Peepli [Live] — our apathy exposed

August 16, 2010

Peepli [Live] tackles many big issues in a span of 106 short-minutes the only way it could be done – with a generous dash of humor.

I was struck by how we depend on levity to get us through reality.

There were a lot of laughs interspersed with moments of deathly silence in the movie theatre, with the audience completely immersed in the unnervingly life-like drama unfolding on the screen.

The farmers’ plight, the politicians’ shrewdness, the media’s pursuit of sensationalism coming together in a heart-wrenching package.

peepli live1 Peepli [Live] — our apathy exposedIt’s a brilliantly simple plot.

The government has introduced a scheme to pay Rs. 1 lakh (approximately $2,100)to farmers’ families if the farmer has committed suicide. Many farmers across the country are opting to go this route, despite suicide being illegal, so they can “be of use to their families dead, if not alive.”

The national media houses, initially dismissive, get whiff of an intended suicide by a farmer, Natha, in Peepli village. And all hell breaks loose.

A “live suicide” report could do wonders for a channel’s TRP ratings, while gloriously messing with political agendas in the middle of election season. (For a more detailed story synopsis, read Hollywood Reporter’s review.)

But what about the farmers? Does anyone, in all this mayhem, even care about their welfare?

The answer can be found in Natha’s helpless eyes.

With so-called journalists reporting on where he has defecated, what his feces tell about his psychological state, what the women in the village think about his suicide plan, and how the Gods have sent a sign that he will live even when he dies, the actual story gets no airtime.

The fact that farmers who’ve lost their land are dying of starvation, or that the government is creating non-implementable schemes merits no attention.

The apathy in the media’s pursuit of a sensational exposé is mind-boggling. The acceptance – nay, encouragement as evidenced by TRP ratings – of this type of coverage even more dumbfounding.

Although we sat in the hall laughing at the mockery that is the Indian government, we also cringed in the knowledge that no matter how many films are made showcasing the self-interest of those in power, nothing’s going to change.

And where the media can step in and really be the voice of the common man, really take on its responsibility of exposing the real issues, asking the hard questions, and shaming public servants into action, it fails beyond redemption.

We, the privileged ones, sitting on our cushy chairs and eating popcorn while being entertained by an exceptionally talented cast of theatre actors on screen are to blame, too.

We have short memories and we’re slaves to inaction.

If it doesn’t affect us personally, why do we care about the plight of 70 percent of our countrymen? We have enough problems of our own …

All we wanted was some entertainment on a slow Saturday evening.

And we got it for under 10 bucks.

That’s all there is to it.

Also posted on Desicritics.
16081BD1A60533E0F1173D28DE4F0D3F Peepli [Live] — our apathy exposed

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7 Responses to Peepli [Live] — our apathy exposed

  1. anon1No Gravatar on August 16, 2010 at 11:45 am

    I wept a little, watching the movie, a little embarrassed by my lack of control on my emotions.
    But I was more than a little embarrassed by the loud laughs that resounded in the hall every time an expletive was uttered by a character. I noticed more of the easy laughter, than any visible cringing.. easy escapism, most likely.
    I think you are right, the ‘generous dash of humor’ was necessary to make the movie more palatable for those of us with weak digestive systems..
    I heard people outside talking about how “this movie was made for international audiences” (whatever that means).

    I think the movie was brilliantly made, acted and directed. I think it achieved, as much as it knew it would achieve…

    I apologize if I’m not making sense, I saw it yesterday, and I still feel quite affected by it.

    • MansiNo Gravatar on August 16, 2010 at 3:03 pm

      It left a mark on me, too. I was uncomfortable laughing — I think the only time I did was when the reporter showed a pie chart with poll numbers, one of which referenced the hand of terrorist groups in Natha's decision to commit suicide. What a stretch! But I realized that had this movie gone the more serious, didactic route it wouldn't have gotten as many eyeballs. With every person going to the movies to watch Peepli [Live], there is the hope that it will resonate with some deeper than with others. And with a few it will stay.

  2. medhiniNo Gravatar on August 16, 2010 at 8:03 pm


    It made me laugh and at times I did feel a lump in my throat, esp when the old man who seemed so indifferent to the media hype passed away silently…. your point on privileged class is very true and agree with it completely…

    • MansiNo Gravatar on August 17, 2010 at 2:13 pm

      Yeah… Hori Mahto — did you know he was a character in Godaan? The insertion of that character in this film was done to show how nothing has changed in the last 60 years.

      Thanks for stopping by :-)

  3. cinemanthanNo Gravatar on August 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    It is an interesting film and it handles the issues very important for India. Considering it is a debut film of its director, Anusha Rizvi has shown the merits in her vision. Her second film will generate huge curiosity.

    • MansiNo Gravatar on August 17, 2010 at 5:57 pm

      Absolutely. And it certainly helps for her to have had those first hand experiences as a journalist to show us the true face of media and its irresponsible behavior.

  4. Ashish Saini on August 18, 2010 at 7:11 am


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