Ever since I saw Prateek Vats' social satire Eeb Allay Ooo!, something stayed with me. I don't know what. Eeb Allay Ooo!, which I watched as a part of We Are One: A Global Film Festival by YouTube, explores the plight of migrants and their vulnerability. With the migrant crisis coming to the surface during the lockdown, Eeb Allay Ooo! is an insight into the life of the working class and their desperation to earn a few bucks. Young unskilled youth, who march their way to Delhi and other metro cities from their villages, are mostly unaware of the challenges they will be facing. Eeb Allay Ooo! reflects how the working class of the country has continued to engage in petty works with no job security, low pay and absolutely little or no respect. Prateek Vats' film draws a sharp line between the two worlds that exist. Without passing judgment, Eeb Allay Ooo! traverses from the Lutyens' Delhi to narrow lanes of those areas that we see (or say, prefer seeing) only from a distance.
Eeb Allay Ooo!, presented by filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, premiered at Pingyao in China before it was shown at the Mumbai Film Festival.
Vats' film is on the monkey menace in Lutyen’s Delhi, North and South Block, the prime location of all government offices. This monkey problem, common in Delhi, created a job opportunity in which one is required to make the sound of 'Eeb-Allay-Ooo' -- the sound of langurs (natural enemies of the macaque monkeys).
Likeable Shardul Bhardwaj plays the faint-hearted migrant Anjani, who is compelled to do this contractual 'government' job as he doesn't have any other skills. Despite not being able to put his heart and soul into the work, Anjani keeps on finding innovative methods to shoo the monkeys away. Unfortunately, only to find himself in trouble each and every time. The desperation to earn livelihood in a different city drives Anjani into despair, gradually transforming him into another world--a liberating one.
Below I have listed five reasons (I know there are more) why Eeb Allay Ooo! is not a film you should miss.
Vulnerability Of Human Life
Eeb Allay Ooo! reflects how vulnerable we all are and most importantly quite easily replaceable. With tens of thousands of youth juggling for a handful of jobs comes exploitation of workers (including those working in high-rise corporate offices). Anjani is made to feel guilty for having a tea break during his working hours. He tries to put his points before guruji (his contractor), only to give up due to his own vulnerability. Eeb Allay Ooo! leaves you uncomfortable by portraying the sheer value of human life, especially, those who have been pushed to the edge of the social diagram.
The Two Worlds
Through the story of a city's power corridor rattled by monkeys, Eeb Allay Ooo! talks about the disparity that is deep-rooted. The disparity that goes unnoticed. The workers rendering their services in these posh areas (or any other location) often face the bitterness and humiliation. This comes from the lack of empathy. When Anjani tries to convince a government employee not to feed monkeys, the 'Sarkari babu' threatens him by pretending to dial up his contractor's number. One more scene that depicts how humans are failing on the very humanitarian ground is when Anjani's pregnant sister (played effortlessly by Nutan Sinha) requests some more time to complete the delivery orders. That sense of pride, which comes with such acts of oppression is the by-product of insensitivity.
The divisive nature of the society also comes to the forefront when Mahender (played by real monkey repeller Mahender Nath) and Anjani are at a fancy party to assure no disturbance by simians.
Humans are desperate and the desperation grows when one is left with no choice. Well! for the working class, it is a desperation to meet their daily needs. It is an everyday struggle to have something on their plate when they go back home. Anjani, who doesn't know how to cook, has no skills to be a plumber or electrician and doesn't want to be a sweeper, go through the congested lanes of Old Delhi to find any odd job. The desperation to make ends meet can be also seen when Anjani's brother-in-law (played by Shashi Bhushan), who works as a security guard in an amusement park, has to keep a gun for a raise of Rs 1500.
Eeb Allay Ooo! sums up the world of the marginalised section and their helplessness.
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‘Eeb Allay Ooo!’ is a Hindi Feature Film that follows the journey of a young migrant as he battles hoards of monkeys in the heart of New Delhi as a contractual monkey repeller - a newly created govt job to tackle monkeys, emboldened by the recent ban on the use of captive langurs- their natural enemies. . . Directed by Prateek Vats and produced by NaMa Productions. @berlinale.panorama @berlinale #eeballayooo #berlinale2020 #berlinfilmfestival #berlin #Mumbai #independentfilm #namaproductions #centraldelhi #parliament #delhielections2020 #bjpvsaap #monkeys #delhimonkeys #rashtrapatibhavan #hideandseek
The Narrative Via Saumyananda Sahi’s Lens
From New Delhi's government buildings to narrow colourful lanes of Old Delhi, Sahi beautifully captures the locations without altering their authenticity. The expression of kids in the langar scene (towards the end of the film) is one such moment when it becomes difficult to differentiate between the reel and the real. And how can I forget monkeys, who looked as if they were responding to the camera.
The background music of Eeb Allay Ooo! hits hard, especially in the scene where a traumatised Anjani is sitting hopelessly with a mithai ka dabba in his hand.
Last but not the least, the subtle performances by Shardul Bhardwaj who plays Anjani, Nutan Sinha and Shashi Bhushan who play the lead's sister and brother-in-law, earn the credit of lifting up this well-written and beautifully-captured film. The pride with which Ajani's pregnant sister tells the doctor that he has a "government job" makes my heart melt.
The women characters of Eeb Allay Ooo! are strong. They are not there to toe the lines but to make their stand clear. Anjani's friend (Naina Sareen) doesn't hesitate to chide him and leave when he disrespects her.
Special shout out to Mahender Nath for playing himself which only he could have done. Am amazed!
Eeb Allay Ooo! is a thought-provoking film, which initially looks like a social satire but then surprises you by ending on a dark note. (PS: Anjani's devilish Joker-like smile will haunt you in more than one way.)