By Aditi Saraswat:
Piku celebrates a woman. It celebrates her sense of independence: sexual, emotional or financial, in that order. Piku’s father Bhaskor opines, “marriage without purpose is a low I.Q decision” as women often sacrifice their dreams for furthering those of their husbands’ and children. He is more than alright with premarital sex; in fact, at one point he advises Piku that she should keep her relation with a man ‘just casual‘.
One wonders how many fathers come equipped with this sense of celebration of their daughter’s sexual independence. After all, many of us have to sit with our parents and patiently explain our many choices – from that off shoulder dress to our ‘live- in status‘. Not for Piku though. At first one is gripped with a tingling euphoria for mainstream Hindi Cinema’s coming-of-age with films like these. But as Bhaksor keeps reminding her that she does not need a married life and actively prevents her from venturing in that direction, one wonders, is her agency being celebrated or subverted?
At the heart of the film is not constipation, but a father who would not let go of a caregiver daughter. Be it dismissing the aunt’s foreboding that Piku should get married or his using her ‘sexually independent status‘ to dissuade potential suitors. Piku is free in all senses of the term, except of course if she wants to marry. The question here is not of the desirability of marriage in Piku’s or any other woman’s life, it is a matter of agency, of choice. By hovering over her horizon at all times, and drowning out her voice by ridiculing her craving for a commitment, he makes his championing the cause for female sexual liberation hollow. Why does one need to marry if they can have all the sex in the world with a resounding permission from their parents? As if marriage was just about sex.
Piku’s father is a worried old man, though mostly worried about his non-existing ailments and yes, that is okay. He wants to be showered with attention and care and yes, that is okay too. There is no denying that Piku wants to take care of Bhaskor and knowingly puts her love life on a backburner for him. In that respect, the film has depicted the sentimental insecurities which our parents face with great beauty and finesse. But should the film be considered a feminist film, as it is being labelled? In my opinion, Bhaskor preaches – almost vehemently- women’s independence in all forms, and that marriage is nothing but shackles. But he practices different stuff, which is noted when we learn that Piku’s mother gave up her job to let Bhaskor’s career soar, or when he never entertains the thought of her marriage. In fact, in his death is a realization which hits the audience hard and square – no longer does Piku look back over her shoulder.
The film’s treatment of the childlike idiosyncrasies of an old parent is a fresh one, and the earnestness with which Piku understands and takes on her father’s hypochondria is heart warming. If it manages to drag premarital sex out of the taboo list into our drawing room discussions, it is a task well begun. If it can start a dialogue on what feminism means in our varied contexts, it is a job well done, and we can congratulate the makers. But as a text, it fails to persuade me as a feminist one.
Also read: What Piku Taught Me About Feminism