Pratheek Vat’s Eeb Allay Ooo, comes in a catalogue of the newer trend in Indian Cinema, where Indirect social voices are mapped in the cinematic threshold. Similar to last year’s Jallikattu directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery, here the director cuts through many facets of issues faced by contemporary India through a stunningly abstract cinematic equivalent. If Lijo’s film had a sacred emblem of a Buffalo as it’s primal metaphor here it’s another equivalent of the famous mythological figure, Monkeys, both the rhesus macaques and the black-faced langur monkeys.
The narrative is conferred through the monkey-menace of our Capital city―kick starting from a fantastic pun of a thanks card at the beginning to the ‘monkeys of Lutyens Delhi’, the opening sequences plays out with a seemingly bizarre vocals where young men are chanting the popular line (film’s title) to throb the wild rhesus monkeys. Then, cut to a macroscopic view of two individuals on the wall looking at the crowded micro citizens of Delhi.
The sequence is Anjani (Shardul Bharadwaj), a migrant worker finally getting a job entitlement as a monkey chaser in the capital city. He is one among the migrant working class family comprising his sister (Nuran Sinha), a pregnant woman packing spices for a small-time earning and his brother-in-law (sashi bhushan), who managed to get a night shift as a security officer for a corporate amusement park. With the film, Mr Vat follows a narrative trajectory which primarily follows Anjani’s arc but it is also a multi-layered narrative at times, juxtaposing the struggles of the working class family. The narrative confers parallels of the scorching state of havoc of India.
The menace was there for decades, at one point it was a trained elite squad of langurs repelling the rhesus. Later, as a result of the protests by animal right groups people were contracted with daily-wage for the repel. For Anjani, the humiliation he finds in his job is the plight of all migrant workers around the country. The monkeys are both gods and pets for people so is the migrant crisis of our country. In a stunning scene, where the iron cages are being equipped, the co-workers cages Anjani and tells him to act like a monkey. Later Anjani looks at a monkey trapped in the cage. It’s a stunning binary metaphor which is carefully non-judgemental. In a sense, the system is a state of monkey-havoc. A scene that throws me back to the full blown chaos that Lijo Jose Pellissery demonstrated in Jallikattu, the psychology of mob-bullying.
There are more darkened parallels in Eeb Allay Ooo, when it connects between the workspace of Anjani and his brother-in-law. It’s a simple disclaimer of the scale of destruction that could be caused by humans as opposed to animals. It’s also about the process of dehumanizing. The film’s most terrific scene is Anjani embracing the langur-mimicking by himself which is a substratum form of revolt played out with an electrifying rap number. It reaches to an ambitious and equally ambiguous finale, that has the larger-than-lifeness of PA Ranjith. But Vats choses it as an alternative form of liberation and a ingenius satirical bending of blasphemy.
The sound design and cinematography compliments the gorgeous terror of Eeb Allay Ooo. The train sounds especially share the exasperation of the working class in a uniform rhythm of motion. Editor Tanushree Das cuts some of the best reaction shots of monkeys. Pratheek Vat’s film is an audacious commentary on contemporary India which can be pertinently subjective to it’s viewer as a satirical comedy, a dark thriller or a psychological coming-of-age story.