A Look Back At Piku 5 Years On

By Jaisri Nandhini S

“We are mad people, we are making a mad film!”
Says Amitabh Bachchan alias Bhaskor Bannerjee in the BTS clips of PIKU!
So true the words are for the film. Ever thought of watching a film where shit (literally) plays an important part in the entire narrative of the film? Ever imagined the Indian superstar who had been seen killing deadly villains over decades, could play a man whose only villain is constipation? Ever thought the OTT leading lady of Bollywood could be reduced to someone who could be as normal as the girl you meet in traffic could be? This is what PIKU is all about!

The significance of PIKU is all in its authentic writing that clearly defines the plot’s primary characters. Yes, the film is titled “PIKU” and it claims to be a women centric film which it is. But the core essence of the plot lies in the very fact that PIKU is not raised above any other characters. She is neither glorified nor kept in the limelight. She exists, like any other character in
the film. Yet, they make her strike hard and that is where the beauty of the characterization lies. She is neither Rani who explores herself nor Sehmat who experiments with her life. She does nothing special to be a special one, that is what makes PIKU one of her kind. She is neither a descendant from heaven nor a rebel without a cause.

The women flavors we see throughout the film makes us feel that it is written by a woman. Juhi Chaturvedi’s flamboyant writing makes us see PIKU elevated from being just a character to a real person. She is very much a human rather than a mere film heroine. She is someone who keeps eating something or the other. She is someone who stops the car to buy bangles in those roadside shops. She is someone who can’t stop playing with her catch clip. All these moments appear for a fraction of a second. But that’s where we see the real traits. She is blunt, straight, sincere, extremely moody yet adorable. She is as real as a film character could be.

She is hard and tough, yet there is a soft side to her which nobody really saw beyond that resting bitch face, except for Rana Chaudhary. There lies a realistic touch in every shade or emotion Piku shows. She is someone who has the strongest vulnerability and a fragile anger on the outside. When her life was no longer the way she wanted it to be, when she strives towards nowhere yet keeps trying and pushing herself, when she felt the heavy pressure of her parent’s indifference, when she misses her mother the most, all she does is to wander in the supermarket and fetch herself something to eat, in the most carefree fashion possible. But, she gets mad at her driver for her being late.

She is socially responsible. She hated a man on her date because he neither voted nor watched Satyajit Ray films. She even has a Ray poster in her room. She is financially and sexually independent. She is that woman who is aware that sex is a need and she was open about it. She was financially stable enough to take the decision of a break without any second thought and discussion. She believes in marriage, not because she can’t live alone, but she because believes in companionship. She is emotionally dependent. She’s in need of someone to understand her, but she was neither yearning nor desperate to find it immediately. She believed in going with the flow. She is sensitive to insensitivity. When you realize where she comes from, after all it is not an irony to find a “keep calm” poster in her office cabin.

The film’s cinematography is itself a language. It is a cleverly used tool to reflect the core concept of the narrative. Piku’s intro pans out from Ray’s poster, establishing her Bengali origin and her nature. She has more reaction shots than dialogues. Yet, things get conveyed beautifully from her perspective. When the entire family argues and discusses when Rana is about to leave Kolkata, all she does is eat mangoes unbothered by her surroundings. That says more about her than what she could have conveyed through words. The music understands the film and as it’s narrative needs an upper hand flows with it. Every single song has its purpose in the film.

The film is bittersweet until you realize that all got what they wanted. Bhaskor wanted free motion, a death not by constipation and no-hospital no-vein injection and a peaceful death, which he eventually got. He never wanted to sell Champa Kunj, which never happened. He wanted to ride a cycle in Delhi, which eventually happened in Kolkata. Rana’s much needed escape from his bugging family came in the disguise of Piku and Bhaskor. His not-so-evident crush on Piku is now at the stage of a blooming friendship. When Piku wanted to play Badminton with Rana in Kolkata and it never happened, the film ends with her playing Badminton with him in her Delhi home. Even the house maid who left home and promised to return, gets a happy ending.

Everything happens very subtly amidst all the chaos. Rana understands Piku like no other as he resonates with her. He is from a broken family stuck between his intolerable mother and sister. He empathizes with her situation of handling her household more than anyone else. This bond they share comes out openly in the car scene right before they enter Kolkata. There lies a sense of empathy along with the cute attraction he has for her. He can never be hard with her, because she is her softer version with him. This “silent pyaar” they share is the major take away from the film.

Bhaskor Bannerjee is that annoying yet unavoidable person. He has some lovely traits. He is the biggest feminist anybody could meet. He says marriage without purpose is LOW IQ. FACTS. He is high on ideology but falls flat in terms of empathy and emotions. He is a bit extra selfish in this already selfish world. But, Juhi’s success as a writer comes out when she manages to make the annoying Bhaskor Bannerjee lovable too. The balance she strikes between making Bhaskor tolerable and Piku non-angelic is all any writer should aspire to get. This is also pretty evident from her other works like October (wonderful arc Dan has) and Vicky Donor (both the leads). All her characters exist in shades, neither pure white nor plain black. And that is what makes Shoojit Sircar’s Piku one of the most relatable films with among the most relatable characters Bollywood has ever made.

So, mad people making a mad film is not really a MAD THING, afterall.

Until next time, bye.

Tamasha – Fighting For Love

Imtiaz Ali is in my opinion one of the most interesting filmmakers working in India today. If there is one quality that sets him apart, it is his unique way of looking at people and their perceptions. All of his films so far deal with love but they look at different kinds of love. Some modern, some traditional and a few somewhere in between. Today, I’d like to take a look at a scene from Tamasha: the one that leads up to the “Agar Tum Saath Ho” song.

If you were to convince someone to watch this film, show them this scene. What Deepika and Ranbir bring to the screen transcends acting. They become Tara and Ved and all traces of the star in them vanishes. The setup is that Tara has come to apologize to Ved and Ved does not really know how to express his emotions. There’s one particular line that sums up the whole scene. Tara says:

‘Koi complex hoga tumhaare andar, jisko maine touch kar diya…’

This acts as the trigger point as it angers Ved. His tone changes and the anger is visible in Ranbir’s eyes. It all comes to a boil when Ved says this:

‘Mujhena is waqt bilkul bharosa nahin hai ki main kaise react karoonga…’

tamasha-18a

Here is a man who is unsure of what he feels it comes out as anger and frustration. On the other hand we have a woman who is sure of what she wants to say and feel. She is concerned, worried about this man but also in love with him. It is a cocktail of emotions that is tough to deal with for her as well. She doesn’t want to let him go but he has to escape this situation as he himself says. Tara just wants to be with him but it is not possible at that moment. The shot of them lying head down with tears on their faces is one of the most soul crushing shots I’ve seen in recent times.

The perfect bookend to this scene arrives in the form a classic track by AR Rahman. “Agar Tum Saath Ho” is such a beautiful song on it’s own and when it gets added to the visuals, it becomes an unforgettable treat. This is the power of Imtiaz Ali, someone who takes a look at a situation and sees how different people would approach it. Tamasha was an under performing film at the box office when it released and that is a shame. We deserve to see more diverse love stories and as long as Imtiaz Ali is around, we have hope.

 

Rahman’s 10 Aces – Episode 10

The films listed in this series are in chronological order and do not reflect the quality of the soundtracks mentioned in this list.

10 Aces

The third collaboration between Imtiaz Ali and AR Rahman ended up producing what may be an underrated album. Compared to the reception that Rockstar and Highway got, it was a little less euphoric for Tamasha. But this doesn’t do justice to the magic of this soundtrack. There are 8 songs and 1 instrumental track and all of them are just brilliant. They complement the story as well as accentuate what happens. Whether it is the breezy feel of Matargashti or the devastating impact of Agar Tum Saath Ho, Rahman keeps making us feel things that we didn’t know were possible. We are lucky to be witnessing music of this quality so all I can say is thank you Mr. Rahman and happy birthday.

Until next time, bye.