Piku (2015)

A quirky take on the father-daughter relationship

With a much leaner run time than your typical Bollywood entertainer, the new comedy-drama Piku takes a modern look at the desi father-daughter relationship, with Deepika Padukone starring as the titular Piku alongside veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan, who portrays her elderly father Bhashkor Banerjee. Directed by Shoojit Sircar, Vicky Donor (2012), Piku deviates from the classic glitz and glam of traditional Bollywood, while doing away with all the singing and dancing, as Sircar focuses on presenting a pragmatic story about the dynamics of a dysfunctional family weighed down by its stubborn single-minded honcho, Bhashkor.

All work and no play ...
All work and no play …

Deepika Padukone plays Piku, a Bengali architect living in New Delhi with her 70-year-old dad, Bhashkor (Amitabh Bachchan). However, Piku is constantly being overburdened by the responsibilities of her work and duties at home, where she cares for her cranky hypochondriac father Bhashkor, who has his own set of specific problems — bowl movement and constipation. Although Piku and her dad are deeply attached to one another, they frequently butt heads, as they are equally strong-minded and persistent, ultimately making life difficult for each other. The breadwinner of the family, the self-sufficient Piku occasionally ‘sneaks out’ for one-night stands with her business partner, Syed Afroze (Jisshu Sengupta), defying her hot-headed father’s ‘don’t poop where you stew’ policy. When Bhashkor emotionally blackmails Piku to take him on an extended road trip — from Delhi to their native city of Kolkata — Piku enlists the help of a local cab business, run by Rana Chaudhary (Irrfan Khan), a civil engineer turned self-made taxi service company owner, to ferry the family to their destination. But after all of Rana’s workers refuse to take on the job — seeing as none of them are willing to endure Piku or her eccentric father for such an extended period of time — Rana runs out of options and is forced to drive the Banerjee’s to Kolkata himself. While on the road, Rana must endure the domestic family drama and, in time, the trio — Piku, Bhashkor and Rana — learn to deal with one other’s dispositions and idiosyncrasies, uncovering a little more about their travel comrades, outside of Bhashkor’s bathroom habits.

At its core, Piku is an inspiring, heart-warming and unpredictable film about an unusual father and daughter bond. Written by Juhi Chaturvedi, Vicky Donor (2012), the picture embraces several amusing scenarios and sequences: some of Rana’s strange constipation remedies are undeniably funny, as is the scene where an employee barges into one of Piku’s office meetings with a message from her father which reads, ‘semi-liquid motion first, then two days gas and constipation. What should I do?’ Even though Piku is predominantly labelled as a comedy, the feature isn’t without its profound moments as director Sircar tactfully comments on several present-day issues including the current notion of marriage, caring for the elderly and a child’s responsibility to look after their parents. While it’s evident through Chaturvedi’s screenplay that Bhashkor’s irritating yet endearing demeanor, coupled with Piku’s headstrong nature, might always cause a clash, it’s made clear that the seemingly rocky relationship is held together by an understated and unconditional love, masked by its rough surface.

A near Car-tastrophy!
A near Car-tastrophy!

Headed by three of India’s biggest stars, Piku springs to life with its eager, willing cast. Amitabh Bachchan, or Big B, who is one of the country’s most influential actors — having appeared in 180 Indian films in a career spanning for more than four decades — is excellent as Bhashkor Banerjee, a cantankerous old man prioritizing his stomach and toiletry routine above all else; whether he’s playing the overprotective ‘daddy,’ bickering about, or criticizing, the notion of ‘marriage’ or riding a bicycle around Kolkata in a flowing pink kurta and a floppy grey hat, Bachchan has fun with his multi-layered role. Deepika Padukone, Happy New Year (2014), portrays the protagonist Piku rather naturally, bringing authenticity to the hands-on heroine. On an interesting note, although Piku scowls and yells at her father, she eventually indulges in his screwball obsessions, even if, just like him, she’s complaining all the while.

In a very unconventional but fresh move, the critically acclaimed Irrfan Khan, Life of Pi (2012), play’s Deepika’s love interest, Rana, who constantly pulls Piku’s leg about her dad’s quirky ways, but appreciates how she fulfills her current obligations of work whilst taking care her aging father. Similarly, Piku jokes to Rana that whoever she marries would also have to ‘adopt her father.’ Thankfully, Padukone and Khan share a distinctive chemistry, which shines in the song ‘Bezubaan,’ where viewers see Rana gradually fall in love with Deepika’s character, a side of Irrfan that hasn’t really been exposed in any of his films. Finally, after 36 years apart, Piku reunites actors, Amitabh Bachchan and Moushumi Chatterjee — who were romantically paired decades earlier in Benaam (1974) and Manzil (1979) — with Chatterjee playing Big B’s sister-in-law this time around. The duo delightfully engage in some flippant banter when together once again on-screen, supplying several lighthearted laughs throughout the picture.

'I'm not getting old, I'm simply becoming a classic.'
‘I’m not getting old, I’m simply becoming a classic.’

Not as glamorous as the conventional high profile Bollywood affair, Piku is a relatively enduring yarn, which features a solid soundtrack composed entirely by Anupam Roy, Autograph (2010). A combination of good looks and mature performances, Piku is a charming, progressive flick that admirably aims to get viewers to talk to their parents about things they normally wouldn’t discuss. In terms of the film’s unusual ‘constipation’ motif, the Bengali director states, ‘It is a reality for all of us every morning. But Piku is not a film about constipation, it’s just part of the subject.’

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Piku is released through Yash Raj Films