Piku – twisted from the intestines!

Wondered before I watched the movie, if it had anything to do with “Pikur Diary” which was written by Ray and then later turned into short film titled Pikoo. A little bit of googling told me otherwise and that today’s Piku is completely different. The movie I am reviewing is the Piku being shown in theatres across the country and is directed by Shoojit Sircar. Shoojit has directed Vicky Donor, Madras Cafe and two-three other movies. I have watched Vicky Donor and had enjoyed it. Seemed like a reasonably safe gamble to watch Piku, also given the pretty decent cast of Amitabh

Bachchan, Irrfan (Khan) and Deepika Padukone. Piku as you might have read elsewhere, is the story of a Bengali father-daughter who live in Chittaranjan Park in Delhi. Piku (Padukone) is an architect, and Bhaskor Bannerjee (Bachchan) is the retired completely hypochondriac 70 year old father. Bhaskor spends most of his time figuring how to get “motion” to be good and most of his world revolves around exactly that. His bowel movements. Strange, huh? Not for most Bengalis who are focussed on two separate parts of the human body. The head, right at the top and all that happens just below the midriff – ingestion and digestion of food, and expunging of waste. If you have lived in West Bengal or known Bengalis closely enough, you might have sensed this. The number of advertisements and consumption of ‘digestive’ medicine is phenomenal. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the highest per capita consumption of Digene, Gelusil, Vitazyme, Aristozyme, Isabgol and Aqua Ptychotis is in that state. You haven’t even heard of the last one on the list, have you? Every household stores all these and also carom seeds (ajwain). Digesting, and keeping the bowels clean is very important, a Bengali believes. Doctors of yore (LMPs*) used to focus on the stomach first, for any type of ailment. But, I digress. [Read this for more on this Bengali fascination]

The father-daughter duo share an interesting relationship. Father is quite accepting on his daughter not being a virgin before her marriage, her dalliances and speaks about it openly to Piku’s embarrassment. Father’s being hypochondriac drives Piku up the wall and then some. Father has an ancestral house in Kolkata which he doesn’t want to sell and the daughter does. Piku’s kaka (father’s younger brother) and his family live in that house. But, to sort that situation out our two main protagonists need to go to Kolkata. They can’t travel by air because Mr Bannerjee fears his blood pressure might fall. Can’t travel by train anyways. So, they need travel by road.

On the day of the travel, the slated taxi driver doesn’t show up and so the owner of the taxi company Rana Choudhary (Irrfan) shows up instead. The story thus is a bit of a road trip, at least half of it; when gradually Rana influences the way Mr Bannerjee thinks and gets him to let his hair down a bit and ease up. That is all that I will talk about as far as the story goes. You can watch the movie like I did.

Bachchan plays the 70 year old ‘bhadralok‘, and does a pretty swell and cute job of it. Because he is that age himself (maybe slightly older), he fits in well. His early years working in Calcutta, and the Bengali influence in his life serve him well too. I am not really a Bachchan fan, but will definitely say that he did a good job in the movie. Though the movie is named Piku, he makes it his movie. Completely.

Irrfan is his usual self. Dissolves himself into the role, and fits in like a comfortable glove with ease. He is a tremendous actor, and goes about his job with fluently. Enough said.

The sore point of the movie, unfortunately, is Padukone. The characterization of Piku is very interesting, but completely wrongly cast. Padukone doesn’t cut it. Her dialogue delivery is off, her shrieks are neither from Kolkata, nor from C R Park. Just saying “baba” once in a while doesn’t work. Ending a sentence (in English) with the word “only” hints of Bangalore. People are raving about her acting, and I can’t see why. Her chemistry with Irrfan isn’t smooth even at the end. Her comic timing is a little off synch. The actress (female gender of an actor, is an actress. Not actor) who would have done a swell job is perhaps Konkona Sen Sharma. Great actress, ethnically correct for the role and has good comic timing as well. Oh, BTW, I think Rajiv Masand is humbug of a reviewer and should restrict himself to movies of the type of, say, Wanted.

The movie is different from the usual and complete drivel that the Hindi movie industry dishes out some hundred times in a year. Talks real life in a funny way. Shows independence of women, as is real. Has some real life slapstick, but also some subtlety. But, this isn’t a movie that you can go watch a bunch of times. Neither is it Dabang, Hum Apke Hain Kaun, Kick or similar crap. But, there are many amusing moments which will tickle your funny bone gently.

Rajiv Masand is humbug of a reviewer should restrict himself to movies of the type of, say, Wanted.

Juhi Chaturvedi has done a good job understanding the psyche of a 70 year old ‘probasi’ Bengali and has shown good script and screenplay writing ability. Lack of tight editing, or lack of story-telling ability have usually been the bane of Indian cinema. Piku has a tight script and editing is sharp. Though the movie doesn’t feel fast paced, the two hours pass quickly. The background score is nice, there is no dancing around trees, and the songs are not in your face. If you expected Padukone or someone else to do an ‘Item Number’, you will be disappointed. I won’t try to interpret what went on in Chaturvedi or Sircar’s heads, but this is an interesting look at life, its myriad hues, some hints at its vicissitudes through the lens of a father-daughter relationship.

Go, see it!

* That would be Licensed Medical Practitioner – Doctors without an MBBS degree, but with appropriate education and practice to be a good GP. These folk used to be all over the country, and in rural areas too. The government legislation which made MBBS compulsory to be a qualified allopathic doctor wiped the LMP variety away, and thus obliterated a fairly robust layer of health care from the country.

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