Eeb Allay Ooo! : ‘MAMI’ Review: An authentic study of the working class through intelligent filmmaking.
A monkey is an unconventional human. It is undiplomatic, unsophisticated, and it mocks almost everyone. A langur is someone a monkey is prejudiced against. And a societal human is an imperialist to both. Eeb Allay Ooo! is a tale of little monkeys. Some monkeys are mastered by the system, some by fate, and some by their dysfunctionality. Our protagonist belongs to the third category. The mystery of this peculiar title “Eeb Allay Ooo” deserves to be unraveled by the film. The opening scene is purely dedicated to the introduction of the subjects and not the characters. The subjects that provide inspiration for this brilliant docu-drama dealing with multiple crises and dilemmas of the working class.
Prateek Vats, in his debut feature, attempts to juxtapose a number of issues that go hand in hand when subjected to the complexity of societal structure and the by-default human interaction. The turmoil in the subcontinental boundaries has mostly been arising from the resource disparity within the states that have caused large scale intra-country migration of the working class, or rather, the aspiring working class. This has led to multiple conflicts because the structure doesn’t provide an equal pedestal to each citizen, to begin with.
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Now, at the same time, urbanization has been equivalent to colonization if we dissolve the boundaries of definitions that separate the rest of the organisms from humans. The snatching of the most essential of life-support, earth, has left animals with two choices – die or adapt to intrude. Pigeons and monkeys adapted to intrude and reclaim while sparrows and the wild died. Those who were the last to be affected found a new title for themselves – pests. Do pests have economic implications? Absolutely. Hence, they require removal. Do pests lead to economic opportunities? Absolutely. As they require removal.
Anjani (Shardul Bharadwaj), an unskilled migrant, is hired by Narayan, the contractor, at the persuasion of Anjani’s brother-in-law Shashi (Shashi Bhushan) for the job of swaying the monkeys away from the official areas of New Delhi around the President’s House, government headquarters, and embassies. Monkeys are a menace when they are outside a temple. Religion must not intrude into the actions of the state. Secularism is being upheld. Monkeys need to be driven away but without any harm. But Anjani is merely stuck by his desperation, working where he doesn’t want to, and living with his sister in a city he hasn’t adapted into. Mahinder (Mahinder) is his short-term mentor and probably his closest friend from work.
Eeb Allay Ooo is concentrated around the struggles of Anjani, using his character for wider representation, but also extends to the struggles of those who have secured a job and have adapted to the city. This establishes how the battle of securing a financial standing and a carefree living isn’t cyclic or phasic but a long-term one, probably life-consuming. Tanushree Das does an exceptional job in the editing room. The editing of the film is an example to look up to for it brings a number of complex shots to come to life. The animals find a tale of their own, and their own voice, as the editing extracts the best out of their availability.
Prateek Vats, along with his cinematographer Saumyananda Sahi, employs guerrilla techniques to shoot an intelligent story that has been penned by Shubham. Shubham assures that he has an in-depth understanding of the lives of the eastern working class as he sketches a near accurate depiction that doesn’t fall to genre cliches, conventions, and stereotypes. It is not derogatory. And it is not driven by preconceived notions of a third eye. The film is from an inward-looking perspective. Vats shows potential with his deployment and his choice of cinematic episodes. He never demands sympathy from the dialogues or the screenplay. He neither dramatizes the sequences for a pressed impact. He is aware when he adopts a comedic approach that stays in real-time and creates its own drama through underlying metaphors. That’s how Eeb Allay Ooo succeeds. A collective effort that is in perfect sync such that every element appears to be sharing one vision.
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Performances are less close to being staged performances and much more proximate to lived experiences. Actors get the accent accurate. I have not seen such accuracy, hitherto, when it comes to cracking the dialect and mother-tongue-influence of Bihar. Shardul is a find. He handles his frustration and desperation in tandem. Mahinder, never for once, gives it away that he is a real-life monkey-repeller and not another trained member of the cast. Narayan as contractor impresses in his limited screentime while Nutan Sinha as Anjani’s sister, Shashi Bhushan as his brother-in-law, and Naina Sareen as Kumudh, a nurse who develops a pleasant bond with Anjani with a tinge of romance, are convincing in the parts they’re given. They’re honest and natural when they could have easily been contrived. Anshul Takkar’s score and the soundtrack dominate the second half, majorly the conclusion of the film, and hint at another brilliant choice of utilizing what’s available. Bigyna Bhushan Dhahal’s sound work pushes the film closer to cinema verite.
The film flattens as it closes, in its effort to vouch for a conclusive termination rather than leaving the stream flowing. I had no otherwise expectations that could have left me underwhelmed or disappointed. I was rather overwhelmed when I finished the film and it has deservedly achieved itself one of the highest ranks in my list of best Indian films of the year. I am only trying to suggest what could have impacted me with a greater degree. Eeb Allay Ooo! deserves to reach as many people as it can. It is no more surprising how it managed to win India’s Gold at MAMI Film Festival 2019.