Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Irrfan Khan, Moushumi Chatterjee, Jishu Sengupta, Raghuvir Yadav
Directed by Shoojit Sircar
So what’s the story? Actually, nothing. Piku is about an eccentric, hypochondriac, potty-obsessed Bengali called Bhashkor (Amitabh) and his quiet but cussed daughter Piku (Deepika) who go on a road trip from Delhi to Calcutta with an utterly bewildered yet straight-faced driver (nay, cab owner) Rana (Irrfan) for company. Piku goes into an atypical zone for a Hindi mainstream film. It breaks the plot-driven, high on drama rule and yet manages to forge a big connect with the audience. So what gives? The scatological humour? More than that. The slice-of-life film has characters, relationships and interactions that feel real and evoke empathy in viewers—be they aging parents or their caregivers.
A lot of Piku belongs to writer Juhi Chaturvedi, in her naturally progressive ideas and her ability to see the universal in the particular. Be it the Ramakrishna Paramhans and Sarada Devi photos by the door that Piku bows to each time she leaves home or the laddoos from Sandila in Hardoi, where Rana comes from, Chaturvedi has an eye for detail, a way with words, with real-life dialogues: “Ice cream khaoge?” “Khaane ke liye hi to laya tha.” Now where have I heard such a testy conversation? And haven’t we always had this battle of wits between our paternal and maternal sides (Dutta-Banerjee here)? Juhi crafts an engaging film out of our humdrum lives.
It’s about the chaos of relationships, yet about unruffled continuities. It’s about how parents and kids can embarrass and exasperate yet stick around and feel responsible for each other. It’s about the argumentative families that pick on any little thing to quarrel about. The initial scene of Irrfan squabbling with his mother (NSD’s Nutan Surya) is a standout. The frenzied frames, the hyper people, the constant motion in the sequences are nicely set off with soothing, simple and lilting music from Anupam Roy.
Piku is about the journey of life. It’s about how life carries on without clean resolutions. It’s about accepting loss with fortitude. It’s about a way of life that is passing us by—be it an elderly member or the ancestral home. It’s about our desperate attempt to hold on to our roots and nostalgia. The serious lurking in the flippant and the sombre is dealt with a light touch in the film, so that it doesn’t lapse into the gloomy.
Deepika says a lot without quite saying much and looks luminous, as always. Bachchan seems to be enjoying doing the over-the-top madcap father act, but why that bad wig? Irrfan is perfect with his timing and steals the heart as the Professor Baarishkar (remember Nana Patekar in Thodasa Roomani Ho Jayen?) for Piku, the outsider you feel at one with.