It is a typical morning in the Banerjee household. Piku is running late for work, man servant Budhan is preparing breakfast and seventy year old hypochondriac Bhashkor is checking his meds and complaining of constipation. Piku tries to convince her father to “go and try”, but Bhashkor doesn’t feel “the pressure”. Piku rushes out the door and promptly takes out her frustration on the taxi driver, accusing him of being late when he has actually been waiting for 20 minutes. And so, we are introduced to the daily routine at the Banerjees in this simple slice-of-life story that deals with our motions and emotions in a most amusing way. Shoojit Sircar has touched a universal nerve as every human being is familiar with the annoyance of constipation. His slightly dysfunctional Bengali family will in some way remind you of your own.
Piku is a professional woman in her late twenties. She is independent, demanding, and cut-and-dry; but whatever her dreams may have been when she moved to New Delhi, Piku now finds her life swallowed up by her father and his preoccupations. Part owner of a small architectural firm, she occasionally sleeps with her partner Syed, based on “need” and not love. Bhashkor approves of this casual relationship and says he believes that marriage will stop Piku from finding fulfillment in life. Of course, it would also turn her attention towards another man. When Piku is approached by a potential suitor, Bhashkor has no qualms about telling the man that Piku is not a virgin. As a result, Piku has relegated her social life to the back burner.
When her father decides to visit his ancestral home in Kolkata, Piku arranges for a driver from her regular taxi service to make the 40 hour trip. But, when his drivers refuse to drive the Banerjees, Rana, the owner of the company, impulsively shows up to drive them. Rana soon finds out that constipation is the main topic of conversation, and quickly sizes up the relationship between father and daughter.
Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan creates a wonderful character in Bhashkor. A progressive intellectual, he takes great pride in always being right. He boasts, “I am a critical person – brutal and honest”. He insists on traveling by car to Kolkata because, “that way things will be in my control – according to my convenience”. At the same time, Bhashkor endears himself to you with his obvious vulnerability and neediness. Amitabh’s comic timing and humanity are essential to this role.
Demanding and perpetually irritated, Deepika Padukone as Piku has inherited Bhashkor’s temperament but not his selfishness. Love and duty have consigned her to a life of care giving. Deepika’s Piku has everything going for her, but she is gradually being worn down by her responsibilities. Here we see Deepika without the trappings of a Bollywood star. Her wardrobe and makeup are simple often allowing her facial expressions, her eyes and her mouth, to speak for her. Her chemistry with Irrfan is conveyed with looks and the most subtle flirting.
Irrfan Khan is not hampered by the typical good looks of a Bollywood star. This works to his advantage as Rana, as there is a sweetness and a charm in his manner, his calm demeanor, his common sense and insight. Rana brings balance to the Banerjees. Where they are loud, he is soft. Where they are unreasonable, he is not. As he defends Piku from Bhashkor’s guilt trips, he quietly starts to court her with looks and invitations to dessert and sightseeing. Irrfan is a joy to watch.
Other characters in “Piku” from the loyal man servant Budhan (Balendra Singh), to the opinionated aunt Chaubi (Moushumi Chatterjee), Bhashkor’s doctor (Raghuvir Yadav), and Piku’s partner Syed (Jisshu Sengupta), fill out necessary details in the Banerjee household. “Piku” is apparently filled with references to Bengali culture that I as an American am not familiar with: the Kolkata newspaper, book lying on nightstands, pictures of famous Bengalis on the walls, special foods on the dinner table, etc.
Music by Anupam Roy is soft and gentle. Light and often bittersweet, it is quite in tune with the storyline. Writer of dialogues and the screenplay, Juhi Chaturvedi, captures the universal banter and tensions of families everywhere. The story is filled with funny one-liners and attitude, and tempered with love and commitment to parents. Director Shoojit Sircar has told his story of family in the year 2015, in an absolutely unique and endearing manner.