Aamir Khan has the “Midas Touch”. This phrase has been so often repeated, in newspapers, blogs, television etc. that it threatens to become a cliche. But the cerebral star has done it once again, pushing the boundaries of commercial Indian cinema with Peepli Live. Aamir has an uncanny knack of spotting potential in the most unlikely places, be it with “Jaane Tu…” or “Peepli Live“. Both movies were helmed by newbie directors and were filled with a fresh but talented bunch of actors. Yet, against all odds, as the producer of both the movies, Aamir managed to transform these low key affairs into box office hits.
As an actor too, Aamir has constantly rewritten the rules of the game. He has torn down barriers and taken leaps of faith to reach the status of being the most bankable actor in Indian cinema today. In the formula-driven hindi film industry he has re-arranged the variables, eliminated the constants and turned traditional logic on its head. It seems laughable to compare him to his contemporaries. Its clear that his only competition is with himself. The rustic Bhuvan vs the suave Akash Malhotra. The starry eyed DJ vs the poignant Ram Nikhumb. The beastly Sanjay Singhania vs the peppy Rancho. He has done it all and then some.
To cut a long story short, Peepli live is an intelligent satire about phony politicians and a manic media. A debt-ridden farmer, Natha, decides to commit suicide to claim compensation for his family so that they could be free of debt. His threat of committing suicide is a bandwagon on which politicians and the media go for a free ride. Instead of seeing the rot in the system which causes destitute villagers to commit suicide, local leaders see an opportunity in Natha’s threat to play a game of political oneupmanship. If the political class is blinded by the upcoming local elections, the national media is blinded by TRPs. In their quixotic quest of making a poster boy out of Natha, the media fails to see the sufferings and hardships of the villagers. In the end, it is a disillusioned local reporter, Rakesh, who realises that the political system and the media can not be depended upon to confront the malaise of poverty and destitution rampant in the villages of India.
Filled with witty dialogues and dark humour, Peepli Live boasts of a brilliant ensemble cast with each actor leaving an imprint on your mind; be it the manipulative elder brother or the slimy politician. Famous news reporters are good humouredly lampooned and the indian bureaucracy is shown as what it has often perceived to be: elite, lazy and disconnected. The background score blends in perfectly with the rustic setting of the movie. For once in mainstream Indian cinema, we have a realistic portrayal of a village minus the happy-farmer-singing-and-dancing-in-lush-green-fields stereotype. A definite must-watch, Peepli Live is surely one of the defining films of the year.
If a small no-frills movie like Peepli Live can receive so much critical and public appreciation, then it would behoove messrs Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar well to rethink their strategy of blowing up exorbitant sums of money on big stars and stylish movies whose plots are all fizz and no substance. With their access to seemingly bottomless pits of money, they could do Indian cinema a whole lot of good if they had the courage and conviction to make more sensible and intelligent movies like Peepli Live.