Piku : A Bengali Masterclass

Piku, directed by Shoojit Sircar of Madras Cafe and Vicky Donor fame has an stellar ensemble cast of Amitabh Bachchan as Bhakor Banerjee, the seventy year old retired ITC Executive with a constipation paranoia who lives with his fiercely independent architect daughter ‘Piku’ played by Deepika Padukone. A film set in CR Park (the Bengali Community Hub in Delhi), as in Vicky Donor; Sircar has his nuances of an upper middle class Probashi or ‘Out of Bengal’ Bengali family and its dialectics of conserving culture on one end and moving on with adopted city’s sense of modernity. Irrfan as the Saudi returned Cab Service Owner Rana, is delightful as he has his accent right and the mannerisms of a gulf returned civil engineer, forced to do business in which he is often not at ease. The ‘Kafala’ system of Gulf Countries is brought in the conversation with the mention of the employer with holding Rana’s passport once he reached Saudi Arabia, and got terminated once he made an issue out of it.

Amitabh Bachchan, the legend has his Bengali spot on, with a large part of the film in Bengali and English. Stereotypes are circulated and reaffirmed but fortunately Sircar has the nuances perfect. Deepika Padukone as Piku is hyper, articulate , nyaka but straight forward Bong Girl with the dense kajal lined eyes who wants her space and sex on her own terms, but there is a longing for a stable hetrosexual relationship which her ageing father is rather aggressively discouraging towards.

Complex human relationship between an ageing father and his dutiful daughter is zoomed in which is the heart of the story. The health mad ageing father with his constipation problem and his rebellious daughter and their banter is characteristic of a bengali household. The Bengali Lady with her loyal Boyfriend-Business Partner ‘Syed’ played competently by Bengali Actor Jisshu Sengupta is under stated but vital in the story line as Piku is wooed by Rana who himself drives the Father-Daughter duo to Kolkata from Delhi via the beautiful ghats of Varanasi as Bhaskor wants to visit his paternal home housed by his younger brothers family who are scared that Piku might sell off the property to a realtor as is the case with many ancestral homes in Kolkata with the children based in other cities for work opportunities, and not interested to come back. The undertone is strong and clear, that heritage and culture matters.

The character actors such as the help of the family Badun, and the loud, boisterous maternal aunt of Piku played by veteran actor Moushumi Chatterjee adds ballast to the film which is rather based on a cultural narrative.

Editing is crisp with camera work takes a documentary mode in sections with Anupam Roy’s earthy music lends authenticity.  Shoojit Sircar has made a very good film, worth a second watch. There were parts in the film that drew a tear in the corner of my eye, as I have middle aged parents too and have these same conversations with them as Piku had them with Bhaskor.

Bollywood with Kahani and Byomkesh and now with Piku has made being Bengali, real cool. A film that has soul and substance, Piku is a film to have in your DVD Collection.

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