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In the lead up to state elections in the Indian village of Peepli, two poor farmers, Natha and Budhia, face losing their land over an unpaid bank loan. Desperate, they seek help from an apathetic local politician, who scornfully suggests they commit suicide to benefit from a government program that aids the families of indebted deceased farmers. When a journalist overhears Budhia urge Natha to "do what needs to be done" for the sake of their families, a media frenzy ignites around whether or not Natha will commit suicide. Written by
Sundance Film Festival
lf you look closely you 'll see Natha's footprints. Whether escape or abduction, here's where Natha perched himself for the last time. And here's the fruit of his toil, his faeces, commonly known as shit. Take a close look. Do not cringe at the sight, for, as long as we live, we will continue to shit. Psychiatrists claim that faeces reflect our mental state. The complexion of our shit is a window to the inner self. But here we see a mixture of hues. Therefore, before reaching any conclusions we...
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Satire is always a tricky genre for directors. Always a possibility of making a mockery of a grave situation or making it too serious for the audience (especially Indian) to take it. This balancing act between the poignant and theatrical is a precarious one, which is why Anousha Rizvi's directorial debut is noteworthy. Rizvi, a former reporter/journalist from NDTV brings a more insightful approach to the problem of farmer suicides and dynamics of media coverage.
I am not a great fan of Indian cinema. But every once in a while a movie comes along that shows ambition and reach which is not reminiscent of our cinema in general. The script while focusing on the predicament of farmers also manages to bring in the role of the media and the politicians. Probably, one of the more well rounded scripts in Hindi cinema in recent times.
The plot:-" Natha a poor farmer from Peepli village in the heart of rural India is about to lose his plot of land due to an unpaid government loan. A quick fix to the problem is the very same government's program that aids the families of indebted farmers who have committed suicide. As a means of survival Farmer Natha can choose to die!!! His brother is happy to push him towards this unique 'honor' but Natha is reluctant. Local elections are around the corner and what might have been another unnoticed event turns into a 'cause celebré' with everyone wanting a piece of the action. Political bigwigs, high-ranking bureaucrats, local henchmen and the ever-zealous media descend upon sleepy Peepli to stake their claim. The question on everyone's lips - "Will he or Won't he?" As the mania escalates what will be the fate of Farmer Natha; nobody seems to care how he really feels?"
The criticism levelled out at the film inspite of the positive reviews is the lack of empathy it generates for the state of the farmers. It is a fair argument if those were your expectations from the film. My take is that it wasn't and it shouldn't be a director's prerogative to "effect" the audience. Especially in a satire, where the prime motive is to poke fun at the theatrical failure of system and its participants. Be it "Dr. Strangelove or how I learn to stop worrying and love the bomb" , "Network" , "Wag the dog", "Jaane Bhi do Yaaron" or any other great satire, I never really think the writer was conscious of establishing sympathy or empathy for the characters. Humour in life and films was essentially developed to convey some real harsh absolute truths in a sugar coated manner. We from the cities who our so pre occupied with planning our weekend, our holidays, our Diwali shopping, job appraisal etc can't be realistically expected to be social workers and understand the true plight of the farmers after paying Rs. 200 for an A/c theatre with sofa seat. It is quite incredible how insulated we are from "less privileged".
Of the performances everyone if top notch. Raghuveer Yadav is an explosive talent and I am glad he got this role. On a slight negative, the gag got a bit stretched in second half which could have been edited by 5-10 minutes. It is always a risk in a satire, when unnecessary emphasis is added on an element that audiences have understood, in this case it was of media "sensationalization". I think it was truly insightful in showing political and media nexus and how the cover stories and sound bytes are planned for. Maybe after this, people consuming the news will be more discrete.
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