Piku, led by Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone, is the movie equivalent of having a warm bowl of chicken soup on a nippy night. It may be comfort food that warms you all over, but you are certain that the broth won’t have unexpected twists or shock your system in any way.
Similar feelings envelope you when you watch director Shoojit Sircar’s Piku, a tale that chronicles the dependant relationship between a demanding 70-year-old father Bhashkor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan) and his accommodating daughter, Piku (Padukone). The majority of their banter and interaction revolve around Bhashkor’s bowel movement, or the lack of it. But Sircar and the actors should take a bow for not reducing all that potty talk into something foul. It’s endearing, at first. But let’s face it.
There are more riveting topics to discuss in this world. So I found myself agreeing vociferously with cab owner Rana Chaudhry (Irrfan Khan) who points out that the old man should take a break from tying emotions raging through his body to his bowel motions. It’s a valid point, especially since there was so much meat to be culled out from the budding friendship between Rana and Piku.
Both Khan and Padukone have done a tremendous job of making their characters lovable and real. They are quirky, but they don’t let those eccentricities overwhelm them. However, the film does appear constipated at some points. For instance the family road trip undertaken by Piku, her dad, the house help and a reluctant driver (Khan) from Delhi to Kolkota is ripe with opportunities, but the movie never explores that Piku-Rana tangent. That’s a shame because that would have elevated Piku to a superbly satisfying film.
Bachchan goes through the motions of playing Bhashkor with his usual alacrity. Barring his ill-fitting wig, the scene in which he introduces his daughter as an emotionally and sexually independent woman is hilarious. It’s his crafty bid to shoo away a potential suitor and it just makes you smile. He’s unapologetically selfish — a far cry from those sacrificing, indulgent dads that we have been accustomed to in some Bollywood romances.
Finally, there’s a Bollywood movie that doesn’t present an hyperbolic pitch-perfect image of a father and his daughter. Just like any regular — dysfunctional to an outsider — family, they fight, make-up and move on in life. Padukone and Bachchan are naturals as they display an over-familiarity that only family members who live together can display.
But that’s not to say that Piku is flawless. It’s no cliffhanger — the film puts a smile on your face primarily because of the collective prowess of its principal cast. In the second half, Piku almost becomes an ode to Kolkota and its old-world charm. It’s brightest moments, however, are the scenes featuring Khan and Padukone.
Watch Piku if you are in the mood to watch a movie that’s all heart. There are no larger-than-life heroes, dramatic transformations or neatly-tied endings. Still, Piku works its magic because it steers clear from the usual trappings.
Cast: Deepika Padukone, Irrfan Khan and Amitabh Bachchan
Director: Shoojit Sircar
Stars: 3 out of 5