Piku: A rollercoaster of motion and emotion

Score: 10/10

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.

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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!

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Marvel’s Daredevil: Just trying to make TV a better place

Score: 9/10

In TV’s recent overindulgence of comic book-inspired shows, Marvel’s Daredevil stands out as a gritty crime drama, law procedural and superhero origin all rolled into one.

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I’ve never really liked comic book TV shows. Especially the ones that came out recently.

I got bored of Gotham 5 episodes in. Arrow, 10 episodes in. I haven’t seen The Flash (yet). And even with Marvel’s ingenious ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe is a unified world’ concept, I really haven’t liked Agents of SHIELD much either.

There was something missing in all of them. Arrow seemed to be a Batman rip-off. Gotham is CSI without Batman (and a pretty boring CSI). Agents of SHIELD is okay, but now it feels like service to the bigger MCU rather than being a good, self-contained show (it may not be a bad thing, but I don’t enjoy it much).

But let’s come to Matt Murdock. AKA The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. AKA Daredevil.

Something about this show drew me in from the moment I saw the first poster and a couple of the trailers. Till then, I only knew Daredevil as Spider-Man’s best friend and crime-fighting ally. I thought Kingpin (Wilson Fisk) was an out-and-out Spider-Man villain. As a hardcore Spider-Man fan, everything for me revolved around Peter Parker.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Matt Murdock is his own man. And he’s just trying to make Hell’s Kitchen a better place.

Inhabitants of Hell’s Kitchen

The Law: Matt Murdock

Blinded as a young child in a freak accident that involved a radioactive chemical being splashed in his eyes, Matt grew up with other ‘special’ heightened senses that compensated for his blindness. Skylar Gaertner plays a convincing young Matt Murdock, who has to deal with his father’s chequered boxing career – because he throws matches for money.

Young Matt Murdock

The older, wiser Matt Murdock is played by Charlie Cox. Whoever is responsible for this casting decision deserves a medal. How does an Englishman play a blind, tough-as-nails New York City lawyer without the English accent? Charlie Cox answers that magnificently. While the glasses make him look a little like Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), the magic he brings to the screen as Matt Murdock and Daredevil is something else (yes, he becomes two different people).

Adult Matt Murdock

Partner-in-Law: Foggy Nelson

Foggy Nelson

Matt’s best friend since college, Foggy harbours ambitions of becoming one of the greatest lawyers in New York’s history along with his partner. He lends the lighter sidekick moments and plays the perfect comic foil to the dark side of Matt Murdock. Again, great casting choice – Elden Henson owns the role perfectly.

The Beautiful Side of Law: Karen Page and Claire Temple

Karen Page

This is one character I found massively irritating. Deborah Ann Woll takes the original Karen Page and adds a layer of unwanted annoyance to her. While she has acted well enough, and she is the glue that holds the boys together (rather than being a source of friction as she is in the comics), there was something irritating about her I couldn’t shake off. Oh well, hopefully it goes away in Season 2, because Deborah looks lovely.

Claire Temple

Claire Temple is played by Rosario Dawson – what do I say about her? Not only is she beautiful, she’s also Daredevil’s first real friend. Note that I say Daredevil, and not Matt Murdock. Her character has been derived from the Night Nurse in Daredevil comics.

The Ugly Side of the Law: Wilson Fisk

Wilson Fisk

I’ve watched quite a few seasons of Law & Order, but my favourite is Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which features Vincent D’Onofrio as Detective Robert Goren. Here though, he’s on the other side of the law – as the scheming, violent criminal mastermind Wilson Fisk. I can’t think of anyone else who would’ve done justice to this role as much as D’Onofrio does, which is why he and Charlie Cox being the two main leads in this series makes it so much better. He tries to erase his dark past by trying to create a better present and future for Hell’s Kitchen – or so he thinks. Possibly one of the most nuanced bad-guy performances I’ve seen on TV in a while.

The Law’s Seeker of Truth: Ben Urich

Ben Urich

A veteran journalist working for the New York Bulletin, Ben Urich is a man who believes in idealistic no-nonsense journalism but is also weighed down by the circumstances surrounding him. He acts as the perfect mentor to Karen Page and often becomes her voice of reason. Good casting again, Vondie Curtis-Hall does a brilliant job (I keep repeating this like a stuck record because it IS true).

The Others

Warden Norton didn’t really die in The Shawshank Redemption. That was a farce. He is back to his corrupt ways – Bob Gunton plays accountant Leland Owlsley, a key figure in Fisk’s plans for Hell’s Kitchen. Toby Leonard Moore plays the chillingly efficient James Wesley, Fisk’s right hand man and sometimes confidante. There are also a couple of very interesting characters that pop up in a few of the episodes – but I won’t say anything for fear of spoiling the show.

Verdict: It must be watched, your honour!

You have to make Hell’s Kitchen a part of your life. You will not be disappointed. After all, Daredevil’s only trying to make TV a better place.

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