‘Eeb Allay Ooo!’ Shows the Horror Migrants Are Living in 2020
The film was recently showed as part of YouTube’s We Are One Festival.
Eeb Allay Ooo
Review: ‘Eeb Allay Ooo!’ Is the Horror Migrants Are Living in 2020
(The review contains spoilers)
“Kahan narak mein lake phenk diye hain (You have literally thrown me into hell)!” - A young migrant labourer Anjani (Shardul Bharadwaj) telling this to his brother-in-law in Prateek Vats’ Eeb Allay Ooo! (which is currently playing on Netflix) is the reality of 2020.
There couldn’t have been a better time to hold this movie as a mirror in front of us, laying bare the naked truth of the fragility of migrant life and the dehumanising of a certain section of society.
Eeb Allay Ooo! is a stinging political satire that very cleverly shows us the social, political and economic disparities that are a part and parcel of our society. The story is told through the eyes of Anjani, who comes to Delhi from his village with dreams only to be slapped hard by the brutal power-hungry city that boasts of spotless roads and swanky cars but does not hesitate to run over the financially weak, who barely have a roof over their heads.
Anjani lives in the poorest part of the capital, in a one-room house with his pregnant sister (Nutan Sinha) and brother-in-law. After much pleading, the latter gets the 20-something a ‘government job’ - that of a monkey repeller at Raisina Hill. The curtains actually raise with Anjani being ‘trained’ for this profession - he is made to watch a film about monkeys in English. The language might be Greek to Anjani, but there’s a line which blares out from the screen and Prateek here throws a masterstroke - “Because they are treated as gods, they are given food, they are corrupted, they are… made to think that they don’t need to forage anymore. So they become bold… They start demanding. Then the gods become pests.”
These ‘monkeys’ might not be the creatures who are just going about their business, rather the ‘pests’ may very well be those who are resting their arms in the seat of power, building a wall so high that the screams of people like Anjani drown even before reaching their ears.
Just after joining, Anjani discovers that he is a misfit. For one, this meek guy is scared of the snarling animal, that doesn’t even take seconds to make him run for his life. Secondly, he is not creative enough to produce the ‘Eeb Allay Ooo’ sound like his ‘colleague’ Maninder (Maninder Nath, a real-life monkey scarer). Eeb Allay Ooo! is the sound made by langurs, the only threat that the monkeys take seriously. When Anjani musters courage to complain about his hellish life, his sister gives him a piece of his mind - ‘Do you know how to operate computers? Can you work as a plumber? An electrician?’ For somebody who has managed to scrape through school, Anjani discovers that this new world of opportunities has nothing to offer him.
“Be grateful you have a job” - the whole world keeps hammering this into Anjani’s head, and we can feel the stench of unemployment and contractual labour permeating from the cramped lanes of Delhi.
The migrant’s sister hides her discomfort to toil for hours on end. Her husband, too, works as a guard in an amusement park. Despite a hundred reservations he picks up a gun that that the company offers as ‘security’, because with that weapon comes a raise in salary. All three of them are subject to taunts from superiors and their rage, who spend no time in reminding the family how dispensable they are. And this uncertainty hits them with full force. Just when Anjani had figured a novel way out to shoo the monkeys away, fate snatches his short-lived happiness. He gets fired without a pay.
Among the numerous things in which Eeb Allay Ooo! scores is the lens it chooses to depict the plight of the migrant labourers in a country that spends lakhs in organising a lavish Republic Day parade but cannot even ensure that half its population is fed two proper meals a day. In a scene that will reduce you to tears, the NDMC personnel with help from Anjani assemble a cage to trap the monkeys that are wreaking havoc in and around Raisina Hill. As Anjani goes inside the cage to fix something the workers lock him, refusing to budge to his pleas. They throw bananas inside and, laughing, tell him, “Eat it like a monkey”. As the boy gasps for breath, these people have a ball. The sequence took me out of the screen and into the roads, wherein visuals of helpless migrants digging into waste bins for food, huddling in trucks or trying to cover thousands of kilometres on foot flashed before my eyes. Eeb Allay! Ooo is not a film - it is the horror that thousands are living every day in a locked down country that has stripped them of dignity.
On one hand, basic necessities seem like a distant dream and on the other are colours of blind faith.
Vats makes it very clear - it does not matter whether the people below poverty line live or die, what is of utmost importance is ensuring that Gods are clothed in expensive silks and that monkeys have no dearth of bananas that are strewn outside government premises.
The person who has sacrificed the ten minutes of his tea break to cling to his job can rot in his matchbox.
Added to the gripping tale are flawless performances. Bhardwaj is the man of the moment. Not for once do we feel that he is pulling off an act. His hollow stares and expression of resignation stand in sharp contrast to the deeply expressive snarls of the monkeys (some applause worthy shots of the creatures) and that’s where the brilliance lies. Nutan Sinha is equally fantastic as the sister-in-law who is always cribbing and ‘never happy’, because deep down she knows that it’s a luxury only few can afford. Not to forget Soumyananda Sahi’s cinematography. The close up shots of a mad dance during a festival, the lingering dark corridors of one part of Delhi that stand in sharp contrast to the bustling night life in another highlight the wide gulf that exists in every nook and cranny of this land.
The next time a video of a toddler trying to wake up its mother who has been murdered by the system’s apathy, remember that there was a film that made you feel ashamed of your privilege.
Remember that it showed you a picture of a government that employs cheap labour only to throw them into the gutter when convenient. After all, Anjani learnt the biggest lesson of his life in the last scene - that he is part of the countless faceless migrants who are forced to dance to the tunes of those who wield the sword of power. It’s not monkeys that he needs to stay away from, there are creatures far dangerous than them.
(As Eeb Allay Ooo has released on Netflix, here's our review of the film)
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