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[Y]Watch: Piku, The Story Of Love Behind The “Garb Of Shit”

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By Sourabh Harihar

Constipation. If someone were to tell you that you had to watch a movie that is centred around this often secretive and sometimes disgusting word, you would have cringed. And if someone were to further tell you that three of Hindi cinema’s leading stars were acting in it, you would have been most surprised. Well, that is exactly what ‘Piku’ as a film does. It surprises you, but pleasantly.

piku

While the film is littered with the usage of bowels, motions, and every other word in the common man’s gastrointestinal vocabulary, it gets past all the motion-talk to convey its underlying premise, that is – emotion. As one character sums it up quite straightforwardly, ‘Aadmi ka emotion uske motion se juda hua hai’ (A man’s emotion is linked to his motion). Well, at least in the context of this movie, one could not agree more. ‘Piku’, subtly woven around this oft humorous potty narrative, is simply a joy to watch. And that is because behind the garb of all the shit, is a very strong story, of a father-daughter bond, of a man struggling with his age, of a modern independent woman juggling family and work, of an embittered man rediscovering himself, and of an unseemly pair of people finding themselves come closer.

Amitabh Bachchan as the constipated old father is endearing despite the irritability. The septuagenarian plays the fussy old Bengali ‘baba’ with a mischievousness that is reminiscent of his character in ‘Paa’. With his I-know-it-all dialogues and stubborn antics acted out so wonderfully, Mr. Bachchan makes a permanent room in our heart as Bashkor Banerjee. It is a stupendous achievement that the character, which for most parts of the film makes you laugh, leaves you in tears by the end of it. Watch out especially for his exchanges with his sister in-law, played effortlessly by a flamboyant Moushumi Chatterjee.

Irrfan Khan is, well, Irrfan Khan. He slips into the role of Rana ‘non-Bengali’ Chaudhary, the driver who is not a driver, with the ease that only he can manage. His presence lends this somewhat supporting character a much-needed weight. His silent expressions, especially in response to Bashkor’s very talkative character, are ones to cherish. Through Rana’s personality, Irrfan plays it all- the serious, the humorous and the flirtatious guy, the latter two we’ve not often seen him play in his movies. Somewhere in the second half of the film, Rana explains to Bashkor the merits of an Indian latrine-squat, which is surely one of the comic high points of ‘Piku’.

While all of Piku’s cast is great, including the loyal servant and other family relatives, it is Deepika Padukone who seems to have arrived to the acting stage with this film. While she’s made some strides on this front in some of her previous films, her titular role in Piku stands apart in terms of emoting the many layers of this fairly complex woman. As a girl who loves her father and wants to take care of him, while also longs for a married life which her father openly discourages her from, Deepika as Piku shows both grit and vulnerability. She is at once both modern and traditional, progressive and rooted, and in that she manifests the very dichotomy of today’s Indian woman. This will undoubtedly have to be one of her best performances till date.

Yet, despite boasting a stellar cast, Piku’s real triumph comes in its writing. From Bengali banter to serious family conversation, from medical terminologies to smart endorsements, everything has been accommodated brilliantly in this gem of a script. The comedy comes out subtly and very effectively through a beautiful amalgamation of the written word and its pitch perfect delivery.

Although seemingly a light-hearted comedy, ‘Piku’ as a movie very skilfully manoeuvres its many jokes to ask some very poignant questions. While Rana prods Piku to think about the consequences of forgetting her roots, Piku reciprocates on another occasion by posing a much tougher life question, that of marriage and commitment. “What is so negative about death?” Bashkor asks a protesting Piku. At another juncture, he questions Rana if women are meant to serve men food in the afternoon and sex in the night. Or on a much lighter occasion, after stating in a matter-of-fact way that his daughter is not a virgin, he asks her potential date if his daughter still fits his definition of a ‘nice’ girl. Love them or hate them, Piku’s father-daughter pair and their entourage make you think and reflect when you’re chuckling at their mundane bickering. But while doing so, they do not try to be preachy, moralistic or larger than life. Therein lies the success of ‘Piku’.

Piku’ is a gutsy film, not least because it talks so much about the gut and its various complications. It is the very slice of life that Hindi cinema often turns a blind eye to. It is like the journey from Delhi to Kolkata that forms the backdrop of most of the film– long, bumpy and full of stopovers – but if you take it leisurely, you are in for an experience of a lifetime. Go watch this journey unfold.

You must be to comment.
  1. Pratyush Sinha

    Loved this review! Kudos to the author for being witty, considerate and fair. And if this review doesn’t make someone go and watch the movie, he/she should be cursed with constipation.

  2. Anitha Choudhary

    A well presented review!! Exactly felt and realised all this when watched the movie… Every line of dailogue that drew attentation is summarised here..Nice!!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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