R E V I E W – M O V I E
“Bandar vaag raha hain?” is a question that professional monkey repeller, Anjani, comes across a lot. It loosely translates to — “Whether he has managed to scare the monkeys yet”, which is equal parts humiliating and unnecessary to Anjani, who responds each time with a quiet affirmative. After all, Anjani has lucked into a job after just moving to Delhi. A show of competency at his job is essential, no matter how much the monkeys scare him.
There are few things to know about the protagonist of Eeb Allay Ooo. Anjani (Played by Shardul Bharadwaj) is a migrant worker from Bihar, who has recently moved to Delhi. He lives on the outskirts of the city, with his pregnant sister (played by Nutan Sinha) and his brother-in-law (played by Shashi Bhushan). He has studied till eleventh grade and is devoid of any skills that will aid him in the job market, such as computer work or cooking. He has gotten a “governmental job” right after getting to Delhi. However, this governmental job will not make him eligible for pension, amenities, or even a bit of dignity. It is a contractual job that requires him to chase away monkeys from important buildings for a hefty sum of six-thousand rupees per month.
There is also a hidden protagonist in the film. The movie’s opening credits slip in the hidden variable as it displays in bold lettering — A special thanks to monkeys of Lutyen’s Delhi.
As the film progresses, it builds on the significance these monkeys hold in the Indian community. Some think of them as divine. Others think of them as a nuisance. Nuisance or not, these monkeys are not to be killed. They are to be gently or forcefully swayed from important buildings, roads, or just about anyone’s immediate range.
This is where Anjani’s job gets difficult. In his heart, Anjani is an unskilled, perpetually terrified person who has the misfortune to chase after an unpredictable creature who he can neither kill nor hurt. He cannot even bring his larynx to produce the magic repellent words, “Eeb Allay Ooo” as skillfully as Mahender (played by the real-life monkey chaser, Mahender Nath). So, Anjani figures out ways to work out loopholes to a job that won’t allow him to have one. When his voice fails him, he prints out posters of Langurs, a natural enemy of the monkeys. When that gets his boss in trouble, he dresses up as a Langur himself to scare the monkeys. Even then, it does not please the higher-ups. So, Anjani loses his battle with capitalism. They fire him from his job. Even his Langur idea gets stolen and appropriated into a speaking Langur doll to scare the nearby monkeys. Anjani and his dawning horror of automatons replacing his undignified job is hardly unfamiliar and correctly portrays the world we live in.
Eeb Allay Ooo! is Prateek Vats’ first venture into fiction after the success of his documentary, A Very Old Man with Enormous Wing. Vats’ influence from his non-fiction work clearly stands out in the film as Eeb Allay Ooo! never once feels out of touch. Its characters and extras all seem like the people we would know, people we would pass in the streets. It also helps that the actors in the film are relatively unknown, yet completely believable as their movie counterparts. This consequently helps the movie tell a largely absurdist satire in a way that can be seen as a faithful rendition of life as they live on.
At the end of the day, a movie is only as successful as the relative believability of the story it is bringing to life. We all have known an Anjani, who is chasing after a job he doesn’t want. We have all seen many Mahenders be collateral damage to the system. We have sympathised with many sisters who are ecstatic yet scared of bringing a child into a life of poverty, and we have all been Anjani’s brother-in-law who has agreed to the unfair demands of a job just to get paid. Eeb Allay Ooo! doesn’t have to be a pseudo-intellectual film to critique these complex themes, and it isn’t. It is a very simple film, which, granted, is incredibly tragic. But a simple film nonetheless.
Raya likes to critically analyse anything regarding pop culture, and when she’s not doing that, she likes to live life dangerously — one House MD episode at a time.