Eeb Allay Ooo: A dark comedy about the sheer absurdities of contractual employment that plays out in the central nerve of the capital. Directed by Prateek Vats, Eeb Allay Ooo is a Netflix film that holds a sharp and strong condemnation of the Indian state, but not in a bitter or angry tone. The film instead offers dejection and disenchanted, wrapped up in absurdist whims. It takes us through a farcical journey of a young migrant named Anjani, who works as a monkey repeller for the government. The amount of strangeness that his job holds is directly proportional to the inevitable impact it makes on his mental and emotional stability.
The trailer of the film was dropped on YouTube yesterday, and for most of you who don’t know about it, the film has already been screened at Pingyao International Film Festival in China and at Mumbai Film Festival in India. But now it has been distributed by Netflix to reach a wider span of audiences.
Now, coming back to the story. As we look into the glimpses of it, we find a young man looking straight into the camera and making strange noises, which are precisely onomatopoeia, same as the title. He is Anjani, a young migrant from Bihar who stays with his pregnant sister and his brother-in-law on the outskirts of Delhi. He is hired in the capital’s monkey repeller squad, which is stationed outside government buildings in Lutyen’s Delhi. This is done in order to keep the government official away from any disturbance, caused by the chaotic monkeys. But the job comes with a condition-in the process of shooing away the monkeys, they are not allowed to harm or touch them in any way. They should be kept away by means of sounds, that is recognizable by a monkey.
The job at times stresses him and wears him out mentally. Once he is locked in a cage set up for monkeys by using bananas as bait to lure them. At that moment, we see the tears of helplessness in his eyes. As the film progresses, we get to know that Anjani is incapable of making sounds as effectively as his colleagues. He feels that the more he tries making the sounds to keep the monkeys away, the more aggressively they behave with him. We also see him being pushed into this job by his family, for they don’t want him to be unemployed. But little do they know, what kind of impact it’s making on him on a personal level. It gets difficult for him to bear the ridiculousness of the job he has been forced into when he realizes that the work he has stumbled upon, isn’t what he actually wants to do. And despite it all, we witness the societal cage he has been locked in, throughout the stretch of the film.
The reason why animals are treated well in Indian isn’t basic decency and humanity, instead, it’s religion. Religion is the main cause why animals are reserved and respected so much. There are so many temples where rats are fed and respected, for they are seen as Lord Ganesha’s companions. For various religious reasons, animals like squirrels, elephants, and cows too are worshipped equally. And not to forget how monkeys are never mistreated, for they are believed to be Lord Hanuman’s avatar. And the reason why Delhi has such a pervasive and uncontrollable monkey problem is that people have been continuously feeding them leftovers, in blind religious faith. Having been given this kind of treatment, the monkeys have marked certain residential areas as their own territory, for they have developed a sense of sheer entitlement.
Soon, we see Anjani stopping one of the men from feeding the monkeys, for it may worsen the situation. They may continuously come back, and the feeding would eventually become their habit. But, the man, using and flaunting his made-up credentials, threatens to complain to his boss. This kind of behavior is very usual and normal in the kind of society and country we live in. We, the people above the poverty line or at a certain status in society feel like we own everything around it. We believe that people who work at a comparatively lower status are next to nothing. But sadly, they are as humans as we are. Using credentials to prove your worth is just an example of how life gave you enough opportunities, so you could prove yourself. Had they been given the same, they would have been in the same place as you. Offensive, but true.
"a surreal satire on the state of the nation, where humans are reduced to animals and animals are elevated to the status of gods."
— Baradwaj Rangan (@baradwajrangan) February 18, 2021
Anjani is uncomfortable while at his job. He has always feared monkeys, and he still does. Dealing with aggressive monkeys every day is no easy work. Though he tries to make peace with it, by learning new methods. From using slingshots to dressing up as a ‘langur’ to scare away monkeys, he has tried everything. But every effort that he makes soon faces rejection by his boss. Every time he comes up with a new idea, it is in the end crusher upon by the people seated above him in status, for they reject any idea, that seems deviated from whatever they have been practicing till date. Little do they anything of what it takes to keep their lives undisrupted.
When Anjani came to Delhi, dreaming about a better life, he wouldn’t have imagined he’d be chasing monkeys to make a living. But there are many like him, the men and women living in slums, who are perceived as nothing but helpers by society. Still, he manages to rattle the cage he has been pushed into. The film is a social satire that has the courage to put out opinions of its own, and show us a real picture. The makers have addressed themes as prickly as religious bigotry and nationalism. Projects like Delhi Crime, Paatal Lok, and Tandav have managed to unveil the truth, that runs in the most cinematic city of India-Delhi.
The film, as it progresses, depicts various metaphorical and ironic relationships between humans and things. We see Anjani’s pregnant sister, who is a housewife and completely obsessed with cleanliness around her while living in a slum. His husband, who works as a security guard gets nauseous when he’s asked to keep a gun. And then we have Anjani, who works like a monkey repeller but is terrified of monkeys himself. All these equations show us how sometimes, our lives are weaved in total contradiction to what we want. And the makers have beautiful coated deeper life lessons and everyday circumstances of people, with the glitter of cinema.
In today’s time, cinema isn’t solely restricted to the love story of a good-looking man and a beautiful woman who fall in love, despite their family restrictions and class differences. Nor the audiences are interested in seeing baseless romantic comedy that has absolutely no humor notion to it and is merely doing well at the box office because of the star-studded cast. The lockdown that was enforced in the country has mended the cinema habits of people in a very constructive way. People are restricting themselves to walking into cinema halls just for the sake of some all glitter storyline. People now appreciate good cinema that they can relate to actual life. And honestly, Eeb Allay Ooo gets full marks on that part. It isn’t a very fascinating story that stands out from the world. Instead, it picks up from our basic everyday lives and the people who struggle to make a living and everything that goes on in a city.
While you’re watching it, even for a nanosecond you won’t feel that this is likely impossible in real life, like you feel while you’re watching a Karan Johar movie that dresses up students as if they’re attending a fashion show. Instead, you’ll connect with the story, every single minute. That’s the power of a story that’s a reflection of your normal life. Directed by Prateek Vats, and starring Shardul Bharadwaj as the main lead, Eeb Allay Ooo is streaming on Netflix.