These days in Bollywood, perfect-10 films are rarer than the blue moon. Thankfully, Shoojit Sircar pulls the rabbit out of the hat to give us a supremely directed, supremely written and brilliantly cast tale of a cantankerous old man, his daughter and a road trip.
The last time I gave a Bollywood film 10/10 was Gangs of Wasseypur (actually I gave it 11/10). Before that, it was Udaan. Haider almost got there, but not quite.
As you can see, such gems don’t come along very often. Especially when it’s Bollywood. That is why it is refreshing to see a film like Piku do so well, critically AND commercially.
What is Piku about, really?
At one level, it is about the gastric troubles of a septuagenarian. At another level, it is the relationship between a pig-headed oldie and his equally pig-headed daughter. It could also be about families and why there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ family. It is also a road trip. It is also about closure, redemption and coming-of-age. It also happens to be Deepika Padukone’s pet name in the movie (we never know what her real name is).
Piku is all the above rolled into one.
‘Bhaskor’ Banerjee (he likes to spell it like that) is a hypochondriac. He’s also a 70-year old man who cannot control his urge to discuss his bowels, which according to him is linked to life itself. His best friend is his doctor (played by the amazing Raghubir Yadav) and he has a penchant for stealing (or as he says, hiding) salt. You wouldn’t want to go anywhere near Bhaskorda – still, he’s a man who champions his daughter’s sexual independence, which goes against the grain of the old-school patriarchy. Amitabh Bachchan owns this role and it only confirms why he still rules Bollywood even now.
On to the titular protagonist then. Deepika Padukone, I take back all my initial reservations and judgements I had about you as an actress. You’ve done mostly average or below average fare like Om Shanti Om, Chennai Express, Happy New Year etc. But with Finding Fanny last year and Piku this year, in my books you are one of the most improved actresses in Bollywood, possibly even the best now. So much so that you believe that she IS Bhaskor’s daughter – so different and yet so much like him. She brings out frustration and helplessness with the same ease as she brings out independence and strong will. And she definitely has a thing for public transport drivers…
This brings me to the man who can do no wrong. Irrfan Khan plays Rana, a calm and collected taxi stand owner. Even he has family problems – he hates his mother and he’s always arguing with his sister. He provides comic relief and is the perfect foil to the seriousness of Bhaskor and Piku. The scenes between him and Bhaskor are pure cinematic gold.
In such family dramas, there always has to be a nagging aunt. Oh, it felt so good to see Moushmi Chatterjee back on the big screen. She plays Bhaskor’s smug and natty sister-in-law. She’s extremely supportive of Piku and always arguing with Bhaskorda.
Yes, so that’s what this lovely film is made up of – mesmerising moments and perfect performances. You’d be hard-pressed to find any other Bollywood movie this year that makes you feel as good or as warm. From personal experience, I can say this – my mother, who doesn’t praise Bollywood films all that much said that she would like to sit back for the second show. That for me is the biggest compliment Shoojit Sircar can ever get. More power to you sire!
And as for you, put your weekend plans in motion and go watch this rollercoaster of emotion!