A dark comedy with overtones of absurdist drama and Kafkaesque interpolations, ‘Eeb Allay Ooo’ is a sharp satire on the establishment and society that venerates and feeds animals but treats humans worse than animals. Anjani, the protagonist, becomes representative of the marginalized class, the contractual labour and semi-literate youngsters, who come to Delhi with dreams of a better future only to find themselves denuded of their dignity and dreams. Pari Deshmukh reviews this unusual film.
As I scrolled through Netflix to find an interesting film to watch, a garbled name caught my attention. Eeb Allay Ooo. I squinted and strained my eyes. Had I misread the name? Nope. It still read ‘Eeb Allay Ooo’. A little intrigued, I checked the storyline in the description box. It simply said, ‘Hired as a monkey repeller upon moving to Delhi, a young man struggles to find his footing in his unenviable job and his place in the unforgiving world.’ Monkey repeller? Was there even such a job? As I scrolled some more, in almost unreadable font, it said that the film had been awarded Filmfare Critics Award for Best Film of 2021. Now I was hooked. Thus began 90 minutes of undiluted entertainment which had me laughing, introspecting and railing against a society that relegates the marginalized populace to dark corners and crevices, all at the same time.
The film starts on a verité mode, with the camera zooming in to real-life old, magnificent government buildings on Raisina Hill, Nirman Bhavan, Krishi Bhavan et al. The sandstone façade of these buildings becomes a backdrop for the army of simians scaling its beleaguered walls. And we have an officious voiceover stating that the monkeys have taken over Lutyens’ Delhi. The camera then shifts to a group of men standing in a circle, contorting their faces and making strange guttural sounds, yes you got it right, sounds of Eeb Allay Ooo. These are the monkey repellers in-training. One of the men is unable to make these guttural sounds. This is our protagonist Anjani, an immigrant from Bihar who has come to Delhi hoping for a better life. Unfortunately, he cannot cook or drive or type or clean. So, the only job available for him is the ‘Sarkari naukri’ of the monkey repeller.
He hates the job and tries to find ways to make it easier- he puts up placards of ‘langurs’ to scare the simians and uses a slingshot to keep them at bay. He even dresses up in a langur outfit to scare the gangs of bullying simians. But he is reprimanded and humiliated time and again by his peers and contractor for breaking the fixed mould. Living in the slums of ‘jamna paar’ and working a job that shows him up as inept and stupid, he at one point says ‘kahan narak mein phek diyen hain’. His only friend is Mahender, a fellow monkey repeller, who is extremely efficient at his job. But one day in an attempt to defend himself against an attacking money, Mahender kills a simian with his slingshot and is lynched to death by onlookers for after all monkeys are to be venerated and fed, for are they not the avatar of Hanuman himself. This pushes him into joining a procession of men dressed in simian outfits, blackened faces making them unidentifiable. Face blackened, an uninhibited Anjani dances in a frenzied fashion and seems to become one with simian race.
A dark comedy with overtones of absurdist drama and Kafkaesque interpolations, ‘Eeb Allay Ooo’ is a sharp satire on the establishment and society that venerates and feeds animals but treats humans worse than animals. Anjani caught in the cage set up for the simians becomes representative of the marginalized class, the contractual labour and semi-literate youngsters, who come to Delhi with dreams of a better future only to find themselves denuded of their dignity and dreams. The debut film of Prateek Vats prods your conscience, even while it vacillates between dark realism, open satire, nuanced cracks at religious superstition and entrenched dualism in what we say and what we do. An eminently watchable film.