Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Irrfan Khan, Deepika Padukone, Mousumi Chatterjee
Director: Shoojit Sircar
Rating: 3.5 stars
It packs no drama, comedy, action or song and dance sequences like a conventional Bollywood entertainer, but Piku is one of the most endearing films in the recent past that grips you with its simplicity. It barely even boasts of sharp dialogues or a powerful plot. Which is probably why, while watching it, you feel less like an audience member and more like a person peeping (not in a voyeuristic way) into a slightly dysfunctional neighbourhood family’s house. Consisting of a senile, hypochondriac father Bhashkor Banerjee, his wiser-than-her-years daughter Piku (Deepika Padukone), a frequently visiting vivacious aunt (Mousumi Chatterjee) and a devoted domestic help, the Banerjee house is collectively and constantly grappling with one thing-Bhashkor’s bowel movements or the lack of it.
It dominates everything from the course of their day to their discussions at the dining table. And crappy as the conversations may be, what with discussing its consistency and texture, they do not stink. The only non-Bengali in the film, and constantly reminded of it, Rana Chaudhary (Irrfan Khan) is the owner of a car rental company who finds himself driving the father-daughter duo to Kolkata because Piku has managed to intimidate each one of his drivers with her temper. The film beautifully unfolds the equation that the three share, and how it evolves over the course of a road trip and time spent in a gorgeous ancestral home in Kolkata over banter and more potty-mouthed talk with relatives there.
Drawing from his own experiences and observations perhaps, Shoojit plays on the stereotypical quirks of Bengali households. Bhashkor is heavily accented, self-admittedly critical of all things, modern and the sweetest bitter man, who insists that his daughter stays unmarried because he believes the institution is illogical, even as he approves of her active sex life with a friend for benefits. His idiosyncrasies are annoying and endearing at the same time and leave you exasperated, much like a child’s tantrums do.
Piku, while well aware of her father’s eccentricities, panders to each of his tantrums, much like a doting mother does with her son, because the roles she believes have changed. Caught in the midst of this is Rana, the only man who sees things as they are and wants to lay it bare for the family to see it. He is partially successful in breaking through Bhashkor’s critical gaze and winning over Piku’s skepticism in matters on love and life.
Mousumi Chatterjee plays the only non-grumpy member in the house. Even though the family squabbles over all things big and small-like what cooks in the kitchen or whether or not to sell
the ancestral property, there seems to be not a hint of negative vibe in the Banerjee house. The exchanges are honest and real, much like each of the performances in the film. Amitabh Bachchan pulls off the role of a Bong patriarch so effortlessly, that its difficult to imagine the man doesn’t have roots in West Bengal off screen.
Irrfan Khan too, does a splendid job of being the outsider bewildered by the peculiarity of the situation he finds himself in. It doesn’t help to be compared to seasoned actors like Khan or Big B, but Deepika holds her own too. But the real hero of the film is Juhi Chaturvedi’s writing and Sircar’s direction that make an ordinary slice of life into an extraordinary story-telling piece of art.
Simple and soulful, it leaves a sweet aftertaste that lingers for a long time after the lights go off.
Watch the trailer here