• What Piku Has Done For Women’s Lib

    By Features Editor Meghna Pant

    Piku, the popular new movie where Deepika Padukone plays Piku, a successful architect struggling to manage both her career and the responsibility of her 70-year-old father Bhashkor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan), who can be quite the handful, is a triumph of a character and of women. Here’s why:

    • In a patriarchal country where it is assumed that the son will take care of his aged parents, it is a delight to see a young woman take financial and emotional responsibility of her elderly father without fuss or drama.
    • Piku is prickly and frustrated. She is as fierce in her opinions, as she is in her love for her father. She doesn’t pander to the world or to the men fawning around her. She states things that others are afraid to state. She is completely unlike most Hindi film heroines. There is no gloss over her flaws. That is what makes her endearing, and realistic.
    • Sexual liberation is treated as tenderly as some of the other emotions at play. On a drunken night Piku gets incessant calls from her lovelorn boss and we are left to assume a booty call was made, especially when he shows up disheveled at her house the next morning. What’s interesting is that she is not objectified or diminished in any way by sleeping with her boss. In fact, her boss continues to respect her, be slightly afraid of her, and he’s discreet. They remain friends.
    • Marriage is not her primary concern even though she’s skirting thirty. Interestingly in a society obsessed with marriage, it is her father – otherwise selfish and self-centered – who will not tolerate her compromising on her career, potential and freedom for the institution of marriage.
    • There are occasions when Piku succumbs to her father’s bullying just to keep the peace. Like her potential love Rana, you want to tell her not to, but you also realise with exasperation that this is what women in the real world often do. We haven’t met Piku before she lost her mother, before her father became a 70-year-old hypochondriac, or before she was fettered by her commitment to take care of him; but if he is the reason for her short fuse, we – like  Rana – can understand.
    • The supporting cast of female characters is also wonderfully handheld into strength and out of lazy stereotyping. Piku’s Masi, for instance, is shown as a woman thrice-married but she is sprightly, jovial, without an ounce of cynicism and still hopeful of love. Piku’s Chachi’s is a bitter woman, yet her frustration, that could be as easily dismissed as society does, is understood and acknowledged by Piku’s father as rightful.
    • The delightful writer Juhi Chaturvedi, who is equally delightful in person, shows us how deftly female writers are able to balance the chaos of family babble within the personal space of silence. Both her first movie Vicky Donor and Piku are progressive about their women characters without hollering in your face about it.
    • What really surprised me is the generosity of Amitabh Bachchan and Irffan Khan, both stalwarts, in allowing the film to belong to Deepika in both the film title, the script, the scenes and in the acting.

    This movie is such a step forward for women! It shows us that there’s a little bit of Piku in every family, and there should continue to be.