Farmers’ suicide has been a grave problem since past many years and no individual, commission or government has able to put an end or at least reduce it. Peepli [Live] is a story based on this burning issue. However, the treatment is simple and a major part of the film is light-hearted and comical. However, at the same time, the goings-on at several places terribly move you. Achieving such a fine balance between the two is difficult but debutant director Anusha Rizvi succeeds in doings so very well. Peepli [Live] thus is a must watch…something that our countrymen should not miss!

The story of the movie: Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri) and his brother Budhia (Raghuvir Yadav) are involved in farming and live in a small village called Peepli, somewhere in the state of ‘Mukhya Pradesh’. The brothers are about to lose their land as they are unable to pay a bank loan. At this juncture, they learn that the government pays one lakh to the family of all those indebted farmers who commit suicide. Budhia thus persuades Natha to do the ‘honour’ so that their land can be saved. However, somehow, the local journalist Rakesh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) gets to know about their plan and publishes it in the local newspaper. From here, the news reaches the national television channels whose reporters immediately head to Peepli and turn the issue into ‘breaking news’! What makes the story ‘spicy’ is the fact that by-elections are soon happening in the constituency in which Peepli falls and this constituency belongs to the chief minister Ram Yadav (Jugal Kishore) of the state! Media, state government, central government…everyone sees this as an opportunity to outdo their rival and shine among the masses!

Peepli [Live] is based in a small village and all the actors playing villagers look exactly like one. Most of them are real-time villagers (the lead Omkar Das is a Chhattisgarh native). Hence the film looks more authentic and believable. Similarly the ones playing news reporters have gone into the skin of their characters and pitched a lifelike performance! Having spoken about the actors, let’s move to the winner of the movie…the script! The best part is, although the film throws light on those living below poverty line, you can feel a connect as we have been aware of their issues and problems. Same goes for news channels and their TRP-driven overdrive which we all have been witnessing since years. However, simultaneously, the director gives a behind-the-scenes take of these people and that’s when you realize that we are living in extremely cruel and insensitive times!

The film gets dry at times but not boring at all. Right from the first scene, the film shall keep you hooked. The film sets the mood with the scene where the brothers argue as to who should die. The intermission point was truly hilarious! The scene where Natha gets a ‘Lal Bahadur’ from the district board and later a television from a political party brings the house down but also exposes as to what level people stoop down to publicize themselves. Then the entire government track (involving rivalry between the central agricultural ministry and state government) was very well shown.

Certain scenes deeply move you. For instance, the sequence where Natha hugs his goat. And not to forget, the mini-track involving an extremely malnourished farmer is the most touching part of the story. The film reaches a high when an important development takes place in the narrative. The climax, involving chasing of one another was similar to Priyadarshan movies but seems very true and believable. The last scene was unexpected but was totally justified.

Hats off to all actors for pitching in brilliant performances! The film belongs to Omkar Das Manikpuri! He hasn’t mouthed many dialogues but it’s his eyes, mannerisms and (adorable) looks that speak a lot! One of the best debuts this year! Raghuvir Yadav shines whenever he does an out-of-the-box film and Peepli [Live] is no exception! He has a major role in the first hour but gets sidelined in the second half (there was no option actually). Nawazuddin Siddiqui (who rocked in Black Friday, Firaaq and New York) gives yet another powerful performance. He has a major part in the narrative and he plays his part very well! An actor to watch! Mallika Shenoy as Nandita Mallik leaves a mark. She looked every inch a news reporter. A performance you’ll surely remember for a long time! Same goes for Vishal O Sharma as Nandita’s rival. What a performance!

Shalini Vasta as Natha’s wife and Farrukh Jaffer as Natha’s mother provide some funny moments throughout the film. Naseeruddin Shah as the agricultural minister Salim Kidwai was absolutely natural. Jugal Kishore makes an impact especially in the scene wherein he’s deciding under which scheme Natha can be helped! Sitaram Panchal as Bhai Thakur was excellent especially in the entry scene. The person belonging to casteist party, the digging farmer and the rest do a great job.

Music was very rustic and soulful. All songs leave a mark. Des Mera (by Indian Ocean), Chola Mati Ke (by Nageen Tanvir) and most importantly, Mehengai Dayain (by Bidwai village artistes) were very delightful. Mathias Duplessy’s background score was effective.  Hemanti Sarkar’s editing was crisp and flawless. Make-up and costumes helped even more in giving the actors a true-to-life look. Shanker Raman’s cinematography was one of the best this year.

Anusha Rizvi, the writer-director deserves brownie points for her outstanding job. Her story was novel but at the same time relatable. Screenplay was gripping and she did a great job by not falling to commercial diktats. As for her direction, well, it was a surprise! Rarely can a debutant director do such a fine job (the last one to probably do so was Nandita Das in Firaaq). A brilliant job to say the least and hope she goes a long way!

And finally, the review would be incomplete without the mention of producer Aamir Khan! It’s thanks to his efforts and name that the film is today seen in large numbers and creating waves everywhere! Hats off Mr Perfectionist!

Some of the best scenes:
1.       Natha and Budhia meet Bhai Thakur
2.       Natha and Budhia arguing as to who should die
3.       Nandita interviewing Salim Kidwai in the studio
4.       Natha gets ‘Lal Bahadur’!
5.       The intermission point
6.       News reports interviewing any tom, dick, harry in Peepli about Natha
7.       Natha gifted television
8.       The digging farmer track
9.       Rakesh and Nandita’s verbal argument
10.     The last 20 minutes

On the whole, Peepli [Live] is truly satire at its best! Aided with a brilliant script and performances, the film will not only make you laugh but the sensitive handling will also move you! One of the best films of the year, this one is not to be missed! Go for it!!

My rating-**** ½ out of 5!