#NewsBytesRecommends: 'Eeb Allay Ooo!'—Scathing social satire, tale of upward mobility
Somewhere between the droves of Netflix's top films and rows dominated by the who's who of the film industry lies an avant-garde, absurdist film, Eeb Allay Ooo! (2019). The Prateek Vats directorial is a stinging social satire that dissects a plethora of issues like migrants' throes, dearth of employment opportunities, and fervid desire for upward social mobility. Here's why we root for the movie.
Fronted by Shardul Bharadwaj, Eeb Allay Ooo! follows the tribulations of Anjani (Bharadwaj), who migrates to Delhi to live with his sister. Devoid of any "real skills," the only work he can find is that of a monkey repeller, and the film gets its title from the sounds used by such repellers. Interestingly, in Hindu mythology, Anjani is the name of Lord Hanuman's mother.
The film's opening scene shows a group of men making idiosyncratic sounds to shoo monkeys off in Lutyens' Delhi. Not long after, the numerous conversations between Anjani and his supervisors contextualize how these sounds are actually multilayered and how even an animal is at a higher pedestal than a lowly man who must stick to his roots. Aspirations are a rich man's affair!
Throughout its 1:37-hour-long runtime, the movie underlines the gaping chasm between the haves and the have-nots. Locations double up as markers of this divide, particularly the railway lines that divide swanky Delhi from tasteless Jamnapaar. A contrast between two worlds—one glittery and fancy; the other, dark and despondent. Literally. The wide, spacious roads of New Delhi mock Anjani's real identity, defined by dingy lanes.
Anjani becomes the microscopic representation of millions stuck in a Kafkaesque nightmare, where agency translates to a concept, not reality. Being a monkey-repeller isn't his "dream job," but it's the only avenue that puts punctuation to his situation that can spiral into a hand-to-mouth existence any day. It comes with a false "government job" tag but brutally strips him of inherent happiness and respect.
Palpable pathos seeps out of the screen in almost all frames, but some are more evidently wrapped in pity than others. For instance, the sequence where Anjani finds himself holed up in a cage or when his colleague's death, instead of eliciting an investigation, invites apathy and is swept under the rug. For some, there is no dignity in life and none in death.
Eeb Allay Ooo! becomes the story of an everyman, pigeon-holed in a Sisyphean reality where things unfailingly return to their point of origin, one's herculean efforts notwithstanding. It makes you pause and ponder and sends across a message without being remotely preachy at any point. An admittedly difficult yet important watch, this intelligently written, excellently executed scathing satire deserves a spot on your watchlist.