Director: Shoojit Sircar
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Irrfan Khan
Piku is a delightful film about very little and yet it says so much. This isn’t a movie focused on reaching a destination. This is a movie about the journey, both literal and emotional. We are introduced to the main characters – Piku, an architect who lives with her father in Delhi, fierce in both her attitude towards life and her love for her father. Piku is played by Deepika Padukone. Her father, Bhashkor Banerjee, played by Amitabh Bachchan, is, as Sweety in Kaminey would say, a single-piece. He’s 70. He’s a hypochondriac – he’s almost disappointed when his blood pressure is revealed to be normal. He describes himself as ‘a critical person’, ‘brutal and honest’. The motif of his life is his bowel movements. Bhashkor suffers from constipation. He believes that all ailments are connected to the digestive tract. All he longs for is a really good shit. His big fear is that one day he’ll die of constipation.
The conversation in this house is all about shit – colour, texture, frequency, consistency. Potty is described as mango pulp. One morning, Bhashkor’s loyal server Budhan tells him: “Hamara mann kehta hai ek din aapko bada bhadiya pekhana hoga.”
Bhashkor decides that he must go to Kolkata to visit his ancestral home. Planes and trains won’t do, and no driver is willing to take this cantankerous father and daughter. So Rana, played by Irrfan Khan, the owner of a cars-for-hire company, volunteers. With the singhasan or portable potty tied to the carrier, they set off.
Piku is first a triumph of writing. There is no plot to speak of, but Juhi Chaturvedi – who has written the story, screenplay and dialogue – creates such strong characters that we don’t lose interest. In the second half, the slim story is stretched, but Juhi never lets it snap. Her screenplay dips in pace, but her dialogue always sparkles. The lines come fast and furious – at one point, Rana expounds: “Death aur shit, yeh do cheezen kahin bhi kissi ko bhi aa sakti hain.” But the lines are never delivered like lines. These are conversations from life. These are people we could know.
Director Shoojit Sircar has great affection for his characters. He tells their story without flash or melodrama. He is an unobtrusive observer. Like us, he is simply eavesdropping on their dinner-table conversations, their arguments, their fears, their simmering resentments and their dreams. The actors work in the same low-key note. Deepika is absolutely lovely as the prickly Piku. You can see her frustration and exhaustion but also her determination and unshakeable love. Deepika goes up against two brilliant actors and doesn’t hit a false note. Without the props of glamour or song and dance, she quietly commands the frame. Amitabh Bachchan is wonderful as the pot-bellied Bhashkor – impossible to live with and equally impossible to dislike. Irrfan, effortlessly compelling, completes the triangle.
The love story between Piku and Rana plays out with admirable ease. I couldn’t have imagined the pairing, and yet they just seem right together. The score by Anupam Roy adds emotional heft to the film.
Piku speaks its truth with simplicity and heart. It made me laugh and cry. And I can get behind any Hindi film in which a father says of his single daughter: “She’s financially independent, sexually independent.” Bravo.