Top o’ the morning to you bookwormies! Recently while being sick and bedridden to insanity, I discovered a fantastic new film! Now, I had heard of this movie before through a variety of mediums. When I learned of the key cast members, as well as a very rough summary of the plot, I knew that I would have to put this on the top of my list one day. Lucky for me that day arrived much sooner than I had originally anticipated as Netflix decided to add the title to their catalogue! I am talking about the Indian film, Piku!
It was directed by Shoojit Sircar who is known for his popular film, Vicky Donor. Sircar doesn’t have that many movies under his belt and most of the movies that he’s directed haven’t necessarily brought in a lot of profit, but I’m very excited to say that Piku changes that very much. Deepika Padukone (Ram-Leela, Bajirao Mastani), Amitabh Bachchan (Sholay, Paa), and Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire) star in this tale about health and family!
The movie revolves around a young Bengali architect named Piku and her 70-year old father, Bhashkor Banerjee who reside in the city of Delhi. Bhashkor is a hypochondriac who just so happens to suffer from chronic constipation. For him, just about every problem he encounters somehow can be traced back to the function of bowel movements. He is a cranky old man who, with his paranoia for disease and illness, squabbles and quibbles with just about everyone that he encounters. This makes life very difficult for Piku, causing her to feel irritated and even frustrated with him on more than one occasion. But at the end of the day she is always there to care for him. The family owns an ancestral home in Kolkata, which is about 1,400 km from Delhi. Piku decides that she wants to sell the place, pack it up, hand it over to someone else. They don’t live there and it doesn’t make sense to hold on to the property, but her father is vehemently against it. In his stubbornness, he decides that he wants to visit the home in Kolkata. Knowing that she cannot send her father alone because of his quirks and her own concern for his well-being, she makes the arrangements for the visit. With the help of a local owner to a cab company, they embark on a road trip that takes about twenty-four hours.
A couple of the themes that are explored in the movie consist of: family and women’s empowerment. Let’s start with family. Despite all of the nagging and bickering, Piku and Bhaskor are all one another has. Piku has set aside many things in her life to care for her father, who more often than not, acts in very childish and immature ways. He is so set on keeping her around that he makes it very difficult for her to find companionship. But regardless of everything he puts her through, and vice versa, they are father and daughter and the mean they world to each other. The movie is an examination on parents in an Indian society, where the expectations are always high and the complaints seemingly never-ending. A parent who has spent their entire lives caring for their child are also entitled to a bit of love and nurturing as they grow older and far less likely to care for themselves. But Piku doesn’t simply stick to this normal line of thinking. Instead it emphasizes the contemporary Indian household as it stands today. You no longer have the housewife at home to care for the elderly. Women are going out there, building careers, holding jobs, and still coming home to take care of what has traditionally been viewed as a “women’s obligation.” The fluid transition that the film makes from family themes to a motif of empowering the Indian woman is flawless.
Piku is a rather plain looking lady, yet she maintains an air of confidence. It’s not arrogance, but there is nothing there that remotely hints to a negative opinion of herself. She knows that she is independent and intelligent. She may not be gorgeous, but she knows that she’s still appealing and in good shape. Piku also acknowledges that she is not a virgin. Her independence is strong in every aspect of her life including her sex-life and this is a huge taboo subject in Indian society. What I absolutely adored about the movie is that her not being a virgin is never in any way demoralizing. The words “slut” or “whore” never even come close to dipping into your mind, which is the normal aura of such a subject. The film shows that her having sex is a means to fill a void, a means to find moments of companionship in an otherwise busy lifestyle. I can’t imagine how lonely she must feel between balancing her father, her career, and her home. Piku having sex is a very natural part of her life that is neither demeaning or degrading to her as a woman, or as daughter, which is brilliant and so desperately needed in Indian cinema today.
Piku uses quite a bit of wry humor. The dialogue is hilarious, tense, and uncomfortable but so is the underlying topic of discussion: death and shit. There is a line in the movie that sums this up quite perfectly and it goes a bit like this: Death aur shit, yeh do cheez jo hai kabhi bhi aye sakthe hai. In other words, “Death and shit are two things that can happen any time.” Because Bhashkor has chronic constipation, the focus of bowel movements is heavy and steady from beginning to end. While the joke is utilized quite often, the movie ends before it leaves you feeling it was overdone. But if you take a moment and think about this gross little line, it is rather excellent in every way. You never truly know when you will have to go to the loo for number two, and you can never know when you will take your last breath. While life is resilient it isn’t infallible, there are no expectations, only surprises. It’s short and you can either make it memorable and worthwhile, or you can waste it away down the toilet.
Even with being a bit on the predictable side, the movie doesn’t become a scapegoat to its foreseeable elements. It is a sardonic, thought-provoking film on life, death, and family that isn’t afraid to put a woman on a pedestal for being independent and comfortable in her own skin. The ending was sublime, satisfying, and bittersweet, bringing all of the explored themes to a sort of full circle. Piku is not your typical Bollywood movie in that it doesn’t have exquisite sing-and-dance numbers with superfluously sweeping scenery and vibrant colors. It takes place in the backdrop of a big, busy city with overcrowded streets and fender-benders. There is no epic background music. What you are engaged with are the characters that are interacting with one another. The dialogue is what makes up the bulk of the film. Because Piku has a slower pace you have to focus on the people and their exchanges, their feelings to understand what is going on.
If you do not mind a paced movie that’s on the thinky side with humor that can be awkward and a bit gross, I definitely recommend Piku. It is one of the best Bollywood flicks that I have seen in a very long time, and quite frankly I can’t wait to watch it again. It really puts the whole notion of loving your parents and the notion of what it means to be a child into perspective. When I reached the finale of the movie, I found myself moved to tears and ended up texting my mum at 3am just to tell her that I loved her and my pops, and they meant everything to me; I told them how much I appreciate their existence in my life. This glorious work of cinema gets a solid five out of five squats from me.