Piku – A Review

Shoojit Sircar directs Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone and Irrfan Khan in Piku a bitter sweet road trip comedy that reflects on the dysfunctional family dynamics of the Indian families. Juhi Chaturvedi who penned the story and script for Sircar’s glorious Vicky Donor dons the pen once again and the results are just as glorious.

Far too often the films coming out of Bollywood tend to focus on the “humko-sabse-Pyaar-hai”( we love everyone) aspect of  Indian families with larger than life celebrations of everything including the house maid’s. I for the life of me cannot remember any movie trying to portray life with parents as anything other than either completely devotional or an arduous hell. Piku is different.

Amitabh plays Bhashkor Banerjee a Bengali retired widower living in Delhi with his dotting and ever-suffering daughter played by the radiant Deepika Padukone who plays the eponymous Piku. Bhashkor and Piku knock heads everyday over a myriad of his ailments, sometimes it is his imaginary Blood pressure and most times it is about his incessant reporting on the movements of his bowels or the lack there off. While Piku is successful and quite desirable it is her 70-year old child Bhashkor who keeps getting in her way of any serious romantic relationship. Vying for her attention are her business partner cum friend-with-benefit Syed and the owner of the taxi company whose drivers Piku traumatizes on a daily basis, Rana played by Irrfan.

When news comes from Kolkata that builders want to buy their ancestral home and tear it down to build an apartment building, they embark on a 1500 Km long road trip armed with half their house and Bhashkor’s port-a-potty. Rana is the first guy who does not run away at the thought of having to deal with the over-bearing Bhashkor and it gives Piku the courage to speak her mind as well.

The strength of the movie lies in Juhi Chaturvedi’s script. Every aspect of a familial life which seems so mundane is given a theatrical flair and yet comes off as being natural and believable. The supporting cast of Moushumi Chatterjee as Piku’s maternal aunt and Raghubir Yadav (of Mungerilal fame) as Dr. Srivashtava are fleshed out so brilliantly that it never feels contrived. They are given as much to do as Bhashkor or Piku and in some instance even more so. The first half is crackling with energy and it only slightly fizzles out in the second half. I wish they had turned the dial up on the histrionics a little bit more in the second half and the editing in the second half been a little crisper. But it is Sircar’s abilities to tackle the novae India’s bold-realities without too much of a song and dance. with Vicky Donor he tackled sperm donation, IVF and life-in relations and with Piku he takes on Friends with benefits without much of a preamble or hysteria for such nuances I forgive Sircar the slight slacking of pace in the second half.

Deepika acts with such confidence that it is no wonder that she is the ruling queen of Bollywood. With every movie she seems to be getting stronger and stronger, choosing a wide variety of roles that truly allow her to sink her teeth in. Amitabh is a true master of his craft as Bhashkor. He is senile and cynical at the same time witty and sharp. He lends a softness to his tough exterior when on his dead wife’s birthday while criticizing how she gave up her entire persona to serve him he is chided by Piku and her aunt he reveals he still loves her and that is why is wearing the kurta his wife gave him many years ago and then he starts with his barbs again. A well written character as befits a legend of his stature. Irrfan Khan has a small but a very important role and he is a consummate professional. His handling of his longing glances at Piku and the ability to admonish and beguile Bhashkor Da are equally fascinating.

Kamaljeet Negi who with Madras Cafe gave me a total recall of Full Metal Alchemist handles the camera just as deftly here. His work here is more akin to Vicky Donor where he romances the everyday Delhi and Kolkata. A Special mention to Veera Kumar who has done the costumes for the film, her styling of Deepika is so quintessentially Arty-Bengali-in-Delhi/Mumbai that it is perfect and adds another layer of realness to the ongoings.

If English Vinglish was the best homage to the Indian Mothers then Piku serves as a quirky take on Indian Fathers. From personal and anecdotal experience it does seem that the movement of the bowels is as great an obsession for the Indian fathers as was the movement of the stars for the ancient Aztec civilizations. Watch this movie for a fantastic and genuinely funny script and outstanding acting from all its leads. Watch it for Amitabh Bachchan whose transition from Angry Young Man of the 80s to the Angry Old Man of the 21st Century has been the greatest journey of any living actor.

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Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

The last time I was this happy was a week ago and then I went in an saw Delhi Belly which was foul, unfunny and a complete bore. Today was an extra special day and I went in for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara – dreading the outcome because the promos had been far from flattering – cheap product placement ( Mishu Mishu Yahoo video chat – Skype’s better and then the darr ke aage jeet hai Sprite placement uggh!). Read on..

Abhay Deol , Farhan Akhtar and Hritik Roshan are three childhood friends who’ve made a pact to select a adventure sport each that the other two also have to compulsorily participate in. This is in the backdrop of Abhay’s Kabir proposing to the very fetching Kalki Koelchin. After Hritik’s stock broker from the 90’s act of buy buy sell sell and a lot pouting and slouching the three end up in Spain each carrying a lot of baggage – not the sort which the airline make you pay a thousand bucks a kilo.

All the three Adventure-sports sequence are thrilling and the camera work is probably some of the best in recent use in Indian movies. However I never was and never will be a fan of the bourne-ish hand-held camera work it just is dizzying and there are enough sequence where the cinematographer seems to have forgotten the basic of frame making ( you do not shoot a moving object by zooming in and moving in a different plane – the effect is nausea-inducing). But that misstep aside the movie is highly stylized which captures the majestic views of Spain in their full Mediterranean glory.

The songs which didn’t sound very catchy or memorable as standalone music videos work fantastically in the context of the movie – none of them jarring or out of place. The scenes with the various latin dances from flamenco to Paso to Tango work well with the setting. This is a lesson a certain Bhansali could learn – you don’t need lavish sets to set the mood right each time .

Of the three leads Abhay is slightly awkward especially when the deol genes kick in during the dancing sequences. Hritik is pretentious with his London buoy uptight avatar. Farhan is a revelation with his natural charm and goofy demeanor. Kalki is good as the annoying girlfriend and Katrina is a goddess who can make the flimsiest of peasant dresses look like the robes that a renaissance artist would’ve carved out of a block of marble for while working on the statues of the Athenian deities. And any movie becomes a hundred times more awesome that has the name Naseerudin shah associated with itself Deepti Naval is a bonus.

My favorite scene from the movie is the scene where Farhan after his big revelation sits atop a gorge with the sunrise magic unfolding in the background. Reminded me of “into the wild” in a very very good way. It’s the same solemn tranquil feeling that I felt then and that I felt today watching that particularly beautiful scene unfold. The lack of traditional bollywood histrionics of the big aha moments and the change of hearts is a refreshing change.

The comparisons to Dil Chahata Hai are obvious and not completely out of place. This is a bromance with a kick of adrenaline. This maynot achieve the cult status that DCH did but it might get very close and proves that talent really is a genetic thing atleast the Akhtar household proves so. Zoya’s Sophomore attempt is a solid one and one that manages to fill the cinema halls at 10:15 PM on a Tuesday night in Pune (now that is saying quite something) so it is doing something right.

Just a bit of trivia – if anyone is wondering why they thanked Hermes in the beginning of the movie? Well bag-vati is a Birkin Bag – the most recognizable and sought after bag in the world –a Bag which has a 4-6 year long waiting list. It’s handmade by the good folks at Hermes Fashion house in Paris.

Ignore the sometimes preachy sermons about seizing the day and enjoy the beautiful vistas of Spain, the obvious chemistry amongst its leads – some seriously laugh out loud moments and a refreshingly entertaining fair. Oh and a scene I am not going to forget in a long long time KATRINA-SPAIN-TOMATINA FESTIVAL.

This article is a reproduction from my facebook account.