ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Peepli Live and the Gesture of Concern

Notwithstanding the authentic picture of rural India depicted in Peepli Live, the film is clear that its rural protagonists and its Anglophone audience belong to completely different worlds. Though rich in satirical detail, the film is "humanist" rather than political, in that it is both non-committal and deceptive in its approach to rural indebtedness and in its treatment of the media. Peepli delivers the subliminal message that little can be done about rural indebtedness because its economic/political causes cannot be identified.

The economic condition of farmers is not a subject that Hindi cinema has concerned itself with in the recent past. Agrarian issues, to the best of my knowledge, were last dealt with as long ago as the late 1960s, although the “daku” genre was still thriving in the 1980s. Where earlier agrarian films like Mother India (1957) and Ganga Jumna (1961) dealt with rural poverty and the exploitative zamindar/moneylender, Upkaar (1967) explored the manipulation of the peasant by the trader. While these three films are “political” in the sense that they are driven by the notion of class conflict, the latest exercise in Hindi agrarian cinema – the Aamir Khan-produced Peepli Live – is a d ifferent kind of film which exhibits a h umanist concern without being “political” in a comparable way.

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