Saturday, May 09, 2015


Potty Peeves

Bhaskar Bannerjee is a 70-year-old hypochondriac obsessed with his bowel movements.  As if this was not annoyance enough for his daughter, he gleefully announces to a potential suitor that she is not a virgin, hoping to nip the match in the bud, because he does not want her to get married. He treats his domestic help like a slave, who has to suffer the indignity of making ‘ssss’ sounds standing outside the restroom door while Bhaskar pees.

Shoojit Sircar’s Piku  (written by Juhi Chaturvedi) does examine the urban issue of geriatric care without the high-pitched Bollywood melodrama associated with it, but by making Bhaskar (Amitabh Bachchan--excellent), so annoyingly manipulative of his long-suffering daughter Piku (Deepika Padukone--radiant), he renders it too unbelievable.

Also, one assumes that his problem has not sprung up overnight, so why does every morning in the household begin with a shrieking match?; why does Piku interrupt an important client meeting or date to discuss the colour or consistency of her father’s crap?  After living in the same house as the crackpot, she should know just how to deal with his infantile behavior. He is rude to everyone from the maid, to the neighbor to his sister-in-law (Moushumi Chatterjee). Piku comes across as a helpless martyr.

She is not otherwise a shrinking violet; she has a “need” based relationship with her business partner (Jisshu Sengupta) and is horrid enough to scare off all the drivers of Rana’s (Irrfan Khan—perfectly wry) taxi service.  So her constant submission to her father’s unreasonable whims is unconvincing.

The film’s hysterical tone settles down somewhat when Rana takes on the onerous job of driving them to Kolkata—because no other driver will take on the hassle. Rana, who has a shrewish mother and sister himself, knows just how to deal with Bhaskar, though the old man’s stubbornness defeats him too, on a couple of occasions.

They arrive at the Kolkata mansion which Piku hopes to sell and a tentative friendship develops between Piku and Rana, but it all remains ambiguous.

The film is different in the way it sets up relationships and stays unpredictable; it has many warm and funny moments and absolutely wonderful performances from all the actors, even the one-scene appearances. But in the end it is as engaging or amusing as a dinner table conversation about shit.


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