In one of the opening scenes of the movie, Piku snubs her father’s irrational fears of dying a bowel death by saying, “No one has ever died of constipation.” Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the movie. This one surely is death by Constipation.
No, not bad at all, in fact it has an original, interesting premise – an irate, widowed, old man Bhaskar (Bhashkor essayed by Amitabh) lives in his own world on his own terms. He is that verbose vociferous vintage caricature who thinks he knows it all and wants to control everyone/everything around him, but there is one thing that literally escapes him – his bowel movements. I am personally not a fan of potty humor, but let’s face it – it is an interesting premise for the film to start with.
And with actors like Amitabh Bachhan, Deepika Padukone and Irrfan Khan in the mix, you can only expect this to be really entertaining.
Piku is a slice-of-life story of an eccentric father and his empathetic daughter, who invite you to their shitty, “shitless” world – where the father cannot complete a sentence without mentioning his potty troubles and the daughter constantly finds her personal life is a case of “shit has hit the fan” – thanks to her interfering father’s questionable possessiveness that is a pain to endure.
So there’s Bhaskar for whom his bowel troubles are the center of his universe and there is Piku who is forced to revolve around her father.. It’s a dizzy rollercoaster and their everyday arguments are simply mountains of a molehill. The father-daugther equation is a rare portrayal or earthy discomforts, and everyday dysfunction that every family has. Be it complaining about missing salt, or that gossiping an aunt and her affairs, or dramatic family drama over dinner. This is what makes the film watchable and endearing – its realistic take on a typical Bengali family, who love their language, their music and their food.
Once you are over the atmosphere and characters of the movie, the film, much like the audience, starts looking for a purpose – because really, constipation can’t be the sole topic of the movie. So we are told there is an ancestral house in Calcutta, which Piku wants to sell and Bhashkor doesn’t. But the old twat will have it his way – he MUST GO to Calcutta, MUST travel by road, AND they MUST carry his commode chair! (When you reach Calcutta, you realize that he is owner and only he can authorize the sale, so then why MUST he visit, beats me. Anyway..)
The driver of this juggernaut duo is Rana Chaudhary (Irrfan Khan) – the owner of a taxi company where no one wants to be Piku’s chauffeur – infamous for her temper and demanding ways. Also accompanying them is Piku’s house help – who among other things has to make a shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh sound so that the hypochondriac patriarch can pee. Brimming with trademark quirks this (fl)awesome foursome is on a roadtrip that the audience can’t wait to experience.
So when it’s the interval and the journey jolts to a stop in the middle of a highway, you are wondering exactly how this group will survive the journey both - with and without each other. You know that together, the father and daughter can somehow put the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional - like that moment in the taxi when out of nowhere they start humming a duet and end in a warm repartee. You simply can’t wait for the film to take off in the second half.
However, the promising premise is not only its highlight but also its only high point, as the movie fails to tie ends and make a solid finish. Post interval, the characters (much like the movie itself) wander around Calcutta – in an attempt to make sense of the plots of their lives. So we meet Pikus uncle and aunty, who bring more flavor, banter and fights to the dinner tables, but again with no real movement to the story. There is also a romantic angle between Rana and Piku that never really takes center stage – and the film is so commode centric, that this subplot seems somewhat forced. Not to mention, the chemistry is missing.
The real chemistry of the movie between the father and daughter eventually comes to a slow tragic end. Clearly, Amitabh has loved playing this character – his body language brimming with that annoying, overconfident, overbearing presence of a know-it-all. While Maushumi and Irrfan are delightful in their rather small roles, it is Deepika who surprises you once again by matching Bachhan in their verbal duels. As the unashamed, unflinching, yet vulnerable Piku she makes you empathize with her every time she compromises. If there were doubts, this movie is a thundering reaffirmation that she has DEFINITELY arrived!
It is therefore, with a very heavy heart that I must say, this movie let me down. I don’t know if it was an overkill of the constipation conversations, or the lack of pace and twists in the plot, but somehow the sum of all great performances still translated into a very average movie. There may not be too many films better that this, this year, but the real undoing is that there seemed to be so much potential and such great performance, that you wish it delivered a knockout blow, which it so does not!
Like Bhashkor declares after one his bowel attempts you say rather unamusedly Okay, but not satisphactory!”