What goes in one end, comes out the other. Any mention of human excretion usually elicits an ewwwu of disgust. Polite society demands euphemisms, especially when it is about adults and their digestive tract functions.
But as is universally known and acknowledged, the exception to this rule is reserved for Bengalis, in whose households conversation about ablutions is conducted in excruciating detail—did it happen, the quantum, the quality, the colour, is all up for animated discussion, and everyone at the dining table or the drawing room will nod sagely and jump in with their two bits of advise.
Shoojit Sircar had gone full frontal in ‘Vicky Donor’, using wiggly sperm to tell a heart-warming tale. Here he switches his attention to, as they say, the backside. In other words, shit, which usually gets shoveled out of view, never to be mentioned again. Not in ‘Piku’. Emphatically, vocally not. Shoojit Sircar’s lead character lets you know loudly and clearly where he is at, before flushing the evidence noisily down the Delhi-Kolkata toilets he inhabits: the crusty Bhashkor (Amitabh Bachchan) will remind you of your dyspeptic uncle whose life revolves around his `motions’, and his `peti’ of homeopathic pills which is lugged wherever he goes.
‘Piku’ (Deepika Padukone) is Bhashkor’s harried daughter, trying to hack a professional and personal life while trying to minister to her demanding father. The younger men in her life, old-friend-with-feelings (Jisshu Sengupta) and reluctant-but-intrigued newer entrant (Irrfan) try and divert her attention, but everything comes up against: Did Baba go? When did Baba go? How did Baba go?
Sircar knows his setting well. The free-for-all chatter around the stomach, the kind of herbs that help stuff along the alimentary canal – the best moment of the film comes when Irrfan draws a sketch, with graphic accuracy, of the route food takes before it plops out—is spot on. The way the characters are bracketed, though, flattens the film.
Of course, there are delightful laugh-out-loud moments too, the kind that lift ‘Piku’ off the screen. Some of those come from the interaction between ‘baap’ Bachchan and ‘beti’ Padukone, but soon they settle into a pattern where the irritability and annoyance and short-temper Bhashkor and Piku have to exhibit become rate limiting factors: how many squabbles about a constantly-calling-baba and a beti constantly-on-call can you infuse with difference? I got a little exhausted by the jabber: when they stop and fall silent, the point is made better.
Amitabh Bachchan’s delivery of his constipated Bengali bhadralok jumps between a couple of notes, his accent occasionally slipping. And because most of Deepika Padukone’s scenes are with him, she comes off same-same too, though you can see how she can use her coltish beauty to advantage when she is let alone. Even Moushumi Chatterjee, as the gadabout ‘mashi’, isn’t as much fun as she could have been. Raghubir Yadav, as the old-confidante-doctor is good, though, as is Sengupta.
The only one given enough wiggle-room is Irrfan, and he makes the most of it, shifting, manoeuvring skillfully, not letting himself be caught in one position. He is the outsider to Piku’s world, and how he enters and makes space for himself, lets the film breathe and come alive.
Shoojit Sircar’s exploration of human relationships through unusual pegs provides his films an instant hook. And focusing upon bowel movements is certainly novel. ‘Piku’ sparks in moments, and I threw my head back and guffawed in a few. But the rest of it stays only mildly amusing. I wanted more motion in these motions.
Star cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Irrfan, Deepika Padukone, Jisshu Sengupta, Moushumi Chatterjee, Raghuvir Yadav
Director : Shoojit Sircar
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines