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“Peepli Live,” Reviewed

“Peepli Live,” Reviewed (photo)

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“Here we are shitting bricks and you’re singing love songs,” Budhia (Raghubir Yadav) tells his younger brother Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri) as they amble down a dusty road, en route to see their local representative about repaying a government loan on the eve of foreclosure on their farm. It’s not hard to imagine these words might’ve been running through producer Aamir Khan’s head when the famed Bollywood star (“Lagaan”) decided to get behind “Peepli Live,” a small-scale satire that arrives in America on a wave of publicity unusual for a release of an Indian film on U.S. shores.

Much of it is predicated on the daring of Khan to attach his name to journalist-turned-filmmaker Anusha Rizvi’s searing critique of the Indian government and media with a story about the frenzy that surrounds the two brothers, particularly Natha, who reluctantly volunteers to commit suicide when informed that it could pull his family out of debt. (Shortly before the end credits, “Peepli Live” instructs of a real-life government program that compensated the families of farmers that offed themselves as part of the nation’s urbanization efforts; according to the statistics provided by the film, 182,000 poverty-stricken farmers took their own life between 1997 through 2007.)

08132010_PeepliLive2.jpgRivzi reserves the only real exterior shots of the big city for the film’s final minutes, hovering like the blade of a guillotine over the fictional farming village of Peepli where Natha is thrust into a circus around his impending suicide, which like Billy Wilder’s “Ace in the Hole” is signified all too literally when a Ferris wheel shows up. What we do see of modern India is largely restricted to the insides of newsrooms and political war rooms that eagerly debate ways they can use Natha’s “decision” to their advantage.

In that respect, “Peepli Live” functions as an insightful glimpse at the growing pains of a modernized India where the lower classes have been marginalized in the unforgiving drive for progress, yet the unfortunate thing for its filmmakers, who have made it clear they want to broaden their audience for “Peepli” is that the Western audience least averse to foreign films are also the likeliest to have already seen films such as Wilder’s “Ace in the Hole” or Alexander Payne’s “Citizen Ruth,” which cover similar ground in a more dynamic way. Then again, it’s unfortunately a theme that always remains ripe for reinterpretation since history keeps repeating itself.

Here, much of the comedy derives from the way Natha’s would-be suicide is commoditized and thrown around in casual conversation like a slightly risky business transaction — by both the villagers and the big city folk — and though “Peepli Live” refrains from Bollywood-style dance numbers, it conveys a lot of the larger themes through song, where inflation is called a “witch” and the villagers’ struggle for survival is celebrated by lyrics like “a molehill is a mountain, a pebble is God.”

It is an undoubtedly bold film, which will serve it well with some audiences and possibly alienate others, but as a first effort from Rivzi, “Peepli Live” is an assured debut, even more impressive when you discover she worked with a cast made up of mostly amateur actors. That we haven’t seen their faces before freshens the film, but it’s the fact that we haven’t seen the side of India they represent that makes it a bit unshakeable.

“Peepli Live” is now open in limited release.

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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