Monday, August 16, 2010
This Independence Day comes a film directed by Anusha Rizvi, with a flavor that will tickle your humor buds and unassumingly heighten your awareness about the plight of farmers in our country.
A camera pokes right into the face of a poor farmer, who looks as innocent as a child who has just seen a toy gun. He is bewildered and doesn’t know how to handle all the sudden adulation. Why are all these people Peeping inside his house? Because he wants to, I mean wanted to commit suicide. To let his family live comfortably with the compensation that will be paid by the government. Until the media decided to make a sensational story out of it.
Natha (played by Omkar Das Manikpuri) and his brother Budhia (played by Raghuvir Yadhav) are farmers who run the risk of losing their land if they fail to pay back their bank loan. They are thrown into a helpless situation where they get no support to help repay their debt. The idea of committing suicide forms in their head as the only and last resort to save their family. As word gets around, television channels vie to make it a breaking news story; politicians try to make peace with the villagers because the elections are nearing and to top it, the agriculture secretary acts indifferent to all the developing mayhem.
I felt a certain inner happiness in watching this film, because more than anything else, I was blessing Anusha Rizvi for finally making a sensible film, bringing out a strong theme in a screenplay dripping with satire. What better way to show the deepest dirt and farcical nature of our so-called national system? I love the sarcasm in the visual language, for example how the Minster goes and gifts Natha a bright blue hand pump that is of no use to him or gifts him a television and garlands him in order to appease the threat he’s causing to the power play.
The role of the media is stark and shown in all its brutality. How far away are we from the truth? No too much, I believe. While all our news channels are bothered about TRP’s and being the “top news channel” with this “exclusive story” or that “special report”, how many of our journalists really care for the people or the stories they are reporting for? How many of us understand the real issue that these farmers are facing? How many Natha’s do we know about? I don’t know. Everything seems like such a drama. News has become theatrical. A live drama unfolding before us, with all the mise-en-scenes planned, and executed with perfection. With the perfect characters, and dialogues. For the perfect story. Why? To grab our eye-balls. So that we tune into the same news channel again to satisfy our thirst for dramatic realism.
While I write this at this very moment, I know that there are farmers dying, their suicides adding to numbers, and I feel restless now, because after watching the movie, I started to feel concerned. Although the film made me laugh, it also led me to a low when through the dark humour, I saw the real, cruel face of our power systems. The media, the politicians, the bureaucrats. Natha personifies the face of millions of peasants who face pressure and trauma to repay debts that is a matter of a life and death situation. When all the noise making elements left his village after his supposed death, we see how less anyone really cared about his fate.
Opportunistic. That’s what we all are. The world has become so competitive, that we seem to have lost that sense of humanity, that sense of not wanting to mindlessly think of how we can gain. Sometimes, it’s better to lose, in the eyes of the ruling power. Because, in our hearts, we have won. We may believe that everything needs to have a reason, but there’s no reason to play games with the lives of others to create that supposed reason. In the end, we are solely responsible for our actions, and if haven’t made that little difference in helping a Natha or a Budhia, then that action is not worth committing.
In a nutshell, Peepli [LIVE] shows us the voyeuristic nature of the media, how a story is not lived, but only thrust in front of the camera. Who cares about the old farmer who has been digging for days to sell the sand, and dies in that same mud trench he had been working his life for? Why couldn’t they show that story instead, voiced a more sensitive journalist Rakesh (played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui). Because, according to Nandita Mallik (played by Malaika Shenoy) “Natha is the big story.” Rakesh’s questioning attitude only invited a more curt answer, “ We are journalists, and this is what we do. If you can’t handle this, then you are in the wrong profession.” So my question is, is it worth sacrificing the real cause in the name of “profession”? How can a profession demand belittling our moral standards?
It will enlighten you. It might empower you. It can disturb you. Peepli [LIVE] is a wake up call to notice our distracting tools of public broadcasting. Watch it for its satire, its clever manipulation of story elements, its necessary exaggerations and most of all for its endearing and innocent characters who are the victims of our mad rush for attention. An Independence Day special, most certainly.