Apart from collaborating with Amitabh Bachchan on various television commercials, director Shoojit Sircar had also made a feature film ‘Shoebite’ (also known as ‘Johnny Mastana’) starring the legendary actor in the lead role. The film was supposed to be Sircar’s second directorial venture after ‘Yahaan’ but it never saw the light of the day. Shoojit bounced back with ‘Vicky Donor’. A small budget film that became hugely successful and followed it up by another success in the form of ‘Madras Cafe.’ Though one is doubtful whether ‘Shoebite’ will ever hit the screens, we finally get to witness a collaboration between the actor and director with ‘Piku’. Apart from Bachchan, the cast comprises of names like Deepika Padukone, Irrfan Khan and Moushumi Chatterjee.
Piku (Deepika Padukone) gets a message in her office by her father Bhaskor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan) in which he asks Piku to come back home as he is not feeling unwell. The message, in which he describes his constipation problem, is rather funnily worded. Piku reaches home and requests her father to stop calling her up for unimportant reasons. Bhaskor, as we see, is a hypochondriac person who is overly dependent on his daughter. He goes on to the extent of telling her that he would not allow her to get married it would curb her independence. Piku is a successful architect who, just like any other normal young woman, wants to have a healthy relationship and get married eventually. But, Bhaskor is adamant that she does not get married and stays with him forever. Piku often travels by the cabs provided by a rental taxi service owned by Rana Chaudhary (Irrfan Khan), who happens to be a good friend of her colleague Syed Afroze (Jishu Sengupta). When Bhaskor decided to make a trip to his hometown Kolkata, Piku asks Rana to book a taxi for them. The taxi driver, whom Rana had assigned with the task of driving the family to Kolkata, does not turn up as he is well aware of Piku’s temperamental nature. Rana, being the good natured guy he is, offers to drive them to the city.
The basic plot of Piku can be put across in a few lines. The plot is simple sans any surprises or twists. But, that was the intent here. The beauty of the film lies in the fact that it has real, relatable characters that get into situation we could easily find ourselves in. Though the story is simple, writer Juhi Chaturvedi puts in a lot of effort in writing characters that have many layers to them and putting them in a world that is strongly etched in reality. The characters are flawed and endearing. The way the film establishes the relationship between the various characters is brilliant. While Piku does feel discommoded by her father’s overbearing nature, she knows that he loves her and she dotes on him too. Amidst the frequent bickering, there are so many warm moments that the father and daughter share. There is a scene in the film in which Bhaskor gets panicky when he sees Piku driving the car instead of Rana. Soon after that, a visibly upset Piku gets out of the car and Bhaskor then cajoles her in to getting back in the car and says that he is okay with her driving the car. The slightly troubled relationship that Rana shares with his family is nicely portrayed as well.
The film touches upon several issues subtly, without ever getting preachy. It talks about women empowerment, heritage conservation and bowel movements in a very organic manner. All these issues are woven in to the story effortlessly. While Bhaskor does not want Piku to get married, he takes pride in the fact that his daughter is a successful, independent woman. He does not have any issues with the fact that his daughters have had many physical relationships. The scene in which Rana talks to Piku about conserving one’s culture and heritage is very impactful. The way the film ends is unconventional but comes across as natural.
The swift pace of the film, coupled with the runtime (2 hours and 2 minutes) makes it a breezy and engaging affair. But, there are a few blemishes as well. A lot of importance is given to bowel movements and hypochondria which make the narrative, at times, repetitive. Certain scenes, revolving around Bhaskor’s hypochondriac nature seem stretched. A few sequences, in the second half, could have been shot (and described) more elaborately for a better impact.
Shoojit Sircar deftly executes the script written by Juhi Chaturvedi. The story, as stated earlier, is simple without any surprises. But, the screenplay is filled with several moments that fill your heart with warmth. The dialogues (Juhi Chaturvedi) are natural, with a conversational quality to them. The songs and the background score (Anupam Roy) complement the mood of the film perfectly. The film has been shot across various locations in India and Kamaljeet Negi’s camera work does complete justice in capturing the scenic locations. The costumes (Veera Kapur) suit the characters very well.
Amitabh Bachchan plays a grumpy, authoritarian man with an underlying sensitivity to him. The actor brings the character alive with a nuanced performance and is helped by some costumes, accessories and an artificial paunch that fit the character. Deepika Padukone shows a marked improvement over her earlier performances and seems much more in control of her expressions. Irrfan Khan plays the character of a regular guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. He delivers an effortlessly charming performance. Moushumi Chatterjee does not get as much screen time as the three principal actors but her character is very well sketched out. Jishu Sengupta is endearing in a brief role. Raghuvir Yadav is wasted in a character that could have played by any actor. Balendra Singh is very good as Budhan. Swaroopa Ghosh’s character has certain similarities to the one she played in ‘Vicky Donor’ but she gets more scope in this film. Akshay Oberoi appears in a cameo.
Piku is a character driven film filled with several warm moments that will tug at your heartstrings. The story is simple but the screenplay provides the viewers with numerous episodes that one can easily relate to. The film is devoid of over the top melodrama that one is so used to seeing on screen what with the events unfolding as naturally as they should. The emotional journey of the characters is as fascinating as them. If you have been looking for a film which would have real characters exhibiting raw emotions, watch ‘Piku’.
Anish Mohanty tweets @anishmohanty