Peepli Live is a 2010 Indian satirical comedy film that explores the topic of farmer suicides and the subsequent media and political response. It is written and directed by Anusha Rizvi in her directorial debut, and produced by Aamir Khan Productions. The film stars Naya Theatre company member Omkar Das Manikpuri as well as Naseeruddin Shah, Raghubir Yadav, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Shalini Vatsa and Malaika Shenoy along with a number of newcomers. Peepli Live, distributed by UTV Motion Pictures, was released on 13 August 2010.
Peepli Live was India’s official entry for the 83rd Academy Awards Best Foreign Film category although it was not nominated.
Natha Das ManikPuri, better known as Natha, is a poor farmer from the village of Peepli in Mukhya Pradesh, who struggles to farm enough money for his family made up of his elder brother, Budhia Das Manikpuri, his wife, Dhaniya, his three young children and his ailing mother Amma, who spends most of her time lying down and screaming at Natha and Dhaniya. Natha and Budhia often pretend to go out farming when actually they save up whatever money they have to buy alcohol. This has left the whole family famished and now the banks are demanding repayment of loans or else the family will be stripped of their land and house. In the meantime, the Mukhya Pradesh Government have called a by-election due to continuous criticism of their blind eye towards the desperate poverty that surrounds India’s largest state. The opposition Apna Dal Party believe they have a chance to form the government in this election as the people have lost faith in the long-serving Sammaan Party and its Chief Minister, Ram Babu Yadav who, along with Federal Agriculture Minister, Saleem Kidwai, believes in the industrialisation of rural areas.
To save his land and to save his family from becoming homeless, Natha, encouraged by his brother, decides to commit suicide after he requests help from the rural headmen and they suggest that his committing suicide is a good way to get loan money waived, and after which his family will receive heavy compensation for his death. While Natha and his brother are discussing this possibility at a local tea stall, the news gets reported by Rakesh, a local reporter from Peepli. This report then gets picked up and highlighted by the national English news channels and reaches the Chief Minister. The media starts surrounding Peepli sensing the possibility of a sensational suicide story. One ITVN journalist particularly keen on filming the event of Natha’s death is Daytime Presenter, Nandita Malik. She joins the local reporter Rakesh Kapoor and takes desperate measures to interview Natha and his family on the subject of Natha’s suicide. However things get more tricky when rival Hindi news channel, “Bharat Live” finds out about Natha and Peepli. The news channel clashes with ITVN and each try to film Natha’s impending death in their own manner. The Sammaan Party also soon discover Natha’s plans and try to buy off Natha with sops to prevent him from committing suicide. Opposition parties like the Apna Dal and the CPI also get involved and plan to use Natha as a path to power in the elections. Peepli soon becomes the centre of attention across Mukhya Pradesh.
Nandita’s frantic attempts to interview Natha get worse when Rakesh does not find Natha or anyone else in Peepli to interview. She seems unimpressed with Rakesh’s compassionate stand towards Natha and believes that as reporters their duty lies in reporting and following the news and nothing else. On the other hand, “Bharat Live” continues to be successful in their attempts to interview. Yet as time goes on, Natha does not die. Meanwhile, the Sammaan Party realise that if Natha commits suicide, they will lose the elections. The rural headmen secretly kidnap Natha and hold him ransom for money from the opposition. Yet their plans are foiled when Rakesh discovers Deepak and his men holding Natha hostage at a Peepli barn. A rush occurs when people from Apna Dal, the CPI, ITVN, Bharat Live and Peepli villagers all rush to find Natha. In the confusion, a spillage accident from a Petromax lamp sets fire to the barn, which explodes and Rakesh is killed. The Government officials mistake Rakesh for Natha and refuse to pay Natha’s family the compensation money due to the death being an accident. Meanwhile, Natha is in fact alive and flees to Gurgaon and is seen working as a day labourer in the construction industry.
His family loses their land to the bank.
Omkar Das Manikpuri as Natha
Raghubir Yadav as Budhia
Malaika Shenoy as Nandita Malik
Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Rakesh
Naseeruddin Shah as Saleem Kidwai, the Agriculture Minister
Aamir Bashir as Vivek
Anoop Trevedi as Thanedar Jugan
Ishita Vyas as Reporter
Shalini Vatsa as Dhaniya
Avijit Dutt as Boss of English TV Channel
Farukh Jaffer as Amma
Vishal O Sharma as Kumar Deepak
Sitaram Panchal as Bhai Thakur
Sandeep Yadav as cameraman of Nandita Malik