Just minutes into Shoojit Sarkar’s Piku, Amitabh Bachchan screams “Hobe Naaaa…” We hear the quintessentially Bengali phrase, of course, but it is also the sound of director Shoojit Sarkar revealing his hand early. His Piku is very Bengali at heart.
There are plenty of nostalgic conversations about Kolkata, references to Bengali surnames, and longing for a home long left-behind.
But it is not all that Bengali at heart. There are no references to fish. Not one.
Delhi-based architect Piku Banerjee (Deepika Padukone) lives with her baba (father) Bhaskor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan) – A grumpy septuagenarian who is suffering from an annoying bowel disorder. Piku’s life revolves around her baba and his bowel which constantly refuses to be tamed.
The setup is perfect for potty humour(we get plenty), including animated discussions of er… shit at the dining table. But it is done very tasteful, matter-of-fact manner; the tone is quirky, not repulsive. In one sequence, bowel movements are compared to death – how both are about exits.
The movie, even if its title suggests otherwise, is more about baba and his constipation than Piku. Piku, the film, is never overtly dramatic. The leads appear on screen with no background accompaniment. A death is portrayed with minimal fuss. There aren’t any mushy duets or scenes that hint at a possible romance between characters.
Very unusual for a mainstream Bollywood movie starring Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone.
Baba is a hypochondriac – someone who gets the jitters at the slightest variation in his body temperature. He’s paranoid. He’s brutally honest and unapologetically rude. He has absolutely no qualms about Piku getting into (casual) relationships with men, but disagrees with people who say it’s time for Piku to settle into a married life. Marriage is for irresponsible, dependent people, he observes. He is unabashedly self-centred, much to the chagrin of Piku and others.
However, there is a certain warmth in all the relationships you see in this film – Baba hurts people with his bluntly honest observations and statements, but no one hates his guts. He’s tolerated with compassion. Piku, like Preity Zinta’s Nainaa in Kal Ho Na Ho, is perennially on the edge, thanks to a hectic job and her tantrum throwing Baba. Unlike her professional life, her personal life is a mess.
It’s into this odd world that Rana Chowdhury (Irrfan Khan) enters. His character starts off looking rather nondescript, but gradually attains a peculiar charm. Khan often outperforms Bachchan and Padukone. Watch how natural he is in the scene where he recollects his father’s death.
And the romance that blooms between Piku and Rana is portrayed subtly; with a few zingers and several significant glances.
Padukone’s mannerisms might remind one of her role in Finding Fanny. But unlike in Fanny, she fits in easily as the adept, smart Piku, who diligently takes care of her father. Bachchan too delivers a fine performance. Importantly, the duo share a great chemistry. For instance, there is a heartening scene where a drunk, happy baba dances away to merry in his room, as Piku looks on.
Although the film uses words like ‘home’, ‘roots’ and ‘past’ a lot, it does not indulge in too much romanticization. Unlike , say a Wake Up Sid, which was built around romanticising a certain city, Piku does not spend much time in Kolkata. Even when it does, like when Piku and Rana set out to explore the city, the focus is on their relationship and not on the city.
During their trip to Kolkata, when Piku occupies the driving seat, baba objects. “You have never driven on a highway before, I don’t want an unnatural death”, he tells her. Later, you see him cycling delightfully across Kolkata, without any fear of accidents or unnatural death or falling ill.
He’s home, and he will be fine.
The Piku review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.