‘PIKU’ is a heart-warming portrayal of an understated and unconditional love within a seemingly dysfunctional relationship between an eccentric hypochondriac father and his economically independent 30-something exasperated daughter, over constant discussions around the digestive tract and the works! This is a film that will immediately resonate with anyone who has ever had to care for an ailing or ageing parent and independent women who juggle their professional and personal lives with domestic responsibilities are likely to identify more with it.
As the film opens to the playing of a melodious sarod in the credits, the camera focusses on a large portrait of Satyajit Ray – one can immediately sense that the mood is all set for the drama about to take place in this aytpical Bengali household. Going against the norms of acceptability within a polite society, the constant hollering between Baba and Piku, reveal a stark, bare, no-nonsense reality as you realise that the conversation about ablutions starts with a bang (No euphemisms, by the way!) and continues throughout the next two hours, including every excruciating detail—rather emphatically and too loudly, so you get to the point anyway!
The three main characters in ‘PIKU’ are extremely well etched, and present a very realistic picture. I did feel though, that Baba’s character (played by Amitabh Bachchan) is a little too outrageous. Amitabh’s dialogue delivery and acting skills shine through but his Bengali accent leaves much to be desired, falling short of authenticity. A little less loud as a character could have made Baba little more plausible, for a man of his age and his constant hollering just gets to you, so much so, that for a minute you begin to wonder how his daughter is able to tolerate him. More than anything, I feel the references to his daughter’s virginity before every possible suitor is something that could have been best avoided as it was totally extraneous to the flow of the story. Deepika, proves her mettle as a very dedicated actor once again and her bold choice of a non-glamorous role is highly commendable. Goes to her credit that she actually gets the right nuances to her Bengali accent even if she only has an occasional word or two and a phrase here and there. Her presence, however, is completely dwarfed by that of Amitabh, who prevails all through the film, from beginning until the very end. But it is Rana (Irrfan’s character) who emerges as the perfect foil to Piku, and although an outsider to Piku’s world, I loved the way he enters and makes space for himself, distinctly standing out. His facial expressions and body language ensure that he gets your undivided attention every time he appears on screen.
‘PIKU’, however, disappoints in parts. For instance, when Rana’s family appears as a passing reference, leaving their domestic issues unresolved, one is almost left wondering as to what happens next. There appears to be no closure to his struggles in life. The story, whilst dealing with a most sensitive issue of care-giving for the elderly, does not delve deep into any kind of bonding. This lack of deeper emotion and the focus on endless toilet humour takes away something crucial from the spirit of the film and becomes the basis on which audiences appear divided on their choice to view it or not.
On a positive note, ‘PIKU’ does not obsess about romantic relationships, sparing us a taste of the clichéd Bollywood romantic moments. Instead, it is in the subtle and understated romance between Piku and Rana that the film becomes real and endearing. The film shows life as it is, minus any over-the-top idealistic relationships or preachy monologues and gyan on how kids should be responsible towards their parents.
It is this that makes ‘PIKU’ shine through as a film, almost like a whiff of fresh air, minus the masala or romantic escapades, that marks our regular Bollywood fare. In fact, the beauty of the film comes not from the story itself, but the way it is told – a simple story told straight, without any shocks or surprises. It is definitely the endearing narrative that allows Shoojit Sircar to make of constipation, both a theme and a virtue, within the confines of a modest, middle class home.
One thing is certain. Given that the film has been generally lapped up by the general public even on a theme as banal as constipation, ‘PIKU’ certain shows the way for the kind of cinema that Bollywood needs to produce more often in future.