Movie #259 Peepli Live
(2010, India, d. Anusha Rizvi)
There’s something to be said about the complexity and humor of Peepli Live. India’s official 2011 Oscar entry for Foreign Language film, Peepli Live is a satire about a very real situation occurring in rural India: farmer suicides. And though often just a minor headline, if anything, that one glances at and puts away, Peepli Live is a film that forces you to question that mentality, highlighting its almost terrible ramifications. The film concerns itself with Natha (played wonderfully by Omkar Das Manikpuri), who one day discovers with his friend that in the event of a farmer suicide, all debt to the banks will be waived and a large compensation given to the surviving family. Engrossed with a massive debt and threats of foreclosure, Natha reluctantly (and quite hilariously) agrees to commit suicide. The only problem: a local news reporter overhears this and in turn, begins a national media phenomenon to track Natha’s every move until his suicide. The fact that this film is a satire makes things ten times better. Wonderfully coated in smart humor, Peepli Live forces the audience to question the morality and rationale of these acts, yet still sympathize with those committing them. It is a film about overlooking others, misjudging, and the irrationality and dumb media-practices of the Indian (or perhaps, world) news industry. A truly wonderful gem of a film, Peepli Live also proves to the world that India can mass produce pictures of quality that make one think and question and catch the eyes of Western audiences without a song and dance number or a fight or without involving the name of Satyajit Ray.