Usually movies come with ratings and reviews which either takes us towards the movie or away from it. But Aamir Khan’s movies come with ‘compulsion’; a ‘must watch’ tag. When Aamir puts himself behind a movie, then all ratings and reviews fly out of the window; and people just want to watch the product at least once. And when that product turns out to be what ‘Peepli [Live]‘ is, we understand what differentiates Aamir from the others.
Everyone has been gushing about the movie; even the media channels who have been mocked at in the movie. The tv channels have accepted it as a backhanded compliment that at least they showed the plight of the farmer, albeit in a sarcastic tone and for TRPs. I would sound repetitive if I said that ‘the movie was great…a satire on the political class and media … authentic … moving’ etc etc. Rather than stating the obvious, let me just say that Shyam Benegal called the movie ‘a landmark film’ on a news channel last week. After hearing the entire discussion, my mind took flight and I started wondering if this movie would be chosen as India’s Oscar entry for the year 2011. Apart from the movie being a fine work of art, a concave view of the farmer’s plight, its also a telling statement on the society. Let me quickly list the things that go in favour of PL:
a. of all the movies that India has sent to Oscars, only 3 movies have been nominated in ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category – Mother India, Salaam Bombay and Lagaan. All three based on people with impoverished background in general, MI and Lagaan based on rural background in particular.
b. having seen the success of Slumdog Millionaire and the various discussions on poverty-porn or poverty sells, PL seems to be just the kind of movie that the jury may favor.
c. most movies that were sent as India’s entry were barely showcased due to lack of funds. We have previously seen how Aamir and Ashutosh gave it their best in promoting ‘Lagaan’. By virtue of having been there before and done the hardwork, Aamir seems to be the ideal producer who can promote the movie. And also, his credibility can bring in the jurors and critics to give his movie a dekko.
Peepli [Live] works on all levels, it tells a great tale in a fascinating manner. The story itself is not all that new, a general apathy displayed by the political class and the discontent of the poor innocent villager. But the media-hawks flying down to the epicenter of the drama and the various bureaucratic procedures/hurdles gave the entire proceedings a satirical tone. Who can forget that line “We are waiting for the High Court orders” being oft repeated or the invasion of privacy where a man cannot answer nature’s call without the presence of security and tv cameras. What have we come to? Reporters/journalists chasing mal-mutra for TRPs!
I have this weird feeling that the movie has a better chance of winning the Oscar[because of above reasons] than of being selected as India’s entry. Within India itself there would be much debate on which movie to be sent to the Oscars. Another movie that comes immediately to mind, which could give competition to PL is LSD.
Technically, LSD is on par with what the western audience has already experienced before in Paranormal Activity etc. A movie that does not look like one, the rough-cut and the jagged edge gives it that extra bit of authenticity; and the story-telling is very understated. The movie does not make a statement, does not ask questions, does not prove anyone wrong or right, does not lecture on ways of life and living; and yet it does all of the above in a very subliminal way. Considering technical finesse, story-telling and the real world story that it chooses to tell, LSD would be a good choice too.
Finally, let me come to my worst fear. Yes, I think you guessed it ! MNIK could just prove to be the dark horse. And the only reason why this could be chosen would be that it sends out a message of unity and the shunning of Islamophobia. And no better country to send out such a message than India. If we see from the government’s perspective, they would rather send a movie that shows India in good light than a PL or a LSD. So, if MNIK gets chosen I would not be surprised at all. Moreover, SRK is an equally recognized face all over the world and would manage to promote the movie well; but I am not so sure about the credibility factor.
Let me hastily add that I have not spoken about any regional cinema here. As much as I have read and watched them, I am not sure any of them could make it. But you never know the way I&B ministry works; we could all be in for some surprise. But my personal choice would be Peepli [Live]. Let me know what you think.
This post was first published on PFC