Review: We Are One – ‘Eeb Allay Ooo!’

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Guest contributor, Anoushka Chakrapani, reviews film, Eeb Allay Ooo!, which was featured in the global film festival, We Are One, and discusses its relevance to India’s political climate. 

From delayed film releases to suspended productions, the film industry is bracing for major changes. Adapting to the current COVID-19 pandemic, Robert DeNiro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff’s Tribecca Film Festival has turned towards Youtube to give cinephiles a chance to watch the most coveted films of the year. Collaborating with film festivals across the world including Mumbai Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival, We Are One running from 29 May-7 June 2020 is calling for donations for COVID-19 relief.

The pandemic has forced filmmakers who were skeptical of streaming services to find a home for their films on OTT platforms, the latest being The Lovebirds, starring Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae. The film was set to open in theatres but instead saw a digital release on Netflix.

The influence of festivals is far reaching, may it be attracting cinema-goers or the academy (not that anyone cares) and this festival still allows the audience to partake in that process. Sure, the glitz and glam of the red carpets have been replaced with zoom interviews of the production team but do we really miss it? If anything, I reminisce the experience of watching the film in the cinema.

We Are One is successfully allowing people globally to participate in these festivals in one place, providing comfort in uncertain times. Amongst the many shorts and features, Eeb Allay Ooo!, Directed by Prateek Vats and curated by Jio MAMI film festival, is one film that stuck out during the second day lineup. A biting satire, the film is riddled with metaphors about the current political climate in India providing a first-hand account of migrant labour in the flawed system of governance. The focus on Anjani (Shardul Bhardwaj) opens up the conversation of the migrant crisis and poor state affairs. The story follows his journey after he leaves for Delhi in hopes of getting a good job. What ends up happening is quite the opposite. Anjani is employed to shoo away monkeys that have infested central Delhi, a job that exists in the present day after animal rights activists protested employing langurs for the job and demanded to take down electric fences which were responsible for frequent deaths in the monkey population.

Introducing him to the new government job, Anjani is made to watch a short film explaining to him his duties in English while everyone in the room chatters in Hindi. We see the importance of monkeys as god like figures in the short doc where the narration strikes a chord ‘demanding gods become pests’. The film exposes the problems with the system and politicians its citizens worship, populist leaders infest the tall buildings making politics about their power struggle rather than working for the people. The movie’s title is a series of sounds that the monkey shoo-ers must make to scare off their enemy but Anjani never seems to get the hang of it. He is perplexed by his job even though his sister is proud of him, not because of what he does but for who; government jobs are pretty sought after.

Anjani tries day in and day out to make the most of his job: to succeed in getting rid of the monkeys, the cogs in a flawed system only to be consumed by it. We see him dress up as a langur and try and scare away his nemeses. Not only does he win the war, but also goes viral in the process with his face being plastered across the internet. After successfully scaring the monkeys, we see him being called by his boss only to be scolded for putting up the prints in front of the Ministry of Science and Knowledge; his intelligence is not valued. His confusion is matched with the government official’s disengagement with its employees. Do your job as you’re told or go home.

The dialogues are subtle but draw parallels with social realities. Anjani’s sister sits down with a baba questioning him about the ‘ache din’ (good days) to come. This was the campaign slogan for the BJP in 2014 and after two terms in power the prosperity promised is nowhere to be found and the film reveals it. We see him literally stuck in a cage puppeteer by his peers and superiors made to dance like a monkey. The layers this film has and the levels it speaks, are astounding.

Eeb Allay Ooo! resonates with you, its relevance now more than ever with the current plight of migrants who in this COVID-19 pandemic were ignored by the Indian government while imposing the nationwide lockdown. Anjani’s hardships and sufferings draw us in to the daily lives of migrant workers and ask us to question the system that allows this agony to persist.

Watch the festival’s trailer here.

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