Eeb Allay Ooo!

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Eeb Allay Ooo!
"Vats has a background in documentary and it shows in his deep realisation of the world Anjani and his family inhabit." | Photo: Saumyanda Sahi/NaMa Productions

Despite its moments of gentle comedy, there's a serious satirical sweep to this debut fiction feature by Prateek Vats, which charts the hapless attempts Anjani (Shardul Bhardwaj), a new arrival to Delhi, as he tries to earn cash to contribute to the near-empty coffers of his pregnant sister (Nutan Sinha) and her cop husband Sashi (Sashi Bhushan).

Sashi pulls a few strings to get Anjani hired as a monkey-shooer - a job that genuinely exists in Delhi, where people are paid to stop the local macaque population marauding around the public buildings. The job comes with a couple of problems though - firstly, the majority Hindu population consider the animals to be sacred, so hurting them is not permitted and secondly, Anjani is petrified of them. Taken under the wing of experienced scarer Mahinder (Real-life monkey scarer Mahinder Nath, who has a fine set of lungs and natural screen presence), his attempts to learn the scaring calls "eeb", "allay" and "ooo" - which mimic the sounds of langur monkeys that frighten the macaques - may not be successful, but Anjani is the sort of sweet-hearted trier that you can't help but root for.

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The absurdity of men imitating monkeys - mainly because using actual langurs was outlawed due to animal rights concerns - is strong from the start and only further enhanced by Anjani's desperate attempts to find new and increasingly desperate strategies to win out in the monkey business. But there's a kernel of sadness to a world where the plight of various primates is more picked over and considered than what happens to the local population. The essential pointlessness of the exercise is underlined by those who continue to feed the animals anyway and, perhaps worse, by those who hire Anjani and Mahinder to scare away monkeys that don't even exist.

Vats has a background in documentary and it shows in his deep realisation of the world Anjani and his family inhabit - from the exhaustive piece work his sister has to complete by candlelight to the uncomfortable lengths Sashi has to go to in order to get a pay rise. It's all captured with a natural feel for the environment by cinematograhper Saumyananda Sahi, who also has a wealth of documentary experience. The action is well-edited by Tanushree Das, so that macaque reaction shots are interwoven with the story for maximum comic impact. This is not a laugh a minute, however, with the director and first-time feature writer Shubham more drawn to the tragedy of situation than the comic - perhaps unwilling to aim for the crowdpleasing jugular given that the hardships here are modelled on the reality for many in modern India.

Reviewed on: 04 Mar 2020
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Eeb Allay Ooo! packshot
A migrant to Delhi tries to make it in the monkey-shooing business.

Director: Prateek Vats

Writer: Shubham

Starring: Naina Sareen, Shashi Bhushan, Shardul Bharadwaj, Nutan Sinha, Nitin Goel, Mahender Nath, Kapil Madaan

Year: 2019

Runtime: 98 minutes

Country: India

Festivals:

BIFF 2020

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