There is a moment in Piku where the owner of the taxi company that our protagonist uses has to coax his drivers into reporting to her house for duty. In an attempt to assuage their misgivings about her poor people skills, Rana announces to his drivers, “Dil ki buri nahi hai woh” (she is not bad at heart). Later, when Piku and Rana find themselves alone on a ghat in Banaras, she tells him that she knows that she is ‘as strange, weird, annoying, irritating’ as her difficult father. The truth is that Piku is both these people, or rather, the real Piku Banerjee is a spectrum that ranges from difficult, irritating woman to kind-hearted beneath the tough exterior.
Piku boasts of wonderful performances by everyone in it including the top guns, Amitabh Bachchan as Bhaskor and Irrfan as Rana, but for me, the star of the film was always Deepika Padukone’s sensitive portrayal of the titular character. She gets everything right – from the cadence of her voice to the tension in the shoulders of a perennially troubled person. Piku’s life and movements are so controlled by her demanding father that she has decided that she will not let anyone else think of her as weak and vulnerable. She storms in and out of rooms instead of entering and exiting gracefully. She is always confrontational, as we see her warn Rana from time to time that he cannot impress her and her father with his tidbits about the human digestive system. She simply cannot let anyone in, lest they see the tired, lonely woman who has had to age prematurely.
Piku is the kind of person who puts people off. Most people who encounter such a person are not likely to want to get to know them better. But that is what makes her realistic. She is no Ebenezer Scrooge from a Christmas fairy tale who has a life-changing epiphany and suddenly becomes the kindest, most loving person in the world. But she was never as bad or hard-hearted as Scrooge to begin with. By the end of the film, she has loosened up, but only slightly. She is still the hard taskmaster who demands that things be done exactly the way she wants them.
Almost seven years since we were introduced to her, Piku remains a breathtakingly original protagonist. It is extremely important that she is never made to go on a course-correction path to become less ‘khadoos’ like Naina in Kal Ho Na Ho. Neither is she a too-sweet doormat who has to be encouraged to stand up for herself, like Meera of Cocktail, nor is she as fiercely independent as the flipside to Meera’s meekness in Veronica, Veronica. Piku is at a very realistic crossroads of empowerment and enslavement, as she is a woman who is secure in her career but cannot take even one step in her personal life without her father’s involvement.
Piku is not a character your heart goes out as much as one that you want to envelop in a warm hug. She wouldn’t let you get that close to her anyway. But she is a real person that you may have met at some point in your life and remember as the difficult person who got things done. She is a spectrum on which many of us can locate shades of ourselves—both the parts that are weird and strange, and the parts that are not ‘dil ki buri’.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.