Bollywood PIKU is more Bengali than any recent Bengali films

Posted by Kaahon Desk On May 13, 2015

Shoojit Sircar’s Piku is about a hypochondriac 70-year-old man (Amitabh Bachchan) and his 30 year old, no-nonsense, independent minded daughter (Deepika Padukone). Among other things, the father is obsessed with his constipation while the daughter, owing to her age and situation, realizes that both in personal and professional terms her options are beginning to dwindle a bit. Well, these are certainly not the makings of the next Citizen Kane! Then why is Piku worth the viewer’s time or the critic’s faculties? It is precisely because in today’s crowd of overhyped films which fail to deliver even an iota of any stimulation to a rational mind, Piku delivers what it promises.

The film’s key point is definitely the writing. Both the screenplay as well as dialogues is rooted firmly in the scatological humor about the father’s condition; yet it confidently manages to stay from being gross or crass, something symptomatic of Bollywood comedies nowadays. And although it is being compared with the works of Hrishikesh Mukherjee due to its light hearted approach and a very Bengali identity (even Bachchan’s character is called Bhaskar Banerjee a la Mukherjee’s Anand), Piku is more akin to the genre of 90s Hollywood romantic comedies. But Sircar skillfully spins the elements of the genre making it less invested in couple formation and more so in exploring the nuances of the father-daughter relationship.

Among the film’s low points would be its apparent lack of any dramatic crisis-resolution trope or any sub plots. And even if there are hints of them, they are either never mentioned or resolved just like that. The film almost entirely relies on the old man’s bowel disorders to carry the narrative forward. But then again, it’s quite a daunting task to sustain a narrative and engage the audience in the absence of such ‘sub plots’. Another point to be noted here is a key scene where the old Bengali gentleman after much hassles and misadventures turns up in Kolkata and encounters his home town up, close and personal marking a major shift in both plot as well as character ark. But in that scene, the images of city look extremely constricted coming in little slices and thus not quite building up the sense of euphoria the scene called for. And finally the only disappointment in the entire technical crew is probably Anupam Roy’s music which sounded as monotonous with the same chord progressions and movements, as they do in his Tollywood ventures. Thankfully the lyrics were in Hindi and so we were saved from his bizarre metaphors and rhetorical questions!

Having said all that, the greatest achievement of the film is definitely in its acting department. With Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone and Irrfan Khan playing the main set of characters, it’s perhaps the safest bet and yet the biggest casting coup a director managed. Each of them brings their own shade of quirkiness and idiosyncrasy in terms of delivery, body movement and facial expressions and thus making the characters alive, convincing and endearing. Raghubir Yadav and Moushumi Chatterjee add further colours with their own brand of comic timings and Jishu Sengupta in his bit part is also effective.

As a last word, it’s sadly surprising to see a Bollywood film successfully capturing the spirit, essence and consciousness of Bangaliyana (a sense of Bengali identity) in all its nuances; something that films after films in Bengali language by an array of so-called acclaimed directors have failed!

Arup Ratan Samajdar

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