Elevate Difference

Peepli Live

The women of Peepli… well, there are no women in Peepli. Yes, there are daughters and mothers and wives, and to them Natha is purportedly “son and brother.” Natha is in dire straits; he has taken a loan from the bank and now cannot repay it. In an attempt to keep their lands from being auctioned off, Natha and his brother, Budhia, go to the local strongman cum political candidate for advice.

The politician recommends that one of the brothers commit suicide, for while the government does not provide debt relief or agricultural subsidies for farmers, it will give a sizable payout to the family of a farmer who has committed suicide. And therein lays their salvation. The family will have money and what have the two brothers done with their lives anyway? Let one sacrifice himself for the greater good.

Natha is a simpleton and his somewhat more savvy brother convinces him that since Budhia is the one who has a family, Natha must be the one to commit suicide—only he can save them all. Obligingly, Natha agrees. Later on that evening, after the brothers have drunk themselves into a stupor, a visiting reporter hears their story. The following morning’s headline foretells the death of farmer Natha and a media circus (as well as a political one) descends onto Peepli. The various parties and partisans push and pull, and attempt to decide whether or not Natha should live.

The three female characters in the film are all shrews. From Natha’s wife, who badgers and assaults the brothers, to his mother who complains and swears, to the reporter who appears to be unconscionably chasing leads, there is not a single positive female figure in the film. Inflation herself is a witch, wreaking havoc and ruining the farmers’ lives, leading them to their early graves.

Written by: Elisheva Zakheim, July 3rd 2010

Although I do not agree with what Amrita has to say about the film over all, I found her observations about Natha's wife - isn't it another comment on it that we know her thus - very apt. I wrote something about the film as well -

http://theonlydifficulty.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/on-peepli-live/

Actually in the film it is Natha who has the family - he's the one who is married and has three children. It is one of the film's more comedic moments (while also invoking pathos and dismay at the absurdity of the conversation) when the two brothers discuss who will volunteer to suicide in return for the alleged compensation to the family. Although there aren't that many female roles in the movie, I actually found the role of Natha's wife, who without fail throughout was constantly working, getting water, cooking and serving food, getting her brother-in-law a glass of water when he returns to the house after a weary day, posed a subtle but consistent counterpoint to the uetter helplessness of Natha and Budhia who had become ensnarled in a situation they had no idea of how to get out of. It was her constant 'running of the house', her scathing contempt towards the media and the government officials, and even the on-going curses that she and her mother-in-law unfailingly exchanged, that in fact kept the family as a unit during the onslaught of overwhelming attention Natha and Budhia had unwittingly stirred up. The female reporter who first broke the story was a strong famale character but she became (and was) compromised by her sense of power and her unerring faith in her right as a journalist to invade the lives of people, especially a poor farming family who were in such dire straits that her reporting of their situation (and that of other media reps) became a huge hindrance with no expectation of real and true help and assistance. The movie was a social satire, and I found the characters were well-rounded and altogether too human, and refreshingly not trying to uphold archetypal representations.

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