Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Piku [2015]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
FilmiBeat.com listing

FilmiBeat.com (Suparno) review
MovieMahal.net (O. Ahmed) review
Digital Spy (P. Joshi) review
Access Bollywood (K. Gibson) review   
Indian Express (S. Gupta) review
Times of India (S. Mitra Das) review
Hindustan Times (A.Chopra) review
Hindustan TImes (S. Kaushal) review
Hindustan Times (N. Mishra) review  

Piku [2015] [IMDb] [FiBt] (directed by Shoojit Sircar [IMDb] [FiBt], screenplay by Juhi Chaturvedi [IMDb]) is a well written / well crafted / well acted, audience / critically acclaimed / award winning contemporary Indian "Father / (grown) Daughter relationship film" / dramedy that, smiling-from-ear-to-ear, serves as the second stop for my 2016 Indian Film Tour.  The film is available in the U.S. for a reasonable price on all kinds of streaming platforms (iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, etc)

The title character Piku (played by Deepika Padukone [IMDb] [FiBt] who won an Indian Filmfare Award, India's closest equivalent to the Oscars for her role) is 30-ish, educated, single (in good part by choice, but "if the right guy came along"), working as a junior architect at a Dehli architectural firm also lives with / takes care of her widowed and rather hypochondriac, not particularly pleasant, stool obsessed dad Bhaskor Banerjee (played by Amitabh Bachchan [IMDb]] [FiBt]).

Yes, I do believe that a fair amount of Westerners will be initially taken aback by the amount of stool / bodily functions discussed in this film.  Yet we should remember a good part of traditional Indian medicine is concerned with "cleansing the body" and especially the colon of "toxins" (and then honestly, vegetables would tend to be "gassy").  In any case, Piku's dad seemed absolutely convinced that he was going to _die_ of constipation. "But dad, _nobody's_ ever died of constipation." "Elvis did."  "Elvis??"  "Yes, when they found him dead, they found him sitting on the toilet ..."  

Be that as it may, Piku's quite unhappy dad at home serves as a significant drag on her life.  And it's not necessarily that he's "evil."  Educated / otherwise quite liberal himself, he's often a stronger advocate for his daughter's independence than she herself is. Yes, one does wonder if that's at least in part "self-serving" on his part -- if she's single, she still has to take care of him.  On the other hand, he also does seem to be _sincere_ about his desire that his well educated daughter not simply be(come) "a slave" of whoever she'd end up marrying:

In one of the funniest scenes in a film, after Piku's aunt (played wonderfully by Moushumi Chatterjee [IMDb] [FiBt]), her revered (deceased) mother's sister, tries setting her up with some 'intellectual artist type' "back in Dehli from San Francisco" it's her dad who gives him the 4th degree.  Piku's dad: "Why would a guy like you want to get married?" Possible suitor (taken a bit aback / trying to be nice): "Well, maybe if I met a nice girl..." Piku's dad: "Well, my daughter's _not_ a virgin.  She's well educated, financially independent, sexually independent.  She _does not need_  someone like you.  Would she be the kind of 'nice girl' that you'd be looking for ..." Piku (rolling her eyes): "Thanks dad ..."  

 Well all comes to a head when Piku decides that she'd really like to take a few days off from work (really from her dad ...) and he decides that what she really means is that she'd like to take him back to their family back in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) (they are originally Bengali).  Rolling her eyes, no that's not at all what she meant.  But, then who's gonna take care of her dad while she's gone?  They've gone through 4-5 housekeepers in a couple of months, because, ever constipated, he seems to be always in such a bad mood.  So she consents.

But then, how to get her dad from Dehli to Kalkota 1500 km (1000 miles) away?  He doesn't want to fly (totally messes up one's intestines).  Doesn't want to go by train (again the constant "rocking back and forth" messes everything up inside).  Fortunately, there's now a modern limited access expressway that goes between the two cities.  So they "hire a taxi" to take them there, something that Americans or West Europeans would not necessarily do, but is not entirely uncommon in other parts of the world.  Last fall, I reviewed an Argentinian movie Road to La Paz [2015] about an elderly man hiring a taxi to drive him from Buenos Aires, Argentina to La Paz, Bolivia).

The taxi driver (actually the owner of the taxi company that the hire) is played by famed Indian actor Irrfan Khan [IMDb] [FiBt] and he has fun with this rather odd set of clients.  And the dad again isn't necessarily mean toward him, and even sympathizes with him as the taxi driver (owner of said firm) explains to him (and Piku) that he was actually an engineer and had spent a number of years working "in Saudi" but finally could not stand being "kept in his place" by people who so obviously "knew less than him," finally returning to Dehli to take over his dad's fairly successful taxi firm instead: "A lot of honest people end up like you, taking jobs like you (rather than in the fields that they were traine for)."  But then the dad's colon takes over his head again and ... they find themselves stopping _over and over_ so that he could _try_ to go to the bathroom.  So it makes for a _long_ trip ;-)

But the film keeps a humorous beat.  IMHO the funniest line in the film comes when they stop for the night at some "roadside hotel" midway between Dehli and their destination.  Handing them the keys, the clerk tells them quite matter-of-factly: "Prayer's at 5, checkout's at 8" ;-) -- ALL my American Servite colleagues who've ever been to India remember _well_ THE BLARING literally "from the roof-tops" 4:30 or 5:00 AM Muslim "call to worship" ;-) ;-)

Anyway, much family stuff has to happen, and it does.  And it all makes for a very nice contemporary movie about family life in India today.

A lovely, lovely film. 

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