Peepli village residents, Natha (Omkar Das) and his elder brother Budhia (Yadav) lose their family land to the bank since they cannot repay their loan. Helpless, they seek help of the local village politician Bhai Thakur (Sitaram Panchal). While Bhai Thakur insults them, one of his cronies mockingly tells the duo about a Government Policy that gives monetary benefit to farmers committing suicides. The brothers take that idea seriously. In a superbly written scene, Budhia manages to get Natha volunteer to commit suicide for the sake of his family. A local reporter, Rakesh (Nawazuddin) gets the whiff of this and does a story on for his newspaper. He also intimates a big English news channel reporter Nandita Malik (Malaika Shenoy) about the same. But no sooner does she breaks this news on her channel, almost every single channel rushes in to cover Natha’s suicide story live. The local by-elections are just around the corner what with it being the state chief minister’s seat at stake. What all chaos it all leads to forms the rest part of the story.
TV journalist turned filmmaker Anusha Rizvi has handled her directorial debut like a pro. Her biggest ace is her black humour laced script that successfully packs in all the rot in our system. The lingo is earthy and much humour is derived from the manner it is spoken by the characters. Anusha leaves no stone unturned to poke fun of vote hungry politicians, the so called government policies for the BPL Indian’s that aide a dead farmer more than alive ones and the TRP thirsty channel heads and their reporters who don’t think twice before stooping to the lowest levels to grab audience attention. The poignant ends of Rakesh and an inconsequential village farmer stings your heart. While not many might agree with the unusual climax, it ends up presenting a disturbing fact. Though the film brings back memories of Mahesh Manjrekar’s Pran Jaaye Par Shaan Na Jaaye (2003) which had a character declaring a suicide and the commotion that follows, it’s Anusha’s subtlety in handling these portions that sets it apart.
Anusha scores high in her casting as her actors lend tremendous authenticity to the plot. Omkar Das Manikpuri is a real find. With his mere expressions, he makes his character extremely endearing. Raghuveer Yadav grabs your attention whenever on screen. Malaika Shenoy is extremely convincing. Naseerudin Shah’s cameo as the wily Agriculture Minister is just perfect. Playing to the gallery, Vishal Sharma as the Hindi TV channel journo nails it perfectly. Also impressive is Farrukh Jaffer as Natha’s bed ridden forever venom spewing mother and Shalini Vatsa as Natha’s feisty wife. Nawazzudin is exceptional as the reporter whose conscience awakens.
The film’s earthy soundtrack by Indian Ocean and Nageen Tanveer is just apt and Shankar Raman’s camerawork enhances the impact.
Anusha Rizvi’s Peepli [Live] is an excellent expose of the great Indian political tamasha, with the right amount of pinches at the flawed system and rightly showcases how the real value of a life is always ignored amidst the media circus. Please don’t miss it for anything. Black comedies like Peepli [Live] are a rarity in Bollywood.