Monday, May 23, 2016

"Piku" - a tasteful adaption and glorious performances

"Piku" - a tasteful adaption and glorious performances
There is an apocryphal story about Tenali Raman ( the equivalent of Birbal in Northern India) and his King Krishna deva Raya. I have heard this story as a child, but I have not found any evidence of its literary source. However, the story itself is very meaningful and true , and sets the tone for this piece. It goes something like this. One day, the king had a curious question placed for consideration in his court. He asked his wise Men " What is the happiest act a Man can perform in a day, without which his life would be hell". As is customary, Poets, Ministers, intellectuals gave their answers. Some said charity, others lenience and justice, many others suggested money, select few dared to say devoted service of a good wife and many other ventured different answers to suit the ears of the king . Finally, the King turned to Tenali. The young and wise Jester looked around, hesitated a little, swallowed some saliva and said " Oh King, the best moment in a Man's life is the profound joy he derives when he clears his bowels after a hearty, satisfying meal. Nothing can come close to that ecstatic satisfaction.." The court was silent and stunned. This was an impertinent answer. The king grew red in his face, and said "Raman, How dare you speak obscenities in my court. I Banish you to the outskirts of my Kingdom for a few months..." Well Raman knew this was coming and so bowed and left the court accordingly. A few months later, Raman sought audience with the King to call him to his house warming ceremony. He had lot of time in his hands; hence built a huge palace for himself with numerous rooms. The King always had a soft corner for Raman, and decided to grace the occasion. On the appointed day, Raman organized a grand feast. Course after course of sumptuous food Kept arriving on the plantain leaf, and the king (known for his voracious appetite ) ate his heart full. When it was over, Raman solicitously requested the king to accompany him on a tour of his house. With the fullness of food in the stomach, the King's face and state was glowing with contentment and happiness. He readily agreed to go with Raman. Both of them walked room after room with Raman tarrying at every spot to explain architectural subtleties to the king. The place had Four floors, and it took down them two hours to visit two floors. The initial enthusiasm of the king was beginning to wane, and also he began to sense a vague discomfort in his stomach. His digestion process was beginning to do its job. Quietly, he asked "Raman, is there a Bathroom anywhere close?". Raman Replied "Yes, My King, just a few more rooms and will be there..". So saying, the house tour continued for another two hours. Meanwhile, the king was in a terrible mess physiologically and psychologically. He could barely walk,or listen, concentrate or appreciate the finer nuances Tenali was attempting to explain. All that he could think off was When and where to relieve his bowels. Every room began to look like a Toilet to his eyes, but Raman was seemingly oblivious to Kings's concern. He kept saying " Just a few rooms more..". After nearly five hours, The king could hold it no more. He stopped and yelled at Tenali " I cannot move an inch forward without relieving my bowels. I command you to show me a toilet instantly". At the moment, Tenali pointed to a door and said that was it. The King ran like a mad man into it, and as he relieved his bowels, there was audible sound of relief heard from inside. When complete, the King came out with a beaming smile and happiness writ all over his face. He hugged and patted Tenali " You scoundrel, you wanted to prove your point on the joy relieving one's Bowels; Therefore you played his elaborate drama.... Hahahaha. I understand now and completely agree with you. This was the most joyful moment of my day.. No doubt. My wise Minister. You are welcome back to my court..."
Two hours of "Piku", and you will see the relevance of my story above. In tenali's story the King could not contain himself; in "Piku" Bhaskor bannerji finds its hard to get it out of him. We call it constipation. The difference is only one of semantics, essential problem is the same. Well, coming to the meat of my essay, after nearly one year of being in my playlist, I finally got around to watching Piku today. A brilliant theatrical!!. A simple story, a slice of life that reveals more than it conceals, it really showcases what Indian film makers can acheive when they strive to get out of the stereotyped commercialism that sells.
Maturity in film making happens, when its praticitiioners can lift a subtle relationship, embroider and elevate it to act as a mirror for its viewers. As long as it only deals with flights of imagination and has nothing to do with reality, films are nothing better than cheap titillations of senses. Indian cinema, has for long been caught in this vicious cycle of fantasies, and it's time that mold in broken and the art is taken to the next level. Piku takes a look at the lives of a Father and daughter with fresh eyes. Over the years, relationships between Parents and children in cinema has undergone drastic change, but most them are exaggerated. But here,for the first time ( at least for me), there is a brutal honesty between them. It juxtposes modernity with cultural roots, which is an important part of Indian culture. No matter, how westernized one may become, genetic roots will take generations to mutate. Until then, we have to straddle between two worlds. In Piku Bannerji - played to perfection by the charming and beautiful Deepika Padukone - we see an intellectual gleam in her eyes, a strong sense of professional and personal identity, a filial love which can empathize and argue with equal vigor and consistency, and above all a depth of character willing to change when facts are presented with honesty. And Bhaskor Bannerji!!. - the father..Who else in Indian Cinema can play this role? None in my opinion. Probably Kamal, after a decade will reach this level of excellence; but for others, this acting performance by Amitabh Bachan should be bedside bible. Fifty years of evolution as an actor reaches its crescendo here. His sheer brilliance rubs off on Deepika's talent. Like the reflected light of Moon, she shines in scenes where she engages her father in debate, argument an understanding.
Shoojit Sircar - the director has beautifully constructed this movie. Admittedly, the story is taken off a Hollywood film, but like great directors, Shoojit has adapted it well for Indian screen. I loved his sensitive treatment in Vicky Donor, and Piku has again proved he has it in him to break out of type casts. The only element of this movie, I was not thoroughly convinced was Irfan Khan's role as Rana - an educated unemployed entrepreneur struggling with his business and family. Neither was Irfan's, normally focused performance , anywhere near his best, nor was the character really necessary at all. Between an intense father daughter relationship, Rana is lost. While I do agree, he provides some turning moments in the story, My point is, it did not need the talent and caliber of Irfan to be playing that part. Anyone else would have done justice.
Finally, to end this rather long essay and review, I must add that the best part of this movie is that there is no Philosophizing or moralizing. Bhaskor bannerji suffers from constipation, does not believe in low IQ marriages, protective of his daughter, and then suddenly dies like any other. That's the end, Life goes on for Piku as she is shown picking up discarded threads in her own world. No brouhaha, no fanfare - just as life Normally is. And to translate this essence on to screen captivating audiences world wide is phenomenonal.. Cheers!! To all concerned.
God bless...
Yours in mortality ,

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