A father who introduces his 30-year-old daughter to her suitors as a "financially, emotionally and sexually independent, non-virgin woman" and a daughter who scolds her dad for his obsession with health and tells him it would have been better if he had some disease.
The dad is Amitabh Bachchan's Bhashkor Banerjee and Deepika Padukone essays the role of Piku, the daughter, in this Shoojit Sircar's directorial venture.
How does this eccentric father-daughter relationship unfold on screen? Let us explore.
In a rare reminder of Hrishikesh Mukherjee films, Piku does not feel like a movie; it might as well have been a video recording of any family with an ageing parent and a single child taking care of him/her.
Piku presents a very realistic view of a typical Indian family. The film has life as it is, minus any over-the-top idealistic relationships or preachy morals. The film harps on the simplicity of reality, gently tugging on your heartstrings.
The film explores the relationship between an old father and his daughter on whom he completely depends. Shoojit, who earlier gave us John Abraham-starrer Madras Café (2013) and Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer Vicky Donor (2012), once again proves that an entertainer does not have to be larger-than-life and unrealistic.
The beauty of Piku lies not in the story but the way it is told. The film shows that mind-boggling stories are not essential to touch hearts on the silver screen. Piku's story is too simple - it does not offer shocks or surprises. Instead, it is one of those endearing narratives where the actors' performances and nuanced ways in which the director tells the tale overpower the predictable storyline.
Juhi Chaturvedi's warm and sweet screenplay ensures that everyone who lives with or has lived with ageing parents will identify with Deepika's character. It is irritating to deal with their tantrums and we keep scolding them, but the moment we see the smallest deterioration in health, we are ready to do anything to ensure that they are back to their childish ways.
Bhashkor (Amitabh) and Piku (Deepika) are Bengalis living in Delhi. While Bhashkor spends his days obsessing over his bowel movements, Piku is a wonderful multi-tasker who manages the whole household, works at an architecture office and also tries her best to maintain an active sexual life.
Rana Chaudhary (Irrfan) is the owner of a taxi service company that is reeling under the onslaught of Piku's arrogance. While several of his drivers have left because of her attitude, many have caused accidents when faced with her wrath. Situation puts Rana in the middle of Piku's family drama. While he is attracted to Piku, he is also aware how this caring woman can also be arrogant, rude and adamant. As he maintains his distance, Rana's interaction with Piku has a subtle, understated romantic tone.
Rana's character brings sanity to the eccentric lives of Piku and her dad, but not in a way that they would welcome. He is as much an outsider to this freaky family as the audience - a non-Bengali caught in the middle of a Bengali family so obsessed with their domestic problems that they involve him in their arguments and when he presents a rational viewpoint, they ask him not to interfere in 'family problems'.
He is shocked at the way Amitabh behaves with his caring daughter and is surprised at the daughter's arrogant behavior. During a road trip, as Irrfan drives them from Delhi to Kolkata, Amitabh sings a Bengali song 'Ei poth Jodi na shesh hoi' and asks Irrfan if he knows the meaning. After a small irrelevant chat, Irrfan is told the meaning: "What if this road doesn't end?" Irrfan, 'the Thakur from UP' tells Amitabh, "Aisa gaana gao jiska kaayde ka meaning ho."
Another refreshing thing about Piku is that it does not obsess about romantic relationships. Despite all the hullaballoo about the pairing of Deepika and Irrfan, the film has none of your clichéd Bollywood romantic moments. Instead, the romance in Piku is real and endearing, mainly because it is subtle and understated.
Towards the end, Irrfan is about to leave Piku's family and Deepika wants him to stay because she finds his 'normal ways' rational. Not at a single point does she tell him that he should stay for her sake or that she needs him, she only hints that he is welcome. The sheer simplicity of the silence between the lead pair and their charming banter makes their romance identifiable.
Deepika Padukone proves yet again that she is perhaps one of the most dedicated lead actors the industry can boast of and one who does not disappoint with her bold choice of non-glamorous, refreshing roles. Her attitude in the film will in remind you of all your women friends who are independent, have a mind of their own and do not allow anyone to dictate their lives (that is, if you are not one yourself).
Amitabh Bachchan is endearing and real in his portrayal of a 70-year-old man, dependant on his daughter. However, in his bid to come across as the ageing man who turns progressively childish in his demeanour, Amitabh does sound a lot like Auro (his character from Paa).
While all the characters in Piku are well etched and present a very realistic picture, it is Irrfan Khan who stands out. He does not have as many dialogues as Piku or the eccentricities of Amitabh's character but his facial expressions and body language ensure your eyes are glued on to him every time he is onscreen.
In a sequence during their road trip to Kolkata, Irrfan is trying to warm up to Deepika, enquiring about her ambitions and plans in life when Amitabh interrupts and lectures on how Irrfan should have gone about his life. The script does not allow a comeback for Irrfan's character, neither is he given any space for body movements to express his discomfort.
However, Irrfan stares at Deepika and his look says it all, the irritation of a stranger commenting on his life, the subtle message that perhaps he is bearing all of it for the sake of her, et al. Irrfan's eyes do most of the talking in the movie.
In another sequence, when Irrfan is still trying to breach the domestic code and make an entry into the quirky, crazy family of Piku, he walks up to Amitabh and hands him a bunch of herbs. He tells Big B, "Tulsi aur pudina hai, isko ubalo aur piyo. Fir dekho kaise pet saaf hota hai."
Without having really focused on Rana's character, Shoojit gives a peek into world with this sequence: He is a man who is well-rooted and carries his own share of knowledge of home remedies and dealing with domestic issues.
Jisshu Sengupta does not have much of screen space but he leaves an impression with his portrayal of Deepika's business partner who has learnt to live with the craziness of Piku and her dad. Moushumi Chatterjee fits into the role of Deepika's maternal aunt who loves Piku's family as her own.
Shoojit and his camera showcases Kolkata's beauty without over-glorifying it. Kamaljeet Negi, Piku's cinematographer, pans his camera across the locations, capturing the charms of old Kolkata. Anupam Roy's background music adds to the Bengali character of the narrative.
Piku, nonetheless, disappoints in bits and parts. The family of Irrfan is not given much footage in Piku. We are introduced to his family in passing but there is no closure to his struggles in life. Even Deepika-Amitabh's relation, the focal point of the movie, ends on a very predictable note. But that does not take away the pleasure of watching of a warm, endearing and sweet film that Piku is.
The story of Piku, does not hold much weight and its ordinariness would have crumbled to stale jokes on digestive systems had it not been for the brilliant narrative and overpowering performances.
An emotionally rich and endearing film, Piku is a heart-warming experience that every Indian who has lived with ailing or ageing parent will connect to. Independent women who juggle their professional and personal lives with domestic responsibilities are likely to identify more with it.
Piku offers no masala or romantic escapades but neither does it bog you down with preachy monologues and gyan on how kids should be responsible towards their parents. This is the kind of entertainers Bollywood should aim at.