Imagine this film without Aamir Khan. Had Khan not been the producer, this project would have made it to a few film festivals and received some appreciation and gotten released at select theatres, that’s it. The acclaimed actor is not a part of this film yet, it has been dubbed ‘an Aamir Khan film’. Therefore, will it turn out to be another landmark film for Aamir Khan’s production house, is a million dollar question?
This is not the first film based on the predatory and voyeuristic media. This is not the first film based on Indian farmers and their predicament. This is not the first film about a poor village and how the powers-that-be take advantage of simple folk. This is not the first film about a helpless man who decides to take his own life.
Yet this is not a ‘social’ film. It’s meant to entertain. Alas, the final product comes across as indecisive. It neither makes you laugh nor evokes empathy.
Okay, so the film is about the ‘real’ India – the sorry plight of India’s farmers, about them wanting to give up their lives, how politicians prey on them for their votes and the TRP-seeking electronic media. But why leave out the print media? Don’t newspapers too want to double their circulation?
About the story, well, Natha is on the verge of losing his land due to an unpaid government loan till his brother comes up with a plan. According to him, they must take advantage of a government scheme under which the family of a deceased farmer is given Rs 1 lakh as compensation. And, for that to happen, Natha must commit suicide.
The incident finds its way into a local newspaper followed by television channels coming to the village. (No newspaperwallahs except the ones who broke the story). That’s when all hell breaks loose. Finally, politicians jump into the fray as elections roll around.
On the bright side, the film is not preachy. No speeches from our netas, and even the interaction between the media and Natha and his family or villagers is handled deftly. Though the film doesn’t tackle these issues with depth, on the downside, it doesn’t get into any details either. The funda is crystal clear – pick up an issue and present it in a lighter vein.
Another plus – this is a short film. Even though it drags in places, Natha’s mother makes the going easy! Every time the pace drops, cut to a scene with either Natha’s mother, Natha’s wife or Natha’s son. Interesting execution, especially since there’s not much actually happening. There’s one scene where a TV camera zooms right in on Natha’s face (too close) but the next second, the same journalist getting the camera ready to roll outside Natha’s house. Weird and makes the scene lose its charm.
Debutante Anusha Rizvi impresses in some places, and in others, fails to hold the audience. She has definitely come up with a win-win concept but fails the screenplay test. Still a few scenes have been written and handled very deftly. There’s one scene that is worth-mentioning, the one where one dead body is being carried out and the electronic media goes berserk breaking the news that Natha is dead.
The music, composed by multiple artists, is the highlight of the film. Cinematography is apt. Dialogue, in some places, is funny.
Performance-wise, Omkar Das Manikpuri is brilliant as Natha. No one else could have played this character with such ease. Raghubir Yadav is fantastic, as always. Shalini Vatsa (Natha’s wife) and Farrukh Jaffer (Natha’s mother) are the sole reason why you want to watch the film a second time. They are the soul of the film, especially Jaffer. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is very good. Vishal Sharma, though over-the-top and sometimes loud, is fabulous. Malaika Shenoy is all right. Naseeruddin Shah impresses.
In a nutshell, both the production houses have made table profit even before the film has released. However, a not-so-happening response from the audience might make this project a losing proposition for several distributors. Still, if Aamir Khan will be remembered for directing a film like Taare Zameen Par for years to come, he will also be remembered for backing a project like PEEPLI [Live].