • Lead Actors: 4.5
  • Character Artists: 4.5
  • Dialogues: 4
  • Screenplay: 4
  • Music Director: 5
  • Lyrics: 5

Peepli Live - Trailer

Comments (16)

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meetu:

@lost in confusion he he he thanks!

meetu:

@cinefreak I liked it while it lasted. But I too have this question, "what will people in the interiors make of it?" will they be able to laugh at their situation, for a brief moment too?

As far us being the villains, i agree, we are. But I still wouldn't blame the film for it. Almost every film/story is made at the expense of someone or something. Someone - the stereotype he fits in, something - the stuff we associate with them - is being exposed for our viewing pleasure.

By the way, I'm really curious. Can you name a few Hindi films from the last 3-4 years that you've liked? It is a serious question, please don't take it, like it could be taken, as sarcasm.

Bollyfan:

I would agree with what lost in confusion and cinefreak have to say here, though I wouldn't be as extreme as cinefreak was in his views. The film was thoroughly entertaining and did point fingers at quite a few entities. And coming from a debutant director and a largely unknown cast, its quite a feat. Though having said that, it still won't be as close to my heart as a Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron would always remain. I have my theories on why Peepli Live isn't a JBDY and will pen them down as soon as I get done with my weekend chore of reviews. Yet to watch Help, Grown Ups & Despicable Me.

meetu:

@lost in confusion @Bollyfan @cinefreak something is wrong about 'enjoying' a dark film at the expense of people whose plight we cannot even begin to understand. Obviously, with that point of view, this one looks pretentious, any movie will. In that context the other films that are not even about the issue will come across as even more frivolous. At this rate we'll reach the conclusion that only documentaries should be made, capture reality and that's it. The point is that we have to take a movie for what it is and not for what it isn't.

@bollyfan if we start comparing every movie to our all-time favorite, how will we ever like a film?

@ram singh the detailed rating is out of 5. And my bad, you are right, it should have been mentioned without you having to point it out.
Watching in theater certainly changes the experience for me.

Bollyfan:

Meetu : Its not me alone but a huge number of the population thats comparing Peepli with JBDY. And the comparisons are inevitable since the two belong to the same genre and the latter is an evergreen classic. And nowhere did I say that I didn't like Peepli. I did...but it doesn't connect the way JBDY did...and would do even today.

Secondly, enjoying the film doesn't mean that you were having fun at the plight of someone who's suffering. The film doesn't really poke fun at the suffering farmers at all. Its the media, bureaucrats & politicians who are the butt of jokes here. Moreover, tragedy in extreme becomes comedy and vice-versa. And any dark comedy will have someone or the other suffering. Doesn't mean one shouldn't enjoy it.

Vishal : I would like to quote A.O.Scott (a noted critic) in response to what you say. "Any movie worth arguing is worth a watch. And any movie worth watching is worth arguing about." Entertaining, educational blah blah are all points of individual perception usually. For example, 3 Idiots was entertaining for me, thoughtprovoking for some, both for some more and none for the rest who saw it. You want a film to be entertaining before anything else, others may have different views. Why question the very basic expectations one has from a film?

Cinefreak : I'm not with STUPID! :P

Sakhi:

I really like this review of the movie. You provide all the things one might want to know (especially in the final section), you don't give away too much of the plot, and you really made me want to see the movie (more than I already wanted to.)

meetu:

@Vishal Thanks! It really is 'to each his own' There's just no one, universal parameter to judge a film.

* * *

@cinefreak Budhiya is a calculative guy in his own sphere of life. As soon as he gets the unexpected attention, he doesn't have a clue on how to handle it. Natha on the other hand is the observer, he sees what's happening around him and is driven to make a decision for himself.

I don't think it is fair to reduce 'urban audiences' to caricatures to fit into an individual's image. I'm an urbanite, but I regularly go to remote villages, because like so many of us, I have relatives there. And neither Budhiya nor Natha or even Dhaniya seem exaggerated to me. If at all, amma was a bit exaggerated but we had a neighbor like that in our 'native place' - Endearing despite being loud and abusive because her abuses weren't directed towards me.
To me the film was very dark, because of the way a real serious issue was being laughed at. The very premise is dark - someone committing suicide because the family will receive a compensation after his death.

Will certainly add Mathroobhumi to my 'must watch' list, loved your description of it. And yeah, Hazaron Khwaishey Aisi is awesome too!
Re: Pather Panchali - See if they did it the Ray-way, it would be plagiarizing. This is Anshu Rizvi's view of society around her. To like it or not, is completely our decision, but to ask her to make our view of the world, is asking for the impossible.

'Talent is completely absent' - this sentence hurts. Navdeep Singh? Kay Kay Menon? Konkona Sen Sharma? Shanker Raman? Chitrangadha? Anurag Kashyap? Shimit Amin? Saif Ali Khan? Jaideep Sahni? only to name a few - None of their work appeal to you?

* * *

@lost in confusion thanks for speaking on my behalf but let's tone it down a bit. Calling names doesn't really make for healthy discussion.

* * *

@GOne Thanks. But aren't you guilty of the same accusation? So, let's just all settle down here and focus on what we all love - films!

meetu:

@Bollyfan I think comparing is a huge issue. If we compare films we will never be able to like/dislike a film for what it is. Already film-watching is dependent on so many things - background, kind of films you are exposed to, you mood that day, your health that day, the people you are watching it with both known and unknown, etc, etc ,etc. I just like to avoid adding comparison to the list.

Well when we laugh at amma yelling at Dhaniya - we are laughing at Dhaniya who is in a sorry state - she is right in being angry at everyone around her, she is a strong woman and yet we laugh at her - we are laughing at amma - the poor bed-wridden oldie. Both musn't have seen any joy in life, even according to their definition of joy, let alone ours. And this is true of most of the situations involving the villagers. Like I was telling @cinefreak, the very premise of the film - farmers contemplating suicide, so that they get a compensation is soaked in dark humor which almost always involves laughing at someone else's plight. And I feel bad when I'm laughing; though I am laughing and thus enjoying it, right.

* * *

@Sakhi Thank you!!

Bollyfan:

Meetu : I feel that a comparison between similar films, if done within well-defined parameters, is not wrong. And going by your logic of the other factors, the very concept of comparison shouldn't exist.

Anyways...here's my post on the comparison, if I may...

http://www.cinemaaonline.com/cinemaagazine/why-peepli-live-is-no-jaane-bh-do-yaaron

meetu:

@Bollyfan yeah, i'm told my take on 'comparisons' is not the popular one. Oh well, such is life...

@lost in confusion in general, i avoid reacting to personal attacks, because it is giving something more attention than it deserves.
Let's bygone be bygones and talk about films now!

meetu:

@lost in confusion much appreciated!

meetu:

@Ashish unlikely. I think I am past being impressed or averse to banners. I liked it for what it was.

meetu:

@Jitaditya :)

@Trupz Oh yeah...movies as a part of the curriculum...now that will be the day

meetu:

@Nirmal That's the one! Yep, the one in Omkara. I agree he hasn't been best at picking films in the last few years.

>>"but what good are Oscars if Slumdog can win them."
LOL! loved the line!!

>>"you have done quite a decent review in a long time. (sorry!)"
Did you mean "have not"

meetu:

@Nirmal oh thank you! If you could be specific about how the other reviews have been confusing, I could take the feedback into consideration next time onwards.

antony:

Peeli live is a story of indian soul. It touchs our heart with humour. In it we laugh at our own helpless people. Its a first filim goes for Oscar for narrating our own story like majid majidi did for Iran.

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