Last year, my dad started a new regimen of chemo medication which caused him significant constipation after each sitting. After 2 days of no poop and regular intakes of laxative with water, he quietly came out of the bathroom. We all looked at him with nervous anticipation. The headlines on TV at that time were about India’s recent performance at 2014 Olympics.
“Guess what? India has won another bronze medal,” he said smilingly, referring to his success in the bathroom.
After all the positive reviews this week, I decided to give Shoojit Sircar’s new flick a shot.
In this movie, Deepika Padukone plays the titular Piku, a woman who is not shy of being sexually active as she takes care of an elderly man.
In Cocktail, she also played a sexually active Veronica, though in that movie, the elderly man was her love interest Saif Ali Khan, who managed to woo any ovary bearing species with the charm that reminds you of a paedophile.
Needless to say, Deepika has progressed in her choices in films, especially from her years of drunken avatars to more demure roles like Piku, where the humor is more subtle and the story more relatable.
Perhaps her recent appearance in Satyamev Jayate had something to do with it, during which she acknowledges to Aamir Khan – “You know I have heard that movies have a big impact in society but I didn’t realize it until right now, as we are having this conversation.”
Sorry Deepika, but were you living under a cave all this while?
But enough about the woman that majority of Indian men fantasize about on their nights of loneliness.
As the audience, we are all very thankful that Bollywood is looking beyond the shit hole that is Rohit Shetty and Farah Khan film-making studios and exploring new directors like Dibakar Banerjee and Vikas Bahl.
Speaking of shit, Piku is a just an ordinary story with some extraordinary actors like Irrfan Khan and Amitabh Bachchan (though his wig makes him look more like a grandfather than a father). This movie is good, in that, it leaves out nonsense song and dance sequences for better storylines as seen in past films like Lootera, Oye Lucky Oye, and A Wednesday.
Some folks are hailing Piku’s character as a feminist icon, but personally I feel that Rana essayed by Irrfan Khan, has more feminist undertones than the female lead by supporting her feelings and encouraging her independence. In fact, the movie should not have been named Piku, but rather Rana, for he is one who brings some common sense into Piku’s and Bhaskor’s constipated lives.
At the onset of their road trip, he shouts back at Bhaskor, not once but twice, for being so selfish towards Piku and making him realize that she adheres to his every need as he so stubbornly desires.
At Benaras, he suggests to Piku that she should drive more often, especially since women in India enjoy the freedom to do so, unlike Saudi Arabia, where Rana previously used to work. And viola! The next morning, Piku is driving the car on their road trip.
Once they reach Kolkata, Piku and Rana spend some quality time together. Again, he mentions in passing that getting rid of buildings that house memories of nostalgia would be akin to destroying the roots of one’s past. Piku takes the hint and decides not to sell her father’s ancestral property.
It is almost as if Piku is not allowed to make any epiphanies on her own. It would have been great if she experienced self-actualization by exploring her native hometown alone. That would have added more depth to her character.
Even the Oleksander character in Queen briefly guided Rani by asking her “Who is stopping you from working?” but he doesn’t rescue her from her fate. His simple remark reignites her desire to work on her accord and accept the chef role at the Rotterdam festival.
Rana saves the day once again when he fixes the water pump at their dilapidated Kolkata mansion and gives a sound piece of advice to Bhaskor to cut out all the drama. And like magic, Bhaskor is convinced and has the best poop of his life the next day, acknowledging that Rana was right all along.
I must admit that my perception of the movie is colored by my own past experiences as a caregiver to my father. While Bhaskor was an annoying hypochonriac, my dad was quite the opposite as he would suffer multiple side effects from chemotherapy and rarely wince about any one of them. Instead of complaining, he would find more comfort in busying his mind at work.
I could not relate to Piku on many fronts. She had a car service to take her to work and a full time male nanny to take care of her father, luxuries one cannot afford in America. Moreover my father was not as overbearing as Bhaskor, for he would let me go out with friends every now and them. He even let me go on a vacation when he was showing improvement because he knew that if I did not take care of my needs, I would need to be taken care of as well.
The scene that broke my heart the most was when Bhaskor tells Rana that he should not have let his father go on a ventilator in his last stages in the ICU. Rana debates with him at length that it was not in his control as the doctors recommended that to him. But Bhaskor, the asshole that Bacchhan so convincingly portrays, tells him otherwise and hints to Piku to never let such an ill fate come upon him and let him die in peace.
That scene broke my heart because my father departed in a similar way to Rana’s father. My brother had convinced me to tell the doctors to remove all the machines torturing him. As much as I wanted to make that decision, some of my family members wanted to keep him alive longer, praying that some sort of miracle would occur. So all I remember my father in his very last day is struggling to breathe under his oxygen mask, and probably wishing to die from all the needles poking into his body.
If any Uncle had made such a remark as Bhaskor did to Rana, I would have given him a piece of my mind.
Big spoiler ahead – Do not read if you wish to watch the movie.
When Bhaskor finally dies at the end of the movie, I did not feel any sympathy, but instead, insane jealously. That is because Bhaskor departed peacefully on his bed, that too in his ancestral home in Kolkata. It may be strange to feel that for a fictional character but I felt the same when an old boss recently told me about the loss her mother at the ripe old age of 96 at her home in Chennai.
Loss of a parent at any age is devastating but I almost wanted to tell her – “You are so lucky that your mom died that way.”
That is how we hope any of our loved ones leave this earth, and even so for our own death.
Luck plays in significant factor in how one dies but the movie made it out to seem that since Bhaskor wanted a peaceful death, he managed to achieve it.
The only point where I could relate to Piku was when she made a speech about her father at his prayer meeting in Delhi, as I had done the same for my father.
Yes, Piku is a refreshing movie that does not come very often in our cinema halls, but I don’t share the same adoration as others are showering upon it.
You may say that my perception of Piku is heavily tainted by own experiences as a daughter to a lost father. But then, isn’t every piece of art open to the interpretation of its viewer?