If you were not inclined to watch Piku after seeing the trailers filled with potty humor, you were not the only one. Yet that would be a mistake you would be making akin to judging a book by its covers. For nothing short of two hours of delight awaits you in Piku. So I discovered as I went, lured by the preview praise and the company of friends, and ended my Mother’s Day on a sweetPiku note.
The director-writer duo of Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi, and the talented trio—the Big Mr. Bachchan, Deepika and Irrfan pack a funny punch in this slice of life film on Bengalis, eccentric old-age replete with homeopathy bottles, toilet trouble, and the not-so-funny issue of geriatric care. I saw glimpses of my attention-seeking, self-proclaimed homeopathy expert father in the elderly character and I am sure all of us will recognize some older relatives in our lives.
Piku is the unmarried daughter of the old widowed Bengali gentleman Bhaskor Banerjee, whose biggest problem in life is “motion” —the term used in India by doctors and at home referring to the daily bowel movement ritual. He is a hypochondriac and preoccupation with his health governs his and Piku’s life. It is clear that Piku does not have a life. Barely managing to run her architecture firm with her partner Syed, she is perpetually responding to her father’s every whim and eccentricity. She agrees to his wish of going to Kolkata by road from Delhi and so they set off, complete with the master’s obedient man-servant Budhan, and the all-important chair-commode in full-view.
Juhi Chaturvedi is somewhat of an expert in etching out endearing characters and the often hilarious realism of their interactions. So the paternal and maternal aunts quibble. Moushumi Chatterjee as the loud mouth, much-married mashi and the paternal aunt with a complex about her wedding, are adorable characters.
Irrfan is the über cool taxi driver—an effortless actor as always, he also looks absolutely dashing and years younger, and is just a pleasure to watch. Deepika is good but the surprise package is AB’s performance. I am perhaps one of the few who doesn’t buy into demigods. I love the intense angry young man of Zanjeer or the brooding lover of Kabhi Kabhi but lately have been put off by the histrionics. But Amitabh as Bhaskar Bannerjee is a delight to watch. He doesn’t overdo it, even with the fake Bengali accent, and brings the character to life with such warmth and heart, making it easier to love the annoying and eccentric old man.
Both Piku the character, and Piku the film have flaws. Piku has a huge chip-on-the-shoulder and the world-is-my-slave attitude and, inexplicably, gets away with it. Whether it is her partner Syed, or the hapless taxi drivers, they all acquiesce to her, no matter how unreasonable she is. Also suspect was the depiction of the taxi drivers in Delhi as polite and meek lambs who endure the temper of the fiery Bong beauty without so much as a whimper. It must be mentioned that the suave RayBan-sporting, English-speaking Rana is nothing like the old sardarjis who happen to be the owners of most private Delhi taxi stands. His patience as he not only calmly observes and handles the idiosyncrasies of the family during the trip, but also goes out of his way to help them, is too good to be true. The biggest flaw if any is the climax—abrupt and simplistic even if apt. Still, nothing prevents you from relating to and laughing at the craziness going on the screen.
Piku is a worthy sequel to Vicky Donor —the first laugh-riot from this director-writer pair, even if less potent. That they could make a Bollywood film with a 70 year old and his constipation as the main theme, and make it so engaging, is a testament to our times, the adroitness of the director, and the performances. But go watch Piku just to laugh at the Indian moments you will so easily recognize. If you walk away with an added awareness of and being sensitive to and patient with our elders, that would be a bonus.
Thinker, dreamer, a left-brainer trying to evolve as a right-brainer, Jyoti is a freelance writer based in San Jose, California. She writes on food, films, politics and anything Indian!