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Then, suddenly I didn't want to watch it. The subject suddenly became too close to my life. Last week, I lost someone I've known for 20 years. Someone I've loved and respected dearly. Even from the rushes, I could guess the character played by Amitabh Bachchan was a lot like that person. Yet, I went.
Precisely 30 seconds into the movie, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably. With respect to my family and the stranger sitting next to me, I tried to collect myself. Again, in five minutes I was at it again. What I saw on the big screen was not just a resemblance but every movement of Amitabh Bachchan was 'Uncle' himself, my BFF's Baba-the language, the accent, the attitude, the thick glasses, health issues, every quirk, even the father-daughter relationship-every one bit was him. I wanted to leave the cinema hall. I then decided to brave it. Maybe I wanted catch another last glimpse of Uncle.
I guess this post is more about my experience while watching the film than a 'review'. So I am not going into a synopsis.
The story which is well known by now has been written by Juhi Chaturvedi. Hats off to her, I must say. How beautifully she has captured every fine nuance of all the characters-be it the house-help, the ever-available doctor, the charming aunt, the complaining aunt, the calm uncle, even the hapless taxi drivers that Piku manages to drive up the wall.
Each of the three principal characters, Piku (Deepika Padukone), Bhashkor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan) and Rana Chaudhary (Irrfan), is so real and not the demi-gods that we constantly get fed with. Juhi Chaturvedi treads uncharted waters to to make Piku's character every inch relatable. She is outspoken, is an independent architect, despite being extremely caring towards her father, she does lose her cool often. It is bound to happen in real life, doesn't it? An uncomplaining Florence Nightingale would have distanced herself from the audience completely. What's more, she doesn't flinch when she talks about her relationships, which she terms as "need based". I felt like standing up and clapping for the bravado.
Rana. Your heart goes out for this man who is a blend of practicality and sensitivity. He comes with his own set of problems that he's still dealing with. And at the end of the film, though not stated, I will not be surprised if he is shown still dealing with his painful mother-sister combo. You know, some people's problems don't ever get sorted. They just work their life around their problems. Rana just drives coolly into Piku's life and we'd like to assume that he stays there for good. Nice to have someone like him around you to keep you grounded. Yes, that's the effect this 'non-Bengali Chaudhary' has on you. He is probably the first ever man on the big-screen to have told a woman that she should drive because "driving is liberating". Another applause-deserving moment, that.
Bhashkor Banerjee is most of the time testing your patience but if you can manage to sit and have a conversation with him, he can hand over some amazing nuggets of wisdom. Loved his views on marriage. especially his view that marriage is a 'low-IQ' business! Sometime during the 1500 km journey, does he secretly wish that Rana and Piku pair up? His twinkling eyes throw us a hint.
That's the beauty of the direction and the screenplay. Nothing is explicit, except of course the gastro/digestion issues. This is the kind of film that respects the intellect of the audience. These filmmakers seem to tell themselves, "The audience don't need to be explained everything. Let them figure out some stuff on their own, the way they want to."
Coming to the cast: Deepika Padukone. She's completely out there! She just slips into Piku's character with total ease. I am so proud of her as an actor. She has gone ahead and captured her place quietly in the league of one of the most talented actors of today. The best part is that she makes no fuss about being part of art house cinema. She just does her job and how! Be it a brainless Chennai Express or a Piku, she gives her all. How wonderful it must be for filmmakers to work with someone like her. Her very smart yet, normal wardrobe in Piku deserves special mention.
Irrfan. Well, I've always been biased towards him. What can I say more than that he is just too good. His eyes convey so much. There's a particular scene where Piku casually mentions that her father won't let her get married. All that he does is in reaction is, turn towards her and raise his left eyebrow. How much he conveys through that one tiny gesture!
Amitabh Bachchan is an actor who cannot even be praised without sounding irreverent. There hasn't been an actor like him in Indian cinema - ever. Despite his 'star status' he is so willing to play any role. This speaks so much for his self-assurance. The lesser said of him, the better it is. Phew!
I do wish they make such films in Tamil. But greater than that, is a wish to see Rajinikant do such roles. I can bet my last rupee on the fact that he will do a great job.
Apart from music, the other technical aspect that I loved was the photography (Kamaljit Negi). I particularly loved the dining-table scenes. I can't remember any Indian film that has captured food so beautifully ever (I haven't watched Lunch Box and I hang my head in shame). Being a fan of Bengali food, the close-up shots of Bengali Yellow Pulao, Begun Bhaja were enough to floor me, so did the shot of the Jalebis. And then the streets Kolkata. No effort has been taken to glorify them. Yet, giving you a feeling of familiarity, breaking free of cliches (I've never been to Kolkata).
The film is backed by some wonderful songs, thankfully all as just background scores. Excellent score, lyrics and singing by Anupam Roy.
Like how a well prepared dish leaves you with a great after-taste, even two days after the watching the film, I remember everything vividly.The intense dining table conversations (whatever be the topic), the discussions (or battle?) over the menu, Piku's touching the picture of Ramakrishna Paramahans just before leaving home...and so much more to gather the essence of the culture easily. So many warm-funny moments. The director makes you laugh without slapstick. Makes you feel without melodrama. Somehow the style of film-making reminds me of certain Italian and French films. Films that make you feel like a visitor in a home full of fun, yet quirky people, who make you feel warm and welcome. These are people who can laugh at life and laugh with life itself.
For those who can digest (pun intended) the recurring topic of the film, please do go ahead and watch it.