Everyone with a parent over 70 would be able to relate to ‘Piku’, the story of a father and daughter whose roles have been reversed as the former enters his twilight years. It is now the turn of the child to become parent. As that happens, you see how alike Piku (Deepika Padukone), an architect and partner in her own firm, and her father Bhaskor (Amitabh Bachchan) really are – impatient, loud, cranky but, above all, devoted.
When the hypochondriac Bhaskor decides he wants to go to Kolkata to his family home and ensure it is not sold to a greedy developer, Piku agrees to arrange a road trip. When all his drivers refuse to embark on the journey with the unreasonable Piku, the owner of a local car hire company, Rana (Irrfan Khan) decides to take on the assignment himself.
The journey gives Rana a chance to get to know Piku and vice versa and for Bhaskor to settle some last minute affairs. The dynamics and discussions on the road are engaging, amusing and poignant and establish the effortless chemistry between Khan and Padukone. As is the understated quirk of Shoojit Sircar’s direction, their casual banter and flirtation is encapsulated in an equally casual game of badminton.
But the beauty of the film lies more in Bachchan’s character as the bowel-movement-obsessed cantankerous 70-year-old whose life revolves around Piku and his bathroom sessions (albeit the gag is stretched a bit too far). He is not just a hypochondriac who manages to connect all of life’s questions to his stomach, but also a progressive old man who believes that every woman should be financially independent and live for herself. He sees no shame in his daughter not being a virgin nor does he react to her lovers staying the night. Bachchan does tend to overdo the accent and the idiosyncrasies somewhat but it’s offset by Padukone’s contained and sure-footed performance. Other gripes are the loudness, overuse of background music and the exaggerated wigs.
Like his earlier film ‘Vicky Donor‘, Sircar mixes in social messaging in large doses, often literally and directly, but the script (cleverly crafted by Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi) never becomes preachy. A film is often so much more engaging when the filmmaker is able to bring in his own life experiences and builds characters he has encountered, which seems the case with Piku. All the supporting actors, Moushumi Chatterjee as the aunt, Jisshu Sengupta as Piku’s business partner and friend with benefits, the uncle and aunt in Kolkata, blend in easily.
‘Piku’ is a charming film that does more than go through the ‘motions’.