As days pass by, we’re witnessing makers not expressing any apprehensions about casting popular actors, the star-bracketed ones, in films that bear an interesting mix of commercial and art-house cinema, specifically targeting the higher middle-classes. Take for instance Gautham Menon’s delicious experiments with cliches and style, an Ayan Mukherjee dealing with quarter-life crisis, a Shakun Batra going for an open-ended narrative even in a cushy romantic film, a Zoya Akhtar making those dreamy-aired yet grounded films with A-grade stars. Shoojit Sarkar’s Piku, on those lines is nearly the best attempt in freeing itself from a conventional plot, letting the moments flow and yet not doing away with that unadulterated yet commercial humour hanging in the mid-air.
Juhi Chaturvedi’s writing continues to be fresh, sans postered mentalities, rigid impositions. The ‘real’ here is her pickings from elements mostly considered unideal for cinematic space. Imagine constipation or sperm-donation being robbed in a central plot, say a decade ago? Just as she found ways to place her Vicky Donor female protagonist as a Bengali (which primarily is a Shoojit Sircar indulgence is my guess), she literally extends her part to bring in the place, the richly flavoured language to a story like a Habib Faisal. It’s not because of the ‘Maane’s, ‘Bolchish’s amidst their Hindi but the way, they live like Bengali’s in the heart of Delhi. The aroma feels metres away. We see the characters here, some consciously and some blissfully unaware of how rooted they are to their origins.
The uncomfortable discussions about Indian and Western toilets, the talks comparing motion and emotion, jet-sprays and buckets, between Irrfan and Amitabh evoke wonderful spontaenity, even though we’re cornered with thoughts that it’s a smart replacement of Annu Kapoor and Ayushman Khurana in a Vicky Donor, taking a different context.
Amitabh Bacchan, playing Bhaskor Bannerjee, nearing 70, is how fathers in many households exist post retirement. They have an opinion on almost anything and everything that surrounds them, are unabashedly critical, don’t come to terms with contemporary lifestyles, over-concerned about health, sporadic about medicinal care and in real need of soul-hearing company.
A self-confessed intellectual Bhaskor here, has an interesting preference for something that’s basic and effective, homeopathy. He warns his daughter to not use a ventilator, if ever he has to be hospitalised. In a spur of the moment on his wife’s birthday, which he celebrates posthumously, he talks about the problems he had with her. “Do you need to be critical about her, even on this day ?” objects the daughter. He simply doesn’t want things to look sweet and here, he neither denies the love, he had and still has for her. He is that sort of a person, whom you realise, we’ll fight all along when he’s around and yet miss him in his absence.
Piku and Bhaskor share those moments on-screen that we otherwise, at least on paper would easily label mundane. They are not the two who embrace each other and say,’Love you papa’ or ‘Beti’ on a daily basis. They pass random statements about themselves, can’t stand each other sometimes, strong about their views and somewhere amidst all this, we see they care. She lets him booze an occasional evening, for it makes him happy despite his health troubles. She gives an after-thought about selling his mansion in Kolkata named after her grandma. He, on the other front, never pressurises her to marry and even takes a step ahead to say to people that his daughter’s no more a virgin. He overdoes everything. It’s only when Irrfan Khan, who plays the owner of a taxi service asks about how does she bear his misdoings, Deepika rather puts her love openly and says, “ After all, they’re parents. We can’t judge them.”
It’s an excellent, very Indian and even a rooted background score with use of the veena that takes us through their momentous journey. This resonates with the motif that Amitabh idolises in the film, as he tries to play the instrument in his old mansion in Kolkata. It’s not the kind of a city, we saw in a Kahaani or Byomkesh, but a better example like Parineeta. The frames are bound by a strong connect to their past. Piku ambles along with an ease like this. The ends still are well-connected. Deepika gets a better road-film than Finding Fanny and re-discovers herself. She’s beginning to master silence on-screen. We see her with purpose and an equal sense of freedom, the kind that we lastly saw in a Kangana in Queen. The men are no less, but let’s give it to the actress this time.