I don’t know if I’m writing to you or to the movie that’s named after you. Perhaps both.
Everything about you and your precious relationships spoke to me, stirred me and I wish you could hear how deeply you touched me. Never thought I’d feel this way about a script that’s punctuated in toilet talk.
But as soon as the monochrome opening credits (with just a spot of red) begin to roll against the sound of sublime strings (Anupam Roy’s delightful score), it instinctively felt right, like interpreting a map correctly, like knowing a treasure awaits.
In the beginning, all of you appear so harried, so high-strung. The daily clamour of domestic dealings, a chaotic Delhi-based Bengali household and people not quite in sync, it is far from a good morning but it is home, it is familiar.
The commotion isn’t new to you; I could tell — when you didn’t mix your coloured laundry with your whites while dumping a lot in the washing machine.
Amidst all this stood the unyielding source of all the pandemonium and flying tempers, grumbling about his perpetual bowel issues. But, hey, he’s your daddy and parents become like that.
They annoy you even as you bark over an elevator kept on hold while they leisurely finish hitting the loo and gulping down one last glass of water before leaving the house, embarrass you by making that strictly private conversation public in front of colleagues and paying no heed to your surreptitiously poking finger and drive you crazy by their incessant ability to over pack.
Your irritation is understandable. One of the most heart-breaking things in life is to watch your parents age, the unexpected transition from being taken care of to taking care. Especially when you have just one left.
It’s a strange, inexplicable realisation that no child wants to come to terms with — when they can’t hear you properly, when you have to explain them things like you would to a child, when those alert, agile feet become slow, when the truth about ‘forever’ is more uncomfortable than ever. It’s almost as if they betrayed you by getting old.
Amazing how you convey this fear in your exasperation, Piku. Having said that, I must commend on how wonderfully you handle a hypochondriac, homeopathic-pills popping father whose every single dinner table talk, no exception for his deceased wife’s birthday celebration even, is a mishmash of salt and shit.
Also, that shade card jibe over his poop obsession is SO funny.
Lovingly penned by Juhi Chaturvedi and seamlessly directed by Shoojit Sircar, Piku moves at a life-like pace and cares to be a little more than a father-daughter chronicle.
All the characters – the dedicated domestic help, the family doctor, the extended family, the potential suitors, the petrified drivers, Piku, her constipation-ridden father Bhashkor Banerjee and one timely-intervention in the form of Rana ‘Not A Bengali’ Chaudhary running a cab service — are so distinctly fleshed out, they express a unique identity but form a fluent chemistry that’s both tangible and frothy.
And though its essence and ambiance is undoubtedly Bengali, Piku’s sentiments aren’t pigeonholed in cultural excessiveness, they speak in a language outside it and quite vigorously too. Like Irrfan Khan’s Rana puts it, “Sab cheezein Bengali ka copyright nahi hai.”
Introducing Rana into the plot peels off the layers around Piku and Bhashkor’s relationship as well as the individual.
Demonstrating exemplary patience in driving them by road from Delhi to Kolkata, he is not only drawn to their mercuriality but also becomes an unlikely source of breakthrough. It’s the sort of trust he knows he’ll never inspire in his own turbulent family. Because, no matter how much quirk Piku celebrates, there are parents and there are parents.
Irrfan Khan conveys the composure, amusement and, on few occasions, vexation of his character with such awe-inspiring know-how, Piku would be half the film it is in his absence.
Travel throws us out of routine, reveals more about a person, to strangers, to oneself and Piku captures this discovery with refreshing spontaneity. And so when Howrah Bridge makes its first appearance, it’s not just a landmark to underscore destination arrival but a symbol of a connection that’s been forged between the three through the course of the journey.
I loved how Rana’s equation with you gradually develops during the same. How gently your guard drops and you open up into this tender girl finding a substitute to conventional life – marriage, children — in half a dozen glass bangles. Or when you flash a rare smile to admire your drunk, dancing daddy.
Your Piku is not very expressive and holds back her emotions but she’s only defending herself against hurt, because she loves so much. It’s a tough contradiction that Deepika Padukone does beautiful justice to even when slyly fulfilling her endorsement duties in smartly planted product placements.
Still, setting Piku in perfect, erm, motion is Amitabh Bachchan. Casting him in this role is a masterstroke for many reasons. There’s so much visible relish in the manner he portrays the candid-to-the-point-of-offensive Bhashkor.
Tossing bits of Bangla every now and then, making faces that reveal a child all the wrinkles and greys in the world cannot hide, the wonderment he exercises through his long-serving artistry dazzles more than ever.
Having grown up on his heroic fits of wronged or constructive rage to watching him, as the petulant septuagenarian who won’t budge in Piku is part of the emotional transition a child feels for his parent. It’s an incredibly special viewer-movie star bond, one that cannot be summed up without sounding cheesy.
The conclusion tugs the heartstrings even more so because of the vulnerability it triggers but mostly because how attached you become.
I grew so fond of your world in just two hours that I cannot stop missing it. Neither should the audience. I hope they can savour your sweetness, simplicity as well as laugh at your tummy troubles like I have. I hope they understand the thoughtful life’s lessons you impart through your light-hearted banter.
Thank you, Team Piku. It’s been a pleasure knowing you.