The film explores the relationship between an old father and his daughter on whom he completely depends. A father who introduces his 30-year-old daughter to her suitors as a “financially, emotionally and sexually independent, non-virgin woman” and a daughter who scolds her dad for his obsession with his imaginary poor health and tells him it would have been better if he actually had some disease.
The dad is Amitabh Bachchan’s Bhashkor Banerjee and Deepika Padukone essays the role of Piku, the daughter, in this Shoojit Sircar’s directorial venture.
Bhashkor (Amitabh) and Piku (Deepika) are Bengalis living in Delhi. In Bhashkor’s Delhi household, everybody is uptight for one reason or another; the dietary discomfort of this widowed hypochondriac is rivalled only by the burden borne by his architect daughter Piku (Deepika Padukone). While Bhashkor spends his days obsessing over his bowel movements, Bhashkor’s harried daughter, Piku is a wonderful multi-tasker who manages the whole household, trying to hack life as a professional at an architecture firm and balancing personal life trying to minister to her demanding father, while also trying her best to maintain an active sexual life.
We are never told Deepika Padukone’s actual name in Piku. A Bengali nickname is an all-conquering wonder, a sticky and stubborn two-syllable sound that a person is straddled with when too-young-to-object, and one that follows us to our graves.
Another tradition legendary among elderly Bengalis is of hypochondria. What goes in one end, comes out the other. Any mention of human excretion usually elicits an expression of disgust. Polite society demands euphemisms, especially when it is about adults and their digestive tract functions. But as is universally known and acknowledged, the exception to this rule is reserved for Bengalis, in whose households conversation about ablutions is conducted in excruciating detail—did it happen, the quantum, the quality, the colour, is all up for animated discussion, and everyone at the dining table or the drawing room will nod sagely and jump in with their two bits of advise. The crusty Bhashkor (Amitabh Bachchan) will remind you of your dyspeptic uncle whose life revolves around his `motions’, and his `box’ of homeopathic pills which is lugged wherever he goes.
Director Shoojit Sircar gleefully establishes how father’s bowels impact upon
daughter’s career (pungent status updates disrupt her meetings) and love
life (such potty talk repels potential suitors). Piku’s immediate outlet for her frustration is the cab she takes to work everyday. This results in perpetual taxi wrecks. She retains one
unlikely admirer: Rana (Irrfan Khan). Rana Chaudhary (Irrfan) is the owner of a taxi service company that is reeling under the onslaught of Piku’s arrogance. While several of his drivers have left because of her attitude, many have caused accidents when faced with her wrath.
Rana’s character brings sanity to the eccentric lives of Piku and her dad, but not in a way that they would welcome. He is as much an outsider to this freaky family as the audience – a non-Bengali caught in the middle of a Bengali family so obsessed with their domestic problems that they involve him in their arguments and when he presents a rational viewpoint, they ask him not to interfere in ‘family problems’.
It is a film with tremendous heart. The beauty of Piku lies not in the story but the way it is told. Script-writer Juhi Chaturvedi’s dialogues are some of the best, most fearless writing one rarely sees in Hindi cinema. Director Sircar chooses not to get cinematic in his use of visuals. The camera ignores all opportunities of classic outdoor shots during the road trip and instead stays close to the characters, in keeping with the intimate, personal drama at the heart of the story.
Amitabh Bachchan’s delivery of his constipated Bengali bhadralok jumps between a couple of notes, his accent occasionally slipping. And because most of Deepika Padukone’s scenes are with him, she comes off same-same too. To Sircar’s credit, we don’t glimpse Bachchan’s iconic dialogue delivery or playing to the gallery ways even for a second. All we see is a kurta pyjama-clad, almost disgusting Bhaskor.
The story deals with a sensitive issue of grownups taking care of ageing parents. Piku’s harried life is somehow mirrored in Rana’s life at home, with a mother and separated sister.
Another refreshing thing about Piku is that it does not obsess about romantic relationships. But instead of clichéd Bollywood romantic moments, the romance in Piku is real and endearing, mainly because it is subtle and understated.