In his Directorial debut film, “Eeb Allay Ooo!” Prateek Vats manages to tackle an odd subject that has also become an increasingly annoying problem, with some serious consequences; the overwhelming presence of the monkeys in the bustling India’s capital city of Delhi. These primate cousins of ours have multiplied over the years and are corrupted by humans. Due to Hanumanji (the monkey God who helped Rama in the EPIC story Mahabharat), monkeys are considered sacred and revered. Being fed by humans, the monkeys become bolder. When they get hungry, instead of foraging for food, they attack humans and steal food or even snatch their bags when they can.
This movie is a satire on blind religiousity so prevalent in India, that in the practice of archaic beliefs and customs, people often forget the impact these rituals cause on the society. In fact, very recently in January, 2022, when a monkey died of cold, 1500 people attended his funeral and chanted prayers and mantras and a few men even shaved off their heads in reverence towards the dead ancestor.
The film begins with the protagonist Anjani (Shardul Bhardwaj) walking around the city of Delhi, making funny noises to chase away the monkeys. It starts as a common story of a migrant worker who comes to the city chasing big dreams and gets a job chasing the monkeys. He lives in a small hut with his sister, far beyond the city limits. Even as he attempts to chase away the monkeys, he sees people coming and feeding the monkeys.
Even though he needs the money and the job desperately, the absurdity of futile effort in this ridiculous job is not lost on Anjani. And to top it off, the monkeys get used to the sounds and stop being afraid and then they don’t look kindly on being chased. These monkeys then become aggressive and attack the workers who try to chase them away, while they are enticed with food by other humans.
Also interesting is the poignant contrast between the lives of the poor and the wealthy. The poor work on silly and often dangerous jobs and live on the outskirts of the city, in crowded slums, while trying to hang on to the periphery of society. While the wealthy live luxurious lives with pomp and circumstance. Poor people are deeply aware of the contrast between their lifestyles, but the wealthy are completely ignorant of how people live on the edge of the city in crowded slums. These poor workers are sometimes saddled with responsibilities by their superiors who have no idea of the havoc they sometimes cause. For instance, Anjani’s brother-in-law works as a security guard and is issued a rifle, which should supposedly make him feel important. However, now that poor fellow has to balance and carry that rifle on his bicycle to and from work, and keep it safely and securely in his hut, which lacks all kinds of basic amenities and neighbors and others can easily walk in and out.
This is an excellent low budget film with Bhardwaj giving a masterful performance that shows the entire range of what life represents for him and others in his situation; clinging on with desperation to his futile job, interspersed with moments of mischief and affection towards his bossy elder sister. This film is a valiant attempt to lift a migrant worker out of obscurity and give him personality and a sense of identity. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I give the film a rating of 4.7. I loved it.