Piku (2015) – A Quirky Tale of Family, Heritage and Hierarchies

This is just a lovely film and all too familiar to many of us. It’s the perfect combination of everything I would hope for in a film like this and the way the story goes, its not just watching a film, but watching a family. This time with ALL the flaws to go with it and it’s brilliant and comforting at the same time.


Piku Banerjee is an architect living and working in Delhi and taking care of her chronically constipated 70-year old father Bhashkor. When Piku wants to sell their ancestral home Champa Kunj in Kolkata her father objects and trying to kill the deal decided to take a trip to Kolkata. Piku knowing he cannot travel alone with his health – and just being who he is – decides to take some time off work and travel with her father and their servant Budhan to Kolkata. An unexpected addition to their group – Rana Chaudhary – the owner of the taxi company that Piku uses ends up as their driver on the journey. The story is their journey to Kolkata and what happens when they arrive there.



The cast in this is absolutely perfect, playing off one another and the changing chemistries between them. Seeing this many good actors in this very relatable story that we will all experience at some point in our lives – for such a small film in terms of story there is great talent put in to something like this and it shows.

Deepika Padukone as Piku Banerjee is a headstrong woman who would be called “bossy” in a far worse film, but instead you think of her as The Boss that she truly is. She is both the adult and child, taking control of her life – in both in terms of sex and work – but still somewhat subservient to her father’s wills because logically it can’t be anyone but her to take care of him and his varying moods. She is truly an inspirational woman in a film, real and clustered and knows her own worth and what she deserves. In all of the mess and “shit” that goes on in her life she still finds enjoyment in the little things like bangles bought on impulse and in her favourite sport, badminton.

Amitabh Bachchan as Bhashkor Banerjee is truly a C-change from this former ‘Angry Young Man’ turning in to a ‘Miserly Old Man’. The way he phrases his words are still wonderful on the ear and the added stutter and bumblings make this character in the hands of Amitabh in to something greater, yet unexpected as all this talk of shit and misery come from him of all people – The Grandfather of the Hindi Film Family that now rules. His character is both behind the times – in terms of style – but still ahead of them – thinking that marriage is for low IQ people and that he is fine with how his daughter Piku has chosen to live her life. Though, how much the marriage talk even against his wife is due to possible dementia is up to us to decide. He can be very rude and unfeeling with that he says, but I think it comes from old age, not malice.

Irrfan Khan as Rana Chaudhary gets pulled in to this eccentric families business. He is good as always, blending in beautifully with the characters own eccentricities coming to light. His chemistry with Deepika is quietly electric and respectful. Their scenes together is like two fine tuned violins playing in harmony but with different players playing the music who each have their own styles.

Jisshu Sengupta as Syed Afroz, Piku’s good friend and also casual sex partner when she has her needs. It’s just so nice that this is treated so casually and Bhashkor is fine with inter-religious relationships – even casual sex ones – under his roof. There is no judgement in this movie of it and it more serves to elevate Piku than to tare her down, since it’s completely in her terms that this relationship is what it is. Akshay Oberoi (Raza from ELKDTAL) makes a teeny tiny cameo appearance as one of Piku’s dates whom she turns down. It seems he has no luck in getting a girl in this movie either.


At first watch it seems simple, and with the trailer being what it is it seems to be clear cut what you are going to get from this film. Except it is so much more than the trailer, Piku is a feminist character that I admire (more in the spoiler section), the quiet moments and the ambiguity of other moments come together beautifully and the soundtrack reflects it. With Anupam Roy doing the music for this, he is a Bengali composer and it stays true to the mood and reflection – as well as the fun – of this movie. Its one of my favourite soundtracks of all time, one that I am always glad to listen to.

Now Bengali’s are shown usually stereotypically with their big red bindi’s and Durga Puja’s even in Hindi films, but this film removes all that and puts it in the little things of everyday. Piku is shown praying to Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a Bengali Hindu Saint and Mystic from the 19th century. She does wear bindi’s, but they are small and dark or blue or not wearing one at all, whatever looks good with her wardrobe that day. There are paintings of Raja Ravi Varma in the house and Piku likes Satyajit Ray movies. Bhashkor dances to an old Bengali song named ‘Jibone ki Pavo Na’ from Tin Bhubaner Pare (1969) that he no doubt heard or saw in the theatre when he was little.

(The song Piku and Bhashkor sing in the car from the Bengali film Spatapadi (1961))

Even being away from Kolkata they haven’t lost their roots, but have made their own comfortable Kolkata at home. No doubt having a Bengali director elevates the film and no doubt he is showing his own favourite places in Kolkata when Piku takes a tour of the city. But they aren’t shown in a touristy way, just this small comfortable spot here, or a fast walk way here or this vendor just happened to have good food there. The characters talking and walking is more important to the characters themselves than which vendor they went to. Just some nice little touches I like that make the film so much more for me.

This is a good film, wonderfully made with realism, but with an edge of quirkiness with the talk of shit and bowel movements. The atmosphere is light and breezy and real, people talking over one another and the quirky humour is as natural as the motions of the bowels. One doesn’t need a strong stomach to handle this film, just some good company especially if one wants to show this film who only think “Bollywood is  stupid with only song and dance”. Its on Netflix in Finland so go watch it and you won’t be disappointed!

Hindi Cinema (I loathe the term Bollywood, but I understand its use) is so much more and this is a good film to start converting people to its other side. Being a little over 2 hours long it shows the normal middle-class life of many Indians living up north and how mixed culturally Delhi is as well as a tour of Kolkata through non-tourist filtered eyes. Its not western, nor is it trying to be, its throughly Indian and thoroughly enjoyable.







Deepika Padukone’s Piku is one of my favourite characters to come out of Hindi films in recent years and just her performances in general. As I talked already about the casual sex and being The Boss she is also quite the tyrant along with her father – they are misers, in her father’s words. She gets irritated, angry, complains about taxi drivers so much that she terrifies them and snaps back to her father without a beat. Yes, she still respects him and will touch elders feet, but she has a good head on her shoulders and is not meek to express what she thinks. She is not a good girl or a bad girl, she is a woman; a normal woman who brushes her teeth, unclogs the toilet, complaints and takes care of the household and works outside the house as the earner while her father is retired and living with her. She has the need to be right, and when she has to relent and call the taxi company – with Rana on the line whom she has just berated with the threat of not using them again – she says her order all quickly and matter-of-a-factly and then screams in to the pillow from the frustration.


She has her soft moments as well, letting the maid have a few days off just to think over not leaving because of her father’s antics. Seeing her father dance a little tipsy makes her drink a gulp of red wine and shut her door, both enjoying themselves separate from one another. They sing songs in the car that they have no doubt sung since Piku was a toddler. Deepika’s laugh is just beautiful and in Piku’s moments of reflection she shines even more than Irrfan.

I will go more in to Piku’s and Rana’s chemistry here. They compliment each other well, both headstrong and smart mouthed and unafraid. At one point Piku says that he reminds her of her father as he is trying to fix a water pipe. Maybe for her the best person is the kind she knows she can handle since its so familiar, but won’t handle her in return like her father does? There is a battle of wills as one point she is driving and has to relent the driving back to Rana because her father says so – with the reason that Piku hasn’t driven on the highway before. To stop her father’s ramblings she relents, but Rana and she both know that it’s not what she wants. At one point Rana gets fed up with Bhashkor’s antics and calls the old man out on his neurotic and irritating behaviour. Piku doesn’t say anything, she listens and looks to be looking inwards in herself as this happens. Her face is hard to interpret, but she doesn’t stop it. Rana perhaps did what Piku has wanted to do but couldn’t. At the end their relationship is close, with the two playing badminton in Piku’s yard, but Rana is behind the gate and only time will tell if he chooses or if Piku allows him to step in to the property of the house to play.

There is an element of letting go in this film. To free oneself of burdens for a moment and just live, or in the end die – like everyone has to. Bhashkor is paranoid about dying, being curious about every detail of it and looking for signs of death everywhere in his own eccentric way. In the end, when he finally takes out a bike – the set up being seeing a newspaper article about a 99 year old man bicycling – and wanting to have the same experience, eating salty foods he has otherwise avoided. Piku is furious because of worry when she finds out and Bhashkor dies during the night, happy to have fulfilled his one last day with that experience. The mourning is not too heavy, but still as it is Amitabh Bachchan that we are mourning it still hits.

Hierarchy and heritage is also a part of this film. To buy or sell an ancestral house? To let the old be put down and rebuilt with something new? The relationship between servant and master? It’s all here.

On their tour of Kolkata Piku is disappointed that the theatre that she remembered is gone. She had wanted to sell the house because she didn’t see herself in it and it had been years since she was there last. Now coming to Kolkata and seeing the house for its beauty she changes her mind and decides that the houses rooms are better put in to let than sold. Not taring down, but changing how things are done is what she decides and stays a little longer in the house as a result.

At the beginning Rana won’t start the car or drive as the servant is sitting next to him, only until Piku sits next to him does he truly feel equal and the journey begins. The maid is being hounded by Bhashkor for apparently eyeing the things in the house, while it’s clear it’s just his own paranoia. The hierarchy of wife and husband is spoken of, with Piku’s aunt saying she didn’t get a good job back in the 70s because then she would be earning more than her husband. It in a way makes sense as to why Bhashkor thinks being married is for low IQ people, because of India’s culture where bride price or dowry still exists even though it’s illegal, a man might just want a maid or a “nice woman” to worship him, inter-caste or inter-religious marriages are still looked down upon and so much more that I won’t touch upon now because it’s depressing and this isn’t a depressing movie by any means. Perhaps Bhashkor has seen all this happen and knows the dangers and so thwarts Piku’s potential suitors with words that she is an independent woman and is not a virgin – which are all true – only getting the answer that married to that kind of a woman “depends” from the suitor that we see. He maybe wants to protect Piku, being the caring if not eccentric father that he is, but letting her in on this might have been better.

He is after all a human with faults. And being so old and the child while his daughter is the adult in the house. Its just nature that when people become old they revert back to being a child and since Bhashkor lost Piku’s mother many years ago he sees his only connection to her in Piku and is not ready to let go. Same as when he bicycled and let go of his hypercondriac ways, so Piku has to let go of him when he dies and make something new with her life – that being Syed whom she finds out has constipation like her father – making their relationship a doomed one and ending on a light note and thus making the relationship between her and Rana a potential permanent one.

Maybe in the future when Piku might get married to Rana (in my imagination they do, but after they both feel like it) he looks on happily as he has known the man throughout the journey they all took together, who called him out, whom he relented to, who in the end makes his daughter happy and who helped with his constipation and the pipe in their ancestral home and whom he knows to have experienced death with his own father. Piku won’t get another Bhashkor, instead she could get a Rana, a man very much like her father, but still as headstrong as she is who will appreciate her for all that she is – faults and all just like he wants for himself and what everyone wants in the end. After all the movie is named Piku, if her happiness is not the focus then there is a reason the movie isn’t named Bhashkor.


Thank you for reading!

3 thoughts on “Piku (2015) – A Quirky Tale of Family, Heritage and Hierarchies

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