Piku Hindi Movie Review
The popular notion that "daughters look for their fathers in their life partners" is one that is especially (and unfortunately) true in the case of Indian women. Add to that the fact that a country like India is full of over-zealous and overly passionate people when it comes to all their relationships, and it is stupifying that we have yet to get a film exploring a prominent (and unhealthy) father-daughter relationship.
Despite what the trailers and the tagline ("motion se hi emotion") might lead you to believe, Shoojit Sircar's Piku isn't really about Amitabh Bachchan's digestion and bowl movements (although it kinda-sorta is). Piku, instead, is about the bond that a father and daughter, any father and daughter share in our society. Much like marriages, all maternal and paternal relationships in India are forever too, which is in contrast to the international trend, wherein parents and children go their separate ways after a point. The kids are dependent on their parents up until the point where the roles are reversed and the parents become reliant on the their kids.
Such is the relationship between Piku and her father Bhaskor, who is one tough cookie to take care of. A hypochondriac who's always worried that some disease or the other is out to get him, his issues take up any spare time that Piku might be left with after attending to her job and household duties. Things and perceptions change with a road trip they take to their old ancestral home in Kolkata, chauffeured by the owner of the rent-a-taxi company.
In more ways than one, Piku is a straightforward and conventional film. You have a dysfunctional relationship at the center of the film. The hero and the heroine, through a quirk of fate, are thrown together and love blooms. To add to that, there are hardly any surprises in store during the approximate 2 hours running length of the film.
But in our country, any film that speaks the truth about our lives as we know it is labeled an unconventional, artsy film. By those standards, Piku too is one of them. But unlike a Margarita with a Straw or a Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Piku isn't the kind of film that tries to shame in its exploration of human nature and interpersonal relationships. It may definitely be social commentary in garb, raising questions about your duties to your parents, women's financial independence after marriage and sexual independence before it. But it's intention isn't to bring about some change.
Instead, director Sircar and his writer Juhi Chaturvedi choose to throw a bunch of talented actors together in the confinement of an Innova car and leave them to play off each other, mouthing some of the most absurd lines about the most absurd things that'll keep you smiling and even guffawing throughout. From repeatedly calling a woman's decision to marry a "low IQ decision", to unheard-of home remedies to cure constipation such as relieving yourself in the "Indian position", you get humor that could've easily been crass and offensive in the hands of a less capable director and actors, but what you get is skillfully handled toilet humor that gives you the feeling of sitting in your dining room with your family, having a dinner conversation.
Sircar and Chaturvedi keep the proceedings moving at a crisp rate, meanwhile slowly building relationships between characters and with you. They give you earnest people that you can root for, noble-intentioned souls that have their own share of flaws. They keep the tone light yet understated, with emotions slowly bubbling under the surface that erupt in a flurry of arguments every now and then. But above all, every conversation that every character has with everyone seems to be straight out of your own life, whether it's the quippy one-liners and emotional put-downs (dialogues once again by Juhi Chaturvedi) or just the comfort level with which they quarrel and horse around with each other. Even the cinematography (Kamaljeet Negi) and editing (Chandrashekhar Prajapati) are chaotic and rough, to go with the film's intimate, bantering and bumpy-car-ride feel.
Unfortunately, the film is let down by a disappointing choice of finale. After quite literally taking the road less traveled, Sircar and Chaturvedi go for a concluding chapter that is not just oft-seen and rote, but also the first and the easiest solution that would come to even a layman's mind. Although Sircar tries to make the best out of the predictable climax, you're still left feeling a bit underwhelmed and cheated.
Of course, it helps Sircar that he has a trio of vastly talented actors at the top of their game to hold his hand during some of the film's bumpier moments. For an actress who couldn't act well enough to get into a respectable art class at the beginning of her career, Deepika Padukone is surely one actress who has reached this level of success through sheer will power and the want to succeed. In Piku, you find her at her most understated yet powerful self, owning her character's vulnerability and also her meaner side with the kind of conviction and belief that you could see only from an actress who knows she's in top form. She is at the center of the film, and she justifies the position of the anchor despite being surrounded by acting heavyweights. It's hard to say whether it's her best performance till date, but it's certainly one of her better ones.
Amitabh Bachchan plays with fire in the role of Piku's father, but the veteran manages to come out trumps. Saddled with a complicated look and a Bengali accent, it could've easily turned out to be a caricature of a performance. Instead, it turns out to be another triumph added to his long list, and another complicated character conquered with charm and grace and humor. His character is the one with the most apparent and easily visible flaws, but Bachchan embraces them and turns Bhaskor into an eventually likable person.
Irrfan Khan continues to experiment with commercial cinema in between his more serious acting commitments, and his decisions continue to pay off in the most splendid manner. His role of Rana Chaudhary falls right in his arc of deadpan expressions and straight faced wisecracks, and there's no one better at what he does than the man himself. He gets some of the best lines in a film full of great ones, and he hits each one straight out of the party without batting an eyelid. Moushumi Chatterjee and Raghubir Yadav lend able support in their respective parts, especially the former.
All in all, Piku is a largely impressive and splendidly fun follow-up by Shoojit Sircar to his fantastic Madras Cafe. The finale does play a spoilt sport, and you're left wondering if only the final destination had turned out to be as joyous and frolicking as the journey itself. But all said and done, it does leave you with the memories from a helluva journey, one you're unlikely to forget soon.