The noose that news built

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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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