It's been 8 years since Piku was released and this film isn't just a film, it's an encapsulation of a life's journey and the little things involved
There are very few places that you can refer to as home, your comfort space where you can be vulnerable in all of your shades. And some of the films with their emotional depth offer to be just that space for you, Piku comes under that. A slice of life film that is about grieving about lost childhood or losing someone so dear to you or going back to your roots or a parent-child/father-daughter relationship or finding yourself in this chaos called life via focusing on tiny little things and learning the art of letting go. This one film means different things to different people and that is where its beauty lies. As it is not just a film but rather a journey called life!
But more than anything it set a precedent with its female protagonist who is, for the lack of a better word, the hero of the story. Piku by being her unapologetic self with no moral obligation and not caring about what the world thinks of her, frees Hindi film heroines of all the obligations. After all, who said that a working woman can't be a devoted daughter? These things are not mutually exclusive to each other! She made women feel seen and heard in ways that we didn't think were even possible. The fact that she doesn't smile and isn't nice to every stranger she meets, talks as much as required, enjoys silence, wears bangles and sarees as well as kurtas, jeans, and tracksuits, gets tired, takes a break, handles everything at home while also at the office, speaks volumes about her being an ordinary woman and human rather than an assumption of a woman existing only for the hero. How I want to own her wardrobe!
What's more amazing is that she's surrounded by men who are also not trapped in the mechanisms of manhood. Rana and Bhaskor, are all about women's empowerment in their contrasting ways. Bhaskor who is even critical of Piku's mother has a more idealist approach and believes women should not marry to take care of someone else's parents as it only chains up a woman and lowers her 'IQ'. Whereas Rana, because of the women in his life, has a more practical approach, he understands and supports Piku but also presents contrasting viewpoints, so much so that from time to time, he calls Bhaskor out for his extreme behaviour. The chemistry between Rana and Piku builds their relationship from strangers to a friend cum love interest making it food for soul for any hopeless romantic who's also realistic. In contrast to Piku, Rana's mother and sister, and Piku's aunts represent a totally different yet true side of women. In all, the film celebrates every shade of being a woman, rather treating all its characters as people with so many colours rather than checking them into a single box.
Other than the gender sensitization of the film which offers you real women and 'men written by women', the film is a masterclass in celebrating the tiny little things in life. Something as small as constipation is made into a whole subject and it offers a great metaphor like never before. Bhaskor's major problem is not letting go of things, even the small ones and just enjoying life as it comes. But as soon as he starts doing it on Rana's advice, by the end of the film he is freed of his constipation and otherwise. He worries too much about things that aren't even there, like his medical reports that are basically all clear but he's not happy. And that is how most of us are like in life, we can't let go of the smallest things and hence cannot enjoy life to its fullest. This constipation also offers great comedy to the film which would have otherwise become too preachy and poetic in nature.
But apart from constipation as a metaphor, the journey that they take from Delhi to Kolkata is like taking a journey back to your roots. Like when Piku feels lost in her regular rut of life in Delhi, she decides to go to Kolkata. Even if it was about selling that old house and giving in to the whims of her father. But once she roams around in that familiar space, she is reminded of what it feels like to be in a homely and familiar space. Rana puts it nicely - if we don't have our roots, what do we truly have then?
Other than this, the film is also about the parent-child/father-daughter relationship because of the way Piku takes care of Bhaskor. Bhaskor is a difficult person to manage as he makes even death listen to him yet Piku gives in to his every whim and never gives up on him no matter what, even if she doesn't marry ever. Similarly, Rana is also fed up with his mother but won't leave her alone just like that, but for him, it is expected to not leave his parents but for Piku as a woman, it is not.
And this is where the film wins us a hundred times over as it never loses sight of realism and plans its message subtly. Bhaskor, no matter how blatantly rude-honest and unfiltered, his thinking in terms of gender dynamics of this society is what makes you think. When he reveals to a random stranger at a party about Piku's virginity, he does so because he knows no one wants to marry someone who has lost their virginity or when he tells Piku's aunt that the reason for her frustration is herself as after marriage she started caring about her husband more than herself.
To put this all up in a single film is as difficult as it is intelligent. But thankfully Soojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi paint a picturesque portrait of life onscreen with naturalism and realism as their aiding tools. Every scene, dialogue, and location looks straight out of someone's and everyone's home. God the conversations and theatre-like movements are so nuanced and balanced, layered with silent glances and expressions where they say everything without saying anything at all. That dinner table sequence where everyone is eating and passing dishes while chatting with each other, that morning routine of getting ready for work while doing 10 household chores altogether, the journey from Delhi to Kolkata via Varanasi with all that drama inside a car, or that water pump going off in the middle of a serious discussion about food between adults - are these not relatable?
The shouting, sarcasm, fun interactions and small nonsensical fights without resolutions, all of the characters, Champa Kunj, Delhi's house, the chair commode, bodhan, badminton, and of course, detailed discussions on shit, all of it make this film so comforting and makes Piku our spirit animal!
Also, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, and definitely the genius himself, Irrfan Khan made this ride all the more special with their expressions and unmatched powress onscreen. And uff its songs, especially that sarod theme tells a story by itself.
Piku can be streamed on Sony LIV!
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