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By MEHR TARAR
PUBLISHED: 00:31, 11 May 2015 | UPDATED: 00:31, 11 May 2015
From pk to Piku, and nothing in the middle. The last two Indian films I watched, and loved. Diametrically different in theme and treatment, there's one factor that's common to both, other than of course the P and the K. Both these films have a heart.
And although one deals with the sublime, and the other the s***, both have an endearing simplicity and pathos that speak directly to the mind, pulls at your heart strings, and cheekily nudges you to question.
The right way to pray, and the right way to defecate are not concepts or actions that belong in the same place or the same article, but the idea of cleansing " soul and body respectively " is the key to both. And it's commendable to see Indian cinema venture into territories that are either too sacred to put a right foot in, or too commonplace to be attention-worthy.
Moving perfomances: Irrfan Khan, Deepika Padukone and Amitabh Bachchan in Piku
As is the norm with most films that have had a special screening for the Bollywood glitterati, there's an outpouring of ooohs, bravos and wows, and albeit the accolades, this doesn't really compel you to buy a ticket.
This time it did. The way everyone who watched Piku raved about it, one knew one had to watch Piku. And when the director is of the highly-acclaimed Madras Caf, Shoojit Sircar, and the cast features Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone and Irrfan Khan, you know the trip to the theatre won't be merely for mindless entertainment and caramel popcorn.
Surprisingly, this theatre in Lahore wasn't packed to capacity, but once the film started, there was a constant sound: of laughter. Not one for a film about bowel movements, and different ways of constipation relief, one was in for a surprise ride, a rollercoaster of emotions that spoke of things most leave unsaid.
When one writes about a film or a book, it's not to recap the story " the inanity of that never fails to amuse or annoy one " but simply an exercise to word how it affected one.
The viewing of a film like Piku is what connects people across sensibilities, ideas and borders. There's the subliminal bonding of human experiences, of shared emotions, of universal ethos of love, loss and pain.
Watching ordinary people carry the burden of their everyday existence, ghosts of people they've lost, withering expectations, bitterness that sours, dreams that are locked in dusty, creaky cupboards, plans that remain unfulfilled like the promises that were never made, one sees slivers of one's own life played out on a larger-than-life screen.
Landscape varies, the backdrop to events may be unfamiliar to one's experiences, and the dynamics of relationships may be out of sync with one's sensibilities, but the emotions underlying the events tiptoe into one's mind, finding their way to one's heart.
And there's a stirring within. Of having lived that moment. Of feeling the pain of that loss. Of gritting one's teeth, and shouting at the top of one's voice. Of wanting to sever the ties. Of the un-worded desire to close one's eyes to the peeling paint, the grouchy parent, the tick-tock of time passing one by, one complaint-filled, starless evening at a time, the relentless diurnal routine enclosing one within its arms in a hug that threatens to stifle.
There's a strong, ill-tempered, defiant Piku within many of us, whose unwavering love for her parent remains undiminished as she puts her life on hold, waiting for his toilet motion to be in order. No amount of arguments with an apparently senile parent or slamming of doors negates the existence of the underlying devotion that permeates her existence from the moment she wakes up to the time she closes her tired eyes and mind to sleep fitfully, only to awaken to the same grind.
The daughter Piku, played effortlessly and artlessly by Deepika, in arguably the best performance of her career, is the person most of us relate to while we reflect uneasily about our filial relationships. Bachchan's Bhaskor Bannerjee, Piku's father, is one of those unforgettable characters that makes you laugh, groan, shake your head, get exasperated, and love him in the end.
Bhaskor's facial expressions and owl-sized eyes behind those grandfather spectacles are a cinematic treat, and his relationship with his daughter is what makes this dysfunctional duo human and relatable as the family you can't live with, but can't live without.
His loudmouthed proclamations about her personal life even to strangers at a party, his constant refrains about his constipation, may make Piku cringe more often than she'd care to remember, but his abiding love for his deceased wife, and liberal views about how a woman should lead her life empowers Piku while she thinks his life is enfeebling her very core.
Rana Chaudhary, played by the inimitable Irrfan, is that person in our lives who walks into our door one day, grumbling, but becomes a part of it, enriching it with his quiet strength, low-key pragmatism and unsolicited warmth.
To me, Irrfan is that maximum artiste who displays a world of emotions with minimal acting.
Together, Piku, Bhaskor and Rana light up the screen, enacting uncomfortable truths about ordinary mortals who remain chained to the invariable bleakness of their lives, limited by their self-imposed rules of how their lives are to be lived.
The ensemble cast of Moushumi Chatterjee, Raghuvir Yadav, Jishu Sengupta et al form the exasperating but utterly endearing and delightful dynamic of Piku's apparently totally malfunctional, but full-of-warmth life.
Piku, it makes you laugh. Piku makes you think about that one family member whom you loved to hate yet missed the most. Piku evokes a longing for that one person who softens your sullen face with your 500-megawatt smile. Piku makes you reach out for your 4am friend, and give your favourite khala a giant hug.
And Piku stirs the realisation that your life may be ordinary, but the ties you share with those who love you make it extraordinary.
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Ever since Cocktail, you have received both critical and commercial acclaim for all your films. Does that instil more confidence in you to try out something as different as a Finding Fanny or a Piku?
I have seen a little bit of both in my career. I started off with an amazing debut but then had a string of films that flopped. Post Cocktail, everything has again started going upwards. But I don't take anything for granted either way. Does it give me confidence? Yes, a little bit. I don't think I would have done a Finding Fanny if this was not the case. But it also depends on where the audience is right now and the kind of films they watch and the scripts that are being written and the fact that many directors are ready to make such films. So it's a combination of a lot of things. It's not about where I am right now, it's about a lot of other factors.
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