Aamir Khan has always proved himself to be a shrewd strategist. He has positioned himself on a very different pedestal in the film world and each venture of his, in whatever capacity be his involvement, has helped him in maintaining that position. Commercially too, Aamir gets his maths correct all the time. Take his latest production, Peepli [Live] for example. The movie has been made at a cost of Rs 16 crores; on the inflow side, the sale to a satellite channel for airing this movie has fetched Rs 10 crores and the music rights have been sold for Rs 6 crores. Every other receipt goes to the profit kitty! But this write-up is not about Aamir Khan; it is about his latest production!
We watched PEEPLI [LIVE] at the only theatre screening Hindi movies in Coimbatore and although it was only the fourth day since the screening started and that too only two shows a day, the theatre occupancy was less than 20 percent in the balcony class; in the other classes, the theatre was virtually empty. I will be most surprised if even in the Hindi speaking area multiplexes, this movie will have a better occupancy a week from now. This by itself is not a statement about the movie; on the contrary, it is a reflection of the apathy of our movie-goers towards a very fine satire on the role of eyeballs hungry media in our country. Was the movie given an “Adults Only” certificate to keep audiences away from the media and politician bashing indulged in the movie under the guise of the “foul language” in the dialogues?
PEEPLI [LIVE] is the maiden effort of writer-director Anusha Rizvi; however this wonderfully crafted satire looks like a creation of a seasoned and deeply sensitive film maker. The issue of how the new media, in pursuing its objective of propping the TRPs, is insensitive to the players creating the news was briefly touched upon in MUMBAI MERI JAAN. In that movie, the interviewer is seen asking a victim, as to how the victim is feeling after the incident, the irony of which comes to light only when the interviewer herself becomes a victim.
Each of the players (there are only two recognizable faces: Raghubir Yadav and Naseeruddin Shah) has played his or her part outstandingly. Due credit must go to Anusha for selecting the cast as well as getting the members to perform in a manner which is as good as real. Not a single shot in the entire movie is superfluous and Natha’s character, involving very few dialogues is so sharply drawn and brought alive by the actor, that the viewer has no choice but to be moved by his plight in the midst of all the drama created by the media and the politicians. The helplessness writ on his face is perhaps reflective of the deep malaise infecting the audience in general: that of the uncomplaining, forever bearing (the burden silently without a voice of protest) rural vote bank, explaining away that their fortune (or should I say misfortune) is something about which nothing can be done.
As a satire, PEEPLI [LIVE] is a few notches below Shyam Benegal’s WELL DONE ABBA, only because at several places it begins to look like a stark documentary. Shyam Benegal did not have an Aamir Khan to market his film; the effect of Aamir Khan is clearly seen from how he has orchestrated the media (the very media which has been the subject of ridicule in the movie) to help in the promotion of the movie and that a few weeks from now, Natha will all but be forgotten; Aamir will still be remembered. That is true marketing!!