The noose that news built


By Arul Mani

WHEN NATHA (Omkar Das Manikpuri) and Budhiya (Raghuvir Yadav) find that the bank they owe money to is about to seize their land, the brothers approach a local politician for help. He shrugs them off, but a hanger-on mentions the large compensation paid to families of farmers who’ve committed suicide. After a polite discussion, Natha decides to do the deed.

The brothers announce the decision and it catches the attention of Rakesh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a small-time journalist, who writes a short piece in the local newspaper. A bye-election is in the offing. Peepli is the Mukhya Pradesh CM’s own constituency. This sparks off a circus which includes two dozen OB vans, a detachment of policemen, Centre-state one-upmanship, and a shimmering carpet of Bisleri bottles when the fun ends. The most beauteous thing is the film’s minimal use of music. A companionable silence reigns, allowing unhurried watching and a surrender to the colourful idiom in which characters speak their mind. Somewhere inside my head, a younger version of self has escaped from Hindi class to gaze with admiration at the character who combines living and bell-bottoms into a metaphor that hangs from the same washing-line as its opposite number — khudkhushi and jeans-ka-pant.

Other minor joys include a goose-pimple moment on the soundtrack with Nageen Tanvir’s Chola Maati Ke Raam.

Debutant director Anusha Rizvi uses deadpan irony to nail her victims. A bureaucrat arrives bearing a hand-pump (minus bore-well) for Natha that becomes a household ornament. A politico gifts Natha a TV set and this message of hope dwindles similarly. Natha’s brave speech ends in three seconds when he steps in dung. Vishal Sharma outdoes himself as a bravura parody of a noisy TV newsman. He runs his mouth off in breezy interpretations of Natha’s mother’s two-finger gesture and follows it up with a semioticshumps- psychoanalysis moment featuring Natha’s Antim Aasan — a reading of the man’s last shit.

First-Time Director Anusha Rizvi Uses Deadpan Irony To Nail Her Victims

The director deftly balances the droll with the serious. A dispossessed peasant passes regularly through the film with a face that could teach Russian icon-makers about suffering. His story forces Rakesh, the Hindi journalist who admires TV anchor Nandita’s (Malaika Shenoy) English-speaking savvy, into a confrontation with his idol about the ethics of what they are doing. Rizvi’s script ensures the film will yield itself up fully only after several viewings.


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