Saturday, May 16, 2015

Piku — Motion Se Hi Emotion

First things first, if one has to read the review of Piku, I recommend reading Baradwaj Rangan's splendid review of the film, which I found so much better than the film itself. However, I still want to write my thoughts on the film.
There is a marvelous scene in Piku, where Rana Chaudhary (Irrfan Khan) is in his car with Piku (Deepika Padukone), Bhaskor Banerji (Amitabh Bachchan), and Budhon (Balendra Singh). Rana is the owner of Himachal Taxi Service but none of his drivers want to go to Kolkata with Piku, so he himself turns up to drive them. Initially, Budhon sits in front of the car beside him, and Rana is somewhat miffed by this. He looks at Budhon and then glances towards Piku. No one says anything, but Piku realizes the predicament of Rana, and then, she goes and sits in the front with him. It is such a brilliant scene in which not one word is spoken, but we all understand what is meant. Rana is not just another driver who can be equated with the servant Budhon. He wants to be treated like an owner, and thus, Piku comes and sits in front because they both belong to the same social strata. No one questions anything, no words are spoken, and it is this silence that is central to Piku. It is a film that does not have much of a plot, but it is more about an everyday slice of life instances that we all know but perhaps, never discuss. The audience does not need any explanation because they will get it on their own. As Rangan Sir put it brilliantly in his review, "Sometimes we go to films to forget what life’s like. Other times, we go to remember." For instance, take another scene at the beginning of the film. Rana is arguing with a suited-booted man (thanks to Rahul Gandhi for this phrase) whose car was hit by one of Rana's drivers. Rana says to the man that his car already has a dent, and the man responds, "Vo ek lady driver ne mara tha." Of course, the man will point out that his car was hit by a lady driver because it is accepted that women are bad drivers, and no one questions the man. The audience watching the film would know at least someone who believes that women are indeed bad drivers or would have ended up in a situation where someone made this statement. It is this subtlety of everyday life that is the triumph of Piku.
Directed by Shoojit Sircar, Piku is essentially the story of Piku, an architect, who lives with her hypochondriac father Bhaskor and their servant Budhon. Her father is always complaining about constipation and his bowel problem. He is obsessed with his shit—no pun intended. Rana is the owner of Himachal Taxi Service who sends a driver to her every day to drop her at her office and has a soft spot for Piku. After heavy drinking at a party, Bhaskor suffers an illness and wants to go to his ancestral home in Kolkata, and Rana takes them there. Essentially, there is nothing new in the plot but Piku presents it with charm and nostalgia of the everyday life that makes us identify and relate with the characters. It could be any of us. 

There is an interesting aspect in the film about parents. Bhaskor is seventy years in age, though his behavior can be compared to that of a child. He has the traits of a stubborn child. His love for Piku stems more from a desire to keep her with him. Even though he makes some feminist statements, it is more because he is selfish to want her to be with him, like a child wants to be with his mother. At one point in the film, he tries to learn to ride a bicycle with two people helping him as if he is a kid. In addition, there is a hilarious scene during their journey, in which Budhon makes a sound to help Bhaskor pee, exactly the way babies are made to pee. In fact, during the end, Rana even makes a statement to Piku that she is her father's mother. "Father hai to tum unki maa kyun baani baithi ho." Later, Bhaskor rides a cycle in the streets of Kolkata all by himself, perhaps, an indication that the child has grown up. However, being grown up in this stage means that death awaits you. It is this aspect that is wonderfully portrayed in the film, as a mother would never leave her child, in whatever situation it is—healthy or sick—parents never leave, and in the same way, Piku cares for her father. As Rana also pointed in the end that no one takes care of their parents these days as she does, and she could have easily left him, but she did not.
There is also a motif of the journey in the film. The journey from Delhi to Kolkata is the highlight of Piku. During the journey, Bhaskor and Piku start singing a Bengali song Ei poth jodi na shesh hoy from the Bengali film Saptapadi. The song was picturized on Suchitra Sen and Uttam Kumar. It is a conversation between the two where they discuss what would happen if this journey that they are on never ends. The actors are on a motorbike and on a journey like the characters in Piku. While traveling, Piku is wearing a blue sweatshirt that has ‘The Journey’ written over it. There is also a song in the film that is actually called the Journey song. Piku is in many ways the journey of traveling back to your own roots to finally get a sense of closure. Bhaskor traveled back to his place of birth which was always in his heart. It is during the journey, the people form new bonds and try to understand each other better. Bhaskor’s journey ended by letting go and then in death. This theme of journey is like the journey of the food from the plate to the mouth to the time it is thrown out of the body after passing through the extremely complex labyrinth of the small and the large intestine as Rana explains. Perhaps, that explains why there was a special focus on the absolutely delicious shots of any food item in the film. Constipation is a metaphor for something that has not yet completed its journey and wants to come out. Bhaskor had to learn to let go of Piku and all his problems would be solved. The relief of the best shit he had in life was again referring to that he had let go, and then, death came to him quietly and peacefully that left a smile on his face. Piku is, thus, the journey of the final stages of a man.

The Journey
There is something so amazing about the character of Rana and Irrfan brings him to life. Rana is a civil engineer who had a job in Saudi Arabia but instead he was put in security management, and then, he came back to help his father run the business. Rana is an outsider to the story, and like his profession of construction, he constructs bridges between the characters in the story. For instance, when Bhaskor is making a fuss to turn the car back because he forgot the cell of the earplug, Rana gets really irritated and admonishes him for his constant emotional blackmail of Piku. He says if Piku considered him a burden, she would not have brought him to Kolkata. Bhaskor is stunned that someone could say anything like this, but all this while, Piku is absolutely quiet, and her acquiescence is a sign of her inability to say the words that she could not say to her father. Rana's words are the ones that Piku should have spoken, and thus, he helps reduce the gap between the two. Or in another instance, when the water pump does not start, Rana is the one who 'fixes' it. And, when he is about to leave after the pump starts working, he says to Bhaskor that his problem is no one understands him and that he should stop hiding the salt. Like Rana understands the functioning of the pump, he gives a much-needed perspective to Bhaskor to help fix his problem. Rana also helps Piku understand the importance of one's roots. Sometimes, we need an outsider to help us provide a perspective and Rana plays that role. The scene between Rana and Piku when he is repairing the pump, where they say dheere dheere aa raha hai, is another one filled with metaphors on life. At one point, Rana says that death and shit can come anytime, and anywhere. I was reminded instantly of Sam's dialogue in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna that, "Mohabbat aur maut dono bin bulaye mehman hai."

Bhaskor's habit of trying to hide salt was because he did not want anyone in his house to get high blood pressure. Even though he is perfectly fine, he thinks he will get all the diseases. The salt was, perhaps, referring to the fact that he is living a 'tasteless' and 'bland' life. He has to stop being conscious of everything he eats, and he has to start enjoying his life by learning to let go. That is why, after Rana's advice, he takes his cycle and eats the most delicious food from the streets in Kolkata. And, when he comes back, Piku says that because of him, they ate 'kadu', 'karela', and now, all of a sudden, he wants to make them eat 'jalebi'. He had the best shit of his life when he added a bit of salt in his life. Also, interesting to note, that on the table when they are eating, it is Chabi Masi who notices that the food has no salt, because she believes in living her life fully, without worrying about consequences, and asks others to do the same (like in her party, she asks Bhaskor to take a drink). I guess this was the entire purpose of salt.

Piku also has many Satyajit Ray references. There is a picture of him in their house. After her date with Aniket, Piku remarks that he is a jerk and he does not even know one Satyajit Ray film. In fact, the name Piku is inspired by Satyajit Ray's film Pikoo, which is the story of a household from the perspective of a child.
The Moushumi Chatterjee and Amitabh Bachchan banter reminded me of Rimjhim Gire Sawaan. And, people have written excellently on references to Anand.

The relationship that Piku and Rana develop is so delightful. I loved it that all throughout their trip and during their stay in Kolkata, they communicate through expressions and silent gestures. During the last scene, Rana is playing badminton with Piku at her place but he is not inside her gate like they are not in a relationship yet, but sometime in the future, he could be well inside her gate, and perhaps, in her home.
There is a distinct and genuine Bengali feel to the film. The film's title has an NDTV-type red dot, one of the most identifiable Bengali symbols. We see Piku's house with pictures of Ramakrishna Parmahansa and Rabindra Nath Tagore. There are paintings of Raja Ravi Verma. Bhaskor reads books on Holy Mother Sarada Devi. When Chabi Mausi comes to visit Bhaskor, she says to discard homeopathy and start allopathy. When Bhaskor is cycling in Kolkata, we see a shot of Kayam Chooran in the background. Bhaskor dances on a popular Bengali song from Teen Bhubaner Pare. The song is Jibone ki pabo na, bhulechhi se bhabona. I have not been able to find the full meaning of the song but its title means that "I have forgotten thoughts of what I'm going to get in life, whatever I see forward, I don't know whether it is real or artificial gold." I wonder if this song has some connection to life and a journey, too, like the earlier one. 
What I also really liked was the feminism of the film, though I am not exactly sure about the same for its characters. More than Piku, Bhaskor believed in the emancipation of women and said that marriage should be done with a purpose, otherwise, it is only for low IQ people. He does not want his daughter to get married and says to her that all her relationships should be casual. At one point in the film, during Chabi Mausi's party, he scares a potential suitor for Piku by saying that his daughter is financially independent and sexually independent, but needs some emotional partnership. Though his feminist ideas stem from a desire to keep his daughter with him, it is still a landmark film where a father has no problems with his unmarried daughter's sexual relationships, and even exhorts her to keep it casual. Years later, when PhDs will be written, Piku will be included in the list of films with a strong feminist theme. The film also makes a point on the difference between sexual love and romantic love. It is to the film's credit that it accepts that sex is a need for women, too. Piku says that it is a need and she has a friends-with-benefits relationship with Syed. They sleep together but still date other people. The fact that Syed is possibly a Muslim and he sleeps with Piku under the same roof as her father is a remarkable progressive step for our films, howsoever, far from reality be it. Three years ago, Cocktail caused much chagrin to feminists as they felt it was a regressive portrayal of Veronica who was labeled a slut because of her sexual relationships and tried to be like Meera losing her own self in the process. It is a great step forward in our cinema when Piku's father says in front of everyone that she is not a virgin, whereas traditionally in our films, a woman is expected to be a virgin till she marries. Even more heartening was Chabi Mousi's character. She got married three times, and no one judges her in the film. There is another statement that Piku's paternal aunt makes. She says that she left the Bata job because her salary would have been more than her husband's and that it was not accepted. And, then, Bhaskor says that it is not anybody's fault; she is the victim of her own choices. That is what ultimately feminism is about. Freedom of choice. Notwithstanding Vogue magazine's controversial My Choice video :) I did not like when Bhaskor was criticizing his own wife for getting married to him. I mean she loved him that she gave all her life and he mocks her for that.
I must add I was slightly irritated by the scatological jokes and the constant bickering in the first half-hour. It became too much and too repetitive after a point, and because of that, the movie did not reach its zenith for me. The performances are simply amazing. All characters are excellent. I loved Moushumi's sassiness. Deepika is a star. She brings so much grace to character, like the way she ties her hair while sitting in the car, like the way she quietly sees her father dancing and goes back to her room, and, like the way, she cries. As I have written before, she looks even more gorgeous when she cries. I wept with her at the death scene. Piku reminded me of another film of Deepika, Finding Fanny, which was also a journey of getting a sense of closure. I have been hooked to its background Sarod score by Anupam Roy.

There is another heart-touching scene in the film. In Kolkata, Piku says that there was once a theater but now a new building has come up. Rana says that she is also doing the same, by selling her own ancestral house Champakunj. She says that she is being practical. He, then, makes a profound statement, "I am not saying tum galat ho. Maybe this is the way forward. Isi ko log development bolte hain. Par apni roots unko agar ukhad do, toh kya bachega."  This is the underlying message of the film. The roots are not only referring to the ancestral house but also our parents and grandparents. We can leave them and put them in old age homes. But, then, what will be left. Piku knew how to drive in the film, but she chose not to drive, which was again referring to the fact that she could have easily left her father but chose to stay with him. Rana said 'driving liberates a woman', but she chose not to drive away from her own father and her ancestral home. It is not about becoming great women, like Annie Besant and Lakshmi Bai. As Piku says, if there was somebody else in her position, they would have done the same because we cannot judge parents. That is the ultimate message of Piku because howsoever they are, we cannot judge our parents.
Dialogue of the Day:
"Beimaani se kabhi khushi nahi milti."
— Rana, Piku


  1. This is the most sincere and thought provoking review of Piku I have read so far. Thank you.....

  2. I loved this film so much. Watched it with my mom and the reason we both loved ut because we could relate to it so much. The scene where Bhaskor thinks he has fever and when Piku checks the temp. is normal still he is not satisfied, that happened to us so many times. And the problems between them were so real. I get so mad at my mom at times I scold her and fight with her for her habits like putting plastic bags in microwave and many such things. She often tells me that I behave like a mom and not daughter. We have our issues actually a lot of issues. We have conflicts over ideologies and the kind of life I should lead. But yes I love her and yes it will be difficult to move out. Shes very encouraging though. We have seen this film so many times and never get bored. And I loved Deepika in this one.

  3. Inspired by ready your review,I watched the movie.What a pleasure to my eyes was the movie.Hats off for your thoughts on the movie, explaining the innate meaning of most scenes.
    Deepika & Amitabh are worth their awards ...Wish there was a award for this blog too...

  4. Soul-gripping movie 'n Awe-strucking piece on the movie. Excellent Job P! XD

  5. normal movie... awesome review

  6. It is such an honest, heart touching and mind blowing analysis.
    Awesome, thank you.
    Egyptian hindi movies lover :) Dina.

    1. Thank you, Dina. Good movies make good analysis :)

  7. Thanks for the lovely post...It is indeed well written. You're being too hard on yourself for no reason..It's quite well written
    I have just one point I disagree on, and I find enjoyment in the disagreement as well cause it shows how the same thing can be interpreted so differently depending on how you view social conditions. My disagreement is regarding the car scene where Piku asks Budhon to swap positions. The way I saw it, Rana had no problem sitting with the "servant". Rather, he had worn his seatbelt and then expected Budhon to do the same, which he obstinately refused to do silently (as many people in our society do)...After a silent cold war where both Rana and Budhon did not budge from there positions, Piku decided to solve the problem by swapping places to make both happy. She comes to the front seat and wears the seat belt and that's when Rana starts the car. In general, throughout the film there are several instances where Piku does this silent meditation amidst stubborn parties to keep the journey going.

    1. Hi Ishani,
      Thank you for your comment. Absolutely, we can interpret things differently. Great observation, perhaps, I should check it out again to see that interprtetation, too :)

  8. Indeed the movie had deep interpretations and you have highlighted most of them. Loved the movie and liked your review. It was like a precap to the movie. Just watching the movie is not enough, we need to know the deeper thoughts behind it so that the makers get true credits.

    Subscribing your blog :)


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