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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
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Average: 14.29%
Pretty Bad85.71%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 1 rating

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by Jay Seaver

"This cast and premise should be a much more enjoyable trip."
2 stars

Even if you're not a real fan of Indian film but just sort of generally aware of it (and maybe not even that), the cast of "Piku" should make you take note: Amitabh Bachchan is an institution who has been popular for decades and patriarch of a major acting family, Deepika Padukone is one of the country's most popular leading ladies, and Irrfan Khan is in tremendous demand in both Bollywood and Hollywood. And, yet, despite what seems like it should be a fun premise, the film is a real bore because this great cast is given nothing to do.

Piku Banerjee (Padukone) is an intimidating, pushy woman working at a Delhi design firm, and she comes by it honestly - her 70-year-old father Bhaskor (Bachchan) is just as disagreeable, and in fact his hypochondria is the only thing that can really push her around. When a brush with mortality makes him decide to take a trip back to the family home in Kolkata, they decide (for various reasons) to take a cab those 1,500 kilometers, but both have browbeat the local drivers so badly that it falls to the taxi company's owner, Rana Choudhury (Irrfan).

The cast probably did not sign on to Piku because of the creative, never-before-seen story, but that's okay; this is the sort of set-up that a great cast and crew can make sing. The trouble is, writer Juhi Chaturvedi and director Shoojit Sircar seem not to realize that they've got a road trip movie on their hands; it takes a thoroughly unreasonable forty-five minutes for the characters to get into into the taxi for a trip that takes a mere half-hour of screen time before another forty-five minutes in Kolkata. The intermission is placed right in the middle of that time on the road with one of the least exciting cliffhangers ever. You can argue that this doesn't have to be a road trip movie, but it should be; the road is where things can happen because everybody is in close quarters and out of their comfort zone, as well as being a natural way to communicate characters in transition.

Instead, the filmmakers spend a lot of time establishing things that don't require a lot of detail - it seems like Piku and Bhaskor have the same argument three times, with a lot of the same supporting characters who keep showing up despite the fact that they are clutter that will have no actual effect on the plot. The rationale for taking a thousand-mile cab ride gets thinner as the plot goes on, and Rana hanging around after arriving in Kolkata feels like something that Chaturvedi never really thought through and just decided to roll with. And it seems almost impossible that this movie could spend so much time talking about Bhaskor's constipation and various ways to relieve it without coming up with even one decent gross-out joke.

(Realizing half an hour in that a movie is going to climax on a character taking a dump is bad enough; seeing that the people involved aren't even good at that sort of material is dispiriting.)

I shudder to think what this movie would be like with a lesser cast; fortunately, that's not the case. Padukone has a tough go of it early on; she's got to spend a lot of time portraying Piku as abrasive, grabbing onto other moments as best she can without trying to make them explicitly counter. Fortunately, she's got good chemistry with Irrfan Khan (credited simply as "Irrfan"); it's a joy to watch the pair develop a fondness for each other that may or may not turn into romance, with Khan also selling some of the film's more successful jokes by being a fine straight man. Bachchan manages Bhaskor fairly well, playing the old man as comical but not quite ridiculous.

They're good enough together that, even with fairly little to work with, they do a fair job of lifting the movie into something that passes the time well enough. For the most part, it's a case of the characters getting on better terms with each other helping the audience out; by the time they arrive in Kolkata, they're doing more than snapping at each other and getting a little joy out of discovering (or rediscovering) the city, where Sircar and cinematographer Kamaljeet Negi seem a little more comfortable and less boxed-in with a traditional family house and a waterfront larger and more open than the western-style spaces in Delhi. There's probably something deliberate to that, although starting out so cramped and negative probably put the filmmakers in a deeper hole than necessary.

Even with the improvements in the last act, "Piku" probably still needs to be chalked up as much less than the cast could have produced. There's a genuinely funny, sweet romantic comedy road trip movie to be found under the unfunny running joke and the off-putting beginning, but the filmmakers can't quite uncover it.

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originally posted: 05/23/15 14:08:40
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User Comments

5/25/15 Nancy I can't say I enjoyed the 2+ hours I spent with these people but I'll like it in retrospect 3 stars
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  08-May-2015 (PG)

Directed by
  Shoojit Sircar

Written by
  Juhi Chaturvedi

  Amitabh Bachchan
  Deepika Padukone
  Irrfan Khan

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