Imagine you are on a date with someone, perhaps this is your first date with him/her and unfortunately you go on to discuss things related to excretion and bowel movements due to some unavoidable reason right in front of the person. How do you think the date would work out? In Shoojit Sircar’s Piku there’s a scene when Piku (Deepika Padukone) meets a guy (Akshay Oberoi) on a date and later leaves the place frustrated along with her friend and business partner, Syed Afroze (Jisshu Sengupta). Piku confides in Syed that she didn’t like the guy whom she met for dinner and states reasons like he doesn’t watch Satyajit Ray films 🙂 etc to support her decision, while Syed only asks her one question-did she talk to her dad while her date was on? You will need to watch the film to understand why such a simple scene like this clearly conveys the crux of the tale so wonderfully.
By now most of us know the basic premise of the film. Piku is a 30 year old architect who lives in the Bengali dominated CR Park area of New Delhi along with her 70 year old widowed father, Bhaskor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan). Bhaskor is a proud Bengali and a chronic hypochondriac, who of late is obsessed with his bowel movements, causing a lot of discomfort to Piku in the process as their conversations now mainly revolve around the same :). Piku is a firebrand of sorts, making even her daily cab drivers wary of her. The cab service agency is run by Rana Chaudhary (Irrfan) who is a friend of Piku’s partner, Syed and there seems to be a sense of admiration/infatuation towards Piku from Rana, though it is very subtle and never plainly visible. One fine day Bhaskor decides to take up a journey back to his hometown Kolkata along with Piku and their trusted aide, and much against Piku’s wish Bhaskor wants to do a road trip. With all his drivers running scared of Piku and disappearing at the time of departure, Rana decides to drive down the Banerjees to Kolkata himself. But nothing could have prepared them for what lay in store for the journey ahead.
Shoojit Sircar and writer Juhi Chaturvedi do not really waste any time in setting up the base, though having settled in Delhi ages ago Bhaskor is still devoted to Kolkata and everything about the city. He lives his life on his own terms, knows how to get his things done even if it involves annoying Piku considerably and speaks his mind boldly. Piku on the other hand is more than an even match for her dad as she is independent, loves to call the shots-be it at work or home and takes life as it comes. Rana is an interesting third element in this tale, a civil engineer with a slightly ambiguous career history in Saudi Arabia; he is now running his late father’s cab service business and is openly uncomfortable with the two women at home, his mother and sister. A lot of care has been taken in ensuring that the characters have a proper arc and it applies to the supporting characters as well. So we know that the man Friday at the Banerjee home is a guy who originally came down from Kolkata to Delhi with a different assumption about his job or that the thrice married aunt Chaubi (Piku’s mother’s sister played by Moushumi Chatterjee) and Bhaskor have a love-hate relationship.
Another aspect that makes Piku stand out among the scores of recent Hindi film releases in recent times is that it’s one of the simplest tales ever possible. There are no twists and turns, things just play out in front of us as we would probably see it unfold at say our home or in a similar familiar environment. Yet it’s a tale that is engaging all the way, bold and refreshing in its own unique way. Whether you are a Bengali or not doesn’t really matter, the chances of identifying with one or more characters in the film are extremely high and I’m not kidding here when I say so. There are so many wonderful moments strewn through the film that you have to marvel at how well they have been written by Juhi Chaturvedi. One of my favourite moments from the film is when the road trip to Kolkata is about to begin and Rana is dismayed to find the domestic help of the Banerjees sitting in the front seat beside him. There are no dialogues exchanged between Rana and Piku but they communicate with their eyes nevertheless and Piku takes over the front seat-simply wonderful. And the last 2 scenes of the film are just brilliant.
These two scenes in any other film would be filled with emotional melodrama, but not here and that’s what makes Piku special. Even as we feel that the constipation tale is over, voila there looks like a new angle to it in the making. One doesn’t usually come across films that often where try as hard as you can but you still do not find anything in the film that bothered you. Piku is one such film where everything just fits in perfectly. Anupam Roy’s music more than suits the film and he makes his presence felt right at the very beginning with the charming yet subtle background score during the opening credits. At a run time of around 125 minutes, the film chugs along very neatly and the pacing is uniform, never breaking the momentum, good work by the editor Chandrashekhar Prajapati. Kamaljeet Negi’s cinematography brings alive various hues both indoors and outdoors, and the film has a bright and sunny appearance overall, suiting the mood and nature of the film.
A film like Piku would never work if the casting isn’t right and/or if the performances are a let-down. Thankfully Shoojit Sircar hasn’t had to be worried on this aspect at all. Raghuvir Yadav as Dr.Shrivastava, the constant companion of Bhaskor is a delight. Like the way he gets excited to know Rana is from U.P, even asking him to bring some laddoo from his hometown on his next visit shows that he has the perfect temperament to match that of Bhaskor. Bengali filmmaker Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury plays the part of Bhaskor’s younger brother, but it is more of a cameo while Jisshu Sengupta as Syed Afroz, a friend of both Rana and Piku as well as Piku’s business partner, leaves a mark. Moushumi Chatterjee Chaubi is superb and her conversations with Bhaskor are delightful. As the thrice married aunt who loves her drink and wants Piku to get married as well, Moushumi is a treat to watch indeed.
We all know how good an actor Irrfan is but over here he manages to portray Rana in a manner that we usually don’t see him. Known more for his intense roles, here he shows that even in comedy he is more than adept and ensures that he brings about the required balance in the film. Watching Amitabh Bachchan portray Bhaskor is a treat indeed. With a prominent paunch, dependence on a hearing aid and with his mischievous nature as seen by the way he hides salt every day, he brings out the childlike innocence in Bhaskor very naturally. The scene when he sportingly tries a new way of going to the toilet as suggested by Rana and later exclaiming to Piku “hua nahin, lekin kuch naya karne ko toh mila” or when he comes back cycling all over Kolkata, satisfied like a kid cycling for the first time ever, are examples of how good his portrayal of Bhaskor is.
Deepika as Piku is simply adorable and she just oozes life into the character right from the very first scene. If Bhaskor is one end of the dysfunctional Banerjee family then Piku is the other end and both of them are equally important, that’s why they complement each other so well. It’s great to see them both at loggerheads like in the party scene when Bhaskor openly tells someone that his daughter isn’t a virgin, only to see her express her dismay clearly and exit the party. When both Bhaskor and Rana act stubborn and thus the car journey comes to a halt in the middle of nowhere, Piku too doesn’t throw in the towel easily. This explains how well Deepika has transformed as an actress of late and right now she is going through a phase where she probably cannot do anything wrong. Piku is a film for every single one of us, it is a film which will not only make you smile but also leave you thinking in the right way.
Piku in a way is a simple, old fashioned tale, similar to what we would see in films of Hrishikesh Mukherjee or Basu Chatterjee long ago. But it is also contemporary, a part of what we are today. Haven’t watched Piku yet? What are you waiting for?