After the runaway hit Vicky Donor in 2012 and the dark, gritty Madras Cafe in 2013, the very talented Shoojit Sarkar is back in 2015 with a very refreshing offering, Piku. The promos promised us some laughs with Amitabh Bachchan as a dyspeptic father, Deepika Padukone as the long suffering daughter and Irrfan Khan looking like the love interest. But the film is a lot more layered and fun than what we assumed would be just a father daughter story sprinkled with toilet humour.

Bhashkor Banerjee is a 70 year old resident of CR Park, the affluent neighborhood in South Delhi which is home to one of the largest Bengali communities outside of Bengal. Mr. Banerjee suffers from acute and chronic constipation, a fact that he discussed freely with everyone within earshot. His daughter Piku is an architect and partner in Minerva Designs. Her partner Syed is as much in awe of her talent as he is scared of her
brusqueness and temper. Budhan is the cook and general Man Friday in the Banerjee household who’s duties go much beyond the kitchen. Rana Chaudhary is the owner of a car hire business and the boss of the local ‘taxi’ stand from where Minerva Designs hires their vehicles. Regular visitors to Piku’s home consist of Dr. Srivastava, the amiable medic who is her father’s buddy as well as physician, Chhobi Mashi, her departed mother’s younger sister, Mashi’s husband and daughter. Harried by a real estate broker who wants him to sell the ancestral home, Mr. Banerjee sets off on a trip to Calcutta. Watch the film to join the cast on this wonderfully poignant, funny, bittersweet journey.

This film is different from other family dramas we have seen over the years in many ways. The most obvious being the absence of any preachy morality. Piku (Deepika Padukone) is portrayed as an independant woman in every sense of the word. We are also spared all the usual formula that abounds in Hindi movies. The father, at no point sits his daughter down for a tearful, Alok Nath type ‘jab teri doli uthegi’ speech. In fact, the ageing father (Amitabh Bachchan) is an opinionated, needy child who’s primary demand is that his daughter does not get married and leave him alone. The ‘love angle’ is actually not at all what we think but an almost unthinkable but delicate, languid understanding that develops between Piku and Rana (Irrfan Khan) over time. The stellar screenplay by Juhi Chaturvedi is an absolute winner as we sit hooked throughout the narrative. In his Bollywood debut, as a music director, singer and lyricist, Anupam Roy gives us some soulful tracks which blend seamlessly with the film. While Amitabh Bachchan pulls off a Bengali accent rather well, save a few instances where he tries too much it is Deepika and Irrfan’s accent that will astound you. Deepika sounds as authentic as any Bengali girl and Irrfan the UP-ite living in Delhi, who has to speak just a smattering of Bangla in the entire film, sails through with no effort at all!

The Bengali in me was all gooey eyed looking at the Calcutta roads, lanes and bylanes. The lovely ancestral home of the Banerjees was reminiscent of many old houses I have visited, some of which have ufortunately given way to modern buildings. The street food has us drooling and of course, the typical Bengali talk of stomach ailments was a laugh a minute. A Maharashtrian friend confessed that he found the detailed discussion on constipation a bit much to handle and I could not for the life of me figure why! Maybe it is our upbringing where ‘amasha’, ‘ombol’ etc were everyday topics :-p

Everything in the film is praiseworthy, but if I had to pick just one aspect that stands out, I would say it is 50 shades of Deepika! What is it about this girl that makes her blend into every role so much that we cannot quite make out where she ends the the character begins? She outdoes herself in this film too, as in every other. Each frame she occupies is so perfect that you cannot imagine anyone else ever fitting into her space.

A mainstream Bollywood film about Bengalis, a family drama with no melodrama, an entertainer without cheesy lines and a hit minus Punjabi romance……if you had doubts about our films coming of age, Piku is proof enough. But we will have a Dil Dhadakne Do in a few weeks, to take us back to the formula, so run and watch Piku before the D3 bomb hits you!
Copyright © Taraa Vermaa Senguptaa May 2015
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