Peepli Live was produced by the Bollywood method actor Aamir Khan, but it was written and directed by the former Indian journalist Anusha Rizvi which takes a satirical look at how the media and political elite can create, manipulate and then utilise a story for their purposes. Peepli Live tells the story about a bankrupt farmer Natha (superbly played by folk-theatre actor Omkar Das Manikpuri). Natha decides to kill himself so that his family will qualify for a government scheme compensating families of farmers committing suicide. The story explodes into a media event, a will-he-or-won’t-he-top-himself saga that grips the nation. But the film highlights how the Media and the politicians create the will-he-or-won’t he top himself, by securing a fixed base outside Natha’s house, while on a daily basis local, state and federal political machines visit him as part of their electoral campaign.
Peepli Live isn’t supposed to be the 2010 version of Slumdog Millionaire but it under the vision of Aamir Khan shows how in a country where 70% of the population is in agriculture is focussing towards modernity at the expense of the village farmer. But nevertheless the movie highlights the 24 hour media frenzy to grip India, to the extent the media melee were showing the extracts of Natha’s excrement as he was on the run. Peepli Live is the subject of a few controversies. VJAS ( Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti), The Nagpur-based farmer’s advocacy group, asked the Maharashtra government to ban the film due to its depiction of farmer suicides.Kishor Tiwari, the president of VJAS, stated: “TV serial ‘Bairi Piya’ has shown that debt-trapped Vidarbha farmers are selling daughters to clear their debt, while ‘Peepli Live’ is far from reality and an insult to poor farmers of Vidarbha who have been victims of globalization and wrong policies of the state.”
Aamir Khan intends to take Peepli Live to the Oscars this year, and in his true single-minded fashion isn’t bothered about the response from India, Peepli Live has already competed in the Sundance Film Festival and received a special screening at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Peepli live wasn’t expected to be a typical Bollywood movie, so if anybody expected beauty and bling would be in for a shock, as many people I spoke to weren’t impressed with the movie, but then again you wouldn’t expect these fickle Bollywood fans to understand the concept of independent cinema.
A great movie with a satire point of view.