And so finally, the much talked about, much-marketed, oddly-named film ‘Piku’ is out.
So what’s it about? Piku Banerjee (Deepika Padukone) lives with her aged father, Bhaskor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan) in Delhi. He is a cantankerous old man and she is a frustrated, dangerously short-fused young woman. Piku is supposed to be an architect although we only know that because she mentions it; the precious little else we know is that while to-ing and fro-ing from office, she uses a taxi service run by Rana Choudhary (Irrfan Khan) is rude to his drivers and inevitably eggs them into bashing up the cars. Piku has a business as well as sex-for-convenience partner (they’re known as “fuck-buddies,” Shoojit!) in Syed Afroze (Jishu Sengupta).
Mr B suddenly takes it into his head to make a road trip from Delhi to Calcutta, as he dislikes flying and vetoes the train. Piku books a car with Rana however, all the drivers are so fed up with her that no one shows up at the appointed, ungodly hour of 4am, thus leading Rana to drive the family, including devoted man-servant Budhan (Balendra Singh) to Calcutta.
Oh yeah. By the way, speaking of which. If you thought a road trip from Delhi to Calcutta is a bit much, the director helpfully provides a route map, that is not only read out by Piku for the benefit of the viewers, but a visual shot of the route all marked in red is panned on too!
Piku and papa are never happier than when discussing the state of his bowels, or, more accurately, his constipation, be it at meal times, office time, guests-over-for-dinner time, road trip time, whatever. It’s pops that has the bowel syndrome but it’s Piku that is irritable!
Piku and papa are never happier than when discussing the state of his bowels, or, more accurately, his constipation.
Sure, we got that. Get on with it. And?
Erm. That’s it, really. There is no story. That’s the movie. About Mr Banerjee’s bowels.
In spite of this flimsy storyline, what saves the movie is some absolutely delightful acting and, it must be said, the dialogues. For probably the first time since Saalim-Javed, a film rests on the dialogue writer’s shoulders – Juhi Chaturvedi, take a bow.
There are laughs a-plenty as we listen to Piku and papa bicker. The ladies in the audience particularly, loved it when papa went: “Only those with low IQ get married” and spoke out vehemently for women’s rights in the marital home. Towards the end the director seems to have suddenly realised the story is going nowhere on a fast track and so there is a hastily bunged in angle about how wonderful it is that Piku is so responsible for her father, nowadays how many children bother about their parents, blah, blah and another one about not selling ancestral property which are essentially our roots, yadda, yadda, yadda.
I have no idea why Piku is saddled with this name. Sure, I get it’s her nickname but somewhere, sometime, surely we could be told what her name really is? I also have no idea why she is this constant on-the-edge, glowering, shrieking person; enough with those accusatory looks already. God, it exhausts me just looking at her.
Post the interval, the film is like a docu-drama on Calcutta. Indeed, the movie appears more of a paean to amar Bangla than anything else. Although much was made in the media of Deepika Padukone having learnt Bengali for this role, she speaks barely four words of the language through the film! It is Amitabh Bachchan who walks away with the accolades – not just for the language but for the proper accent, nuances and inflections. As a hypochondriac, crotchety old man, he brings his role to life. Those thick-lensed spectacles were a touch of genius. Somebody does need to answer though why he was wearing that godawful hairpiece and that badly constructed tummy.
Irrfan’s inimitable style brings a much-needed dose of relief. Although Irrfan Khan and Deepika Padukone are a most unlikely combination as a lead pair, thankfully the script steers clear of providing any cliched romance between the two.
Moushumi Chatterjee is out of hibernation with this one, albeit with oodles of weight. A case of perfect casting; as Piku’s maashi, she proves that roles with some nuttiness suit her to the T. Watching her here, one was reminded of the Moushumi of ‘Angoor.’ Raghubir Yadav played Dr Srivastava to Mr Banerjee. Jishu Sengupta, who does a competent job as Syed, has piled on some kilos in the interim, nonetheless, looks quite dapper. Balendra Singh performs creditably. It was a pleasure watching Nutan Mathur in the role of Rana’s mother; sadly, this character has not been fleshed out and so we are not informed why this mother-son jodi are constantly locking horns with each other.
Music is by Anupam Roy; nothing particularly outstanding. Editing is by Chandrashekhar Prajapati; rushed and splotchy in parts, especially in the third act, hurrying along to wrap it up. Cinematography is by Kamaljeet Negi; some truly commendable work here. He deserves an ovation especially for the beautifully captured night shot of the Varanasi ghats.
In my humble opinion, Shoojit Sircar is an extraordinarily fortunate director, who has the backing of savvy production houses who bring all their marketing prowess to promote his films as the next best thing since sliced bread! I have never thought much of his skills in his previous offerings; ‘Yahaan’ of course, sank without a trace, while ‘Vicky Donor’ and ‘Madras Cafe’ smashed the box office more due to spiffy dialogues and talented actors (yes, even John Abraham!) and some superb action in the case of the latter, than the directorial baton.