You either have to be foolhardy or audacious or both to attempt something so unconventional and culturally specific. The very strangely titled Eeb Allay Ooo, presented by Anurag Kashyap, is about the monkey menace in parts of Delhi where Sarkari Babus dominate the scene and those wretched ground-level workers who are hired as monkey repellers. Just why would anyone want to make a film on something so esoteric is a question for those who examine adventurous minds?
Clearly, director Prateek Vats belongs to that rare breed of over-reachers who don’t mind falling on his faces while reaching for the stars. And by stars, I don’t mean the Khans and Kapoors. Luckily Eeb Allay Ooo succeeds in staying afloat despite its bizarre cultural specificity. It is a slice-of-life tale of a reluctant monkey repeller, played with extraordinary sensitivity and rare understanding of characterization and personality-momentum by Sharadul Bharadwaj who was lately seen as Ratna Pathak Shah’s autorickshaw companion in recently released Unpaused.
Bharadwaj belongs among that rare breed of actors who sublimate their own personalities and are so submerged in their characters that we can never recognize the actor when he is not on the screen. So before I ask the real Bharadwaj to stand up, shall we pause to consider the exceptional realism in the way Bharadwaj’s Bihari migrant Anjani Prasad’s character interacts at home (a seedy airless chawl) and at work where he needs to scare monkeys away but ends up scaring his job away. It’s a wretched life. The writing by Shubham is so immersed in the immediacy of living that there is no pause to sentimentalize Anjani’s desperately poor life. While the backdrop of the plot is squarely squalid, there is never any room to revel in that squalor.
Eeb Aalay Ooo (the sounds used to intimidate monkeys) is exceptionally freed of conventional cinematic props. The background music is used sparingly, and the sound design( Bigyna Bhushal Dahal) is such that we hear much more than just what is relevant to the scenes. Like much else in this unassumingly masterly study of lower-income destitution, the sound and the cinematography(Saumyananda Sahi) are simply there. You may not notice them the way you do the masterly craftsmanship in other important films. That’s only because nothing is here done for effect. It all flows like a documentary. The only time you see the director’s tight control over the narrative is when Anjani is with his best friend and colleague Mahender.
Anjani’s bond with his pregnant sister (Nutan Sinha) and his bestie are tenderly drawn into the hustle-bustle of a town that cares for none but accepts all. There is a dramatic incident towards the end that changes the mood from workaday to surreal. Don’t let that shake you up. Eeb Allay Ooo doesn’t mean to startle. It just wants to remind us gently but persuasively of those who exist outside our range of vision. The monkey pacifiers are far more clever and cautious than those employing them. Their time will come. Until then there is this film.
Directed by Prateek Vats Eeb Allay Ooo gets 3 and a half stars.
Image source: Instagram/bhar_ul_shar, Youtube/NaMaProduction/imdb