Mumbai: Yes, “Piku” is a serio-comedy and we are not going to give spoilers. But never mind, there’s laughter from beginning to end!

Bhaskor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan) is a hypochondriac, living in Delhi with single daughter Piku (Deepika Padukone). Piku is a successful executive who runs a firm in partnership with Syed Afroze (Jisshu Sengupta). Bhaskor takes homeopathy for his chronic ailments from his trusted doctor (Raghuveer Yadav) who indulges him and stays by him whenever needed.

Bhaskor does have minor age-related ailments (he is 70), but has more phobias than genuine health issues. His biggest problem is constipation, which is just not solved by any medicine or trick in the non-medicinal book. Worse, his thinking in many ways matches his ailments, and his statement that “Motion Se Hi Emotion Aata Hai!” (emotions are always based on ‘motion,’ as in ablution) seems true — for him at least.

His devoted yet irritated (at his daily follies) daughter Piku also is eccentric. She makes her normal contract cabbies drive fast to office and land up with traffic issues, confounding Syed and his cab contractor buddy Rana Choudhary (Irrfan Khan), whose drivers therefore refuse Piku’s custom. Worse, Rana’s family is no better — in fact, they are a shade worse. At home, he has hell to pay.

Most of the first half goes in establishing the characters and their motivations. The flashpoint is when Bhaskor wants to make a trip to Kolkata (his hometown) and visit his ancestral property that Piku wants to sell, but is occupied by his married brother. Then there is Chhobi Mousi (Moushumi Chaterjee), a sprightly survivor of four marriages, whose sister was Piku’s mother. The faithful family servant (a fixture in movies till the ‘80s) is there, staid and stupid.

Finally, since Bhaskor will not fly or ride a train, they decide to go to Kolkata by road in — what else? — Rana’s cab. And since no driver will take up the job, Rana decides to drive them himself. And we so have new interactions — between Bhaskor and Rana, and Rana and Piku. The journey ends, but the destination is something quite different in the psychological sense.

And yes, in this (surefire) hit film about “shit” (literally!). Bhaskor does get cured. No, that’s not a spoiler but a tangy trailer. How does he get cured? What happens to the non-virgin Piku (who has need-based sexual flings, as often declared by her father, who is opposed to her marriage for intellectual reasons)? Does Rana come into Piku’s life?

But as it is said about life, it is all about the journey, not the destination. “Piku” is thoroughly enjoyable, the first half a five-star rated film, and the slice-of-life way in which Sircar (“Vicky Donor”) treats this film is hugely entertaining! Especially standing out are Sircar’s handling of sequences in which the characters clash and speak all at once. The technical values are skilled, the background score good, but the only sore point in the movie are the unmelodious songs with disconnected, “contemporary” lyrics, which come as irritants in the background.

The performances are magnificent — Amitabh Bachchan coming up trumps in a role in which he becomes a complete, irascible and eccentric old Bengali. As the disease-obsessed old man, he delineates and delivers a character that will live long in our psyche, coincidentally having the same name as that of the Bengali doctor he essayed in his career-first hit, “Anand.”

Watch Bachchan squabble with Irrfan, especially in the beginning of their trip and in the highway knife sequence, and with the maid in the early portions of the film, and you know that Bachchan can still be the same towering actor before he started playing to the gallery in the early millennium. With this film, all (“Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag,” “Shamitabh”) is forgiven with this incredible artist!

Deepika Padukone, this time, comes off second best to Bachchan (unlike in “Aarakshan” with him or all her other recent movies), but she is fantastic nevertheless. Her outburst after Bachchan’s cycling around town shows her humungous and continued evolution.

Irrfan Khan, for no real fault of his, has to come to third position as Rana. That he is superb in his expressions and timing is something that shows him to be an extremely gifted actor, shackled so far by dark roles, and someone who could become today’s answer to the Sanjeev Kumar of “Manchali” and “Angoor” in comic essays.

Moushumi Chatterjee is a true swinger as Chhobi Mousi and the Bachchan-Moushumi chemistry 35 years after their last film as romantic co-stars, “Manzil,” rocks. The others have nothing much to do, and we also wonder why Raghuveer Yadav needed that horrendous wig.

Sircar proves that comedies are his forte, and that he should steer clear of dark subjects like “Yahaan” or “Madras Café.” But though Juhi Chaturvedi’s script and lines are fab overall, we would like to tell Sircar and Chaturvedi that ambiguous ends may look trendy and nice in theory (above all, there is room for a sequel!) but it’s like a pin deflating a balloon we have loved to fill up to a gigantic volume.

A finite end would have been the perfect icing on this “Piku” confection, and got it an additional half-star. Yet, without doubt, this is the nicest family outing this year after “Dum Lagake Haisha.”

Rating: ****

MSM Motion Pictures, Saraswati Entertainment & Rising Sun Films Productions present “Piku”

Produced by: N. P. Singh, Ronnie Lahiri & Sneha Rajani

Directed by: Shoojit Sircar

Written by: Juhi Chaturvedi

Music: Anupam Roy

Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Irrfan Khan, Deepika Padukone, Moushumi Chatterjee, Jisshu Sengupta, Raghuveer Yadav, Akshay Oberoi.

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