Now here is a lovely, lovely film. Dump this review and get your arse over to Amazon Prime and watch it. Are you an ageing father? Are you a supportive daughter? Is your relationship based on love, worry and bickering? They made a film just for you, by turns sweet, funny, faintly obscene and kind, Piku.
Old Jack loved this. We join the house of old Bhaskoe Banerjee – the Big B of Indian cinema (Amitabh Bachchan) in startling character-actor mode. He can’t shit, worries about not shitting, talks shit and won’t stop discussing his shit issues. He is grumpy, cantankerous, self-absorbed and very old. Old Jack smiled at the wish list of insults he comes out with, offending employees, friends and family. Gloriously funny and shot through with warmth.
Piku is his angry daughter. She’s into her thirties, single but all you need to know about feminism: a loved daughter, pulled in by responsibility and care, as direct and grumpy as her Dad. But an architect, full of knowledge, skill and intent. Deepika Padukone is Piku and makes her someone scary you really want to know. There’s a scene early on that brings tears: Piku is embarrassed at a social event by her Dad (who outlines to potential boyfriends that she is not a virgin), he drinks and dances too much, and is suddenly fading away in bed with tubes and a crazy-haired doctor. Piku, parking her rages, sits and weeps for the old man.
This rowing family decide to head back to the old family home, a daylong road trip slowed to three times that length by Bhaskoe’s bowel issues. He won’t fly, so, yuk. An extended row between Piku and the local taxi firm has led to all the drivers refusing to go near her, so owner Rana (Irrfan Khan, or, here, just Irrfan) takes them. The trio are great fun. Ill-tempered, refusing to budge when they don’t get their way (each gets to sit on the motorway sidings and glower in silence), throwing out character like a practised team. Bachchan is shit-obsessed and critical, Padukone stressed and more stressed, and Irrfan a tour de force of side-glances and flickering comedy. I wouldn’t want to be in the car with them, but the rows are properly funny.
Okay, so the story is no great surprise. Rana notices Piku, despite their snarky badinage. Piku warms to Rana on the journey and as he helps out at their destination. And Bhaskoe lumbers around the old family home, squashing the attempts of family to be chirpy (and sell the place), toying with the need to shit and find a route to better health. But the predictability of the plot doesn’t matter – old Jack was so charmed he barely noticed.
The core of Piku‘s success is the performance of the three stars and the relationships they portray. An old, direct, past-caring man is a thing to behold. I like to think my days of constipation carry the same power. An angry, scared, noble-but-doesn’t-see-it daughter is a thing to love: properly and true. And a new friend, funny and fresh and bringing acceptance and potential, is a hope in a storm. Yup – old Jack loved them, for they gave me two hours of a gorgeous new family while mine were away.
If you’re lonely, Piku makes for a filmic hug, not too mushy, but friendly and funny and warm. And as a father of a daughter, it is a rare treat.