Hope you are enjoying my take on the latest films and TV shows making the rounds…
I also have a fiction blog, named Voices and Viewpoints, found at the link below:
Have a read if you like.
Hope you are enjoying my take on the latest films and TV shows making the rounds…
I also have a fiction blog, named Voices and Viewpoints, found at the link below:
Have a read if you like.
I wrote two articles for the ARTtouchesART Film Blog recently, one is about the age of the remake, reboot and revival overpowering originality in Hollywood at the moment and the other is a look into the two sides of cinema in India: Bollywood and Independent. Have a read at these links below, hope you enjoy.
This romance musical is a nostalgic homage to Hollywood’s golden era where the likes of Gene Kelly and Humphrey Bogart expressed their truest feelings to Debbie Reynolds and Ingrid Bergman through the art of song and dance. Whiplash fame, Damien Chazelle, recreates the glamour of old Hollywood with his modern envisioning of two people falling in love as they pursue their dreams in Tinseltown. The film poses the age-old question almost all dreamers have to face in their lifetime – love or career? Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling play the hopelessly in love couple with dreams and passions that propel them into the films namesake. The ‘La La Land’ that we find ourselves stuck in, where aspiration and ambition is key, but alas is not truly achievable unless you get your head outta the clouds? Well, Chazelle says otherwise.
Stone plays Mia, an on-studio barista who watches actors play out their aspirations day by day while she only experiences rejection and ridicule, and Gosling is Sebastian, the Jazz purist with the dream of opening his own club to keep the momentum alive, but is striking out against the raging 21st century “Jazz” the cool kids are listening to. They are both envisioning the good and bad side to living in the clouds – the romanticism of their Hollywood-esque relationship against the destruction they face if they don’t strive to fulfil their dreams. La La Land is all about making dreams a reality, and along the way reminding all that you cannot live in a fantasy.
The film opens as most musicals do, a peppy dance number to put a smile on everyone’s face and transport us to the traditional musical world of film we adore. As the film goes on, we have parallels to past musicals, like Mia and Sebastian’s tap number, ‘A Lovely Night’ resembles Shall We Dance’s ‘Lets Call the Whole Thing off’, Sebastian and street lamp as with Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain, the dance against the starry background in the ‘Epilogue’ is reminiscent of Broadway Melody of 1940’s ‘Begin the Beguine and many others. It is Chazelle’s way of paying homage to what The Hollywood Reporter called an “extinct genre” – he put life back into a style of music most people only use, as Mia said, as background or elevator music. La La Land, and Whiplash have both reignited the power of musical styles that had fallen behind the new and contemporary avenues. To even counteract his own cultural message, Chazelle has made a contemporary version of something beloved by many, yet within the film he has written a character hopeful for the old age of Jazz to return and find its place in this progressive world of music. So what are we meant to take from this choice? Traditionalism is the way to go, or scrap the old age and build something fresh and original. You can do both. Just look at how it ends – some dreams are fulfilled, some are not, but that’s just it, a happy ending isn’t inevitable, but it is possible.
Aside from the music of the film, the love story is another attribute taking center stage. Mia and Sebastian fall in love, as one would dream, slowly, softly and beautifully. Their first meeting was the result of arrogance overtaking the magic, but as time went on, and after a spectacular evening spent looking onto the LA skyline, they became drawn to one another, and then magic took over the journey of their characters’ relationship. Beautifully crafted and filmed scenes at the Griffith Observatory and The Lighthouse Café aided in the development of their romance and the insight into their characters as dreamers in the truest form. Chazelle utilised the montage tool cleverly to show their fleeting journeys as these dreamer and lovers – the first was their initial dating, the second was their pursuit of their dreams while head over heels, and the third was the slow and sad unravelling of the bubble they had made for themselves where they have no time for one another or feel the greatest distance yet from their aspirations. And along this journey we the audiences take with them, we hear and remember the gut-wrenchingly beautiful theme song to their love in various tempo and the individually critically acclaimed song ‘City of Stars.’
That is what the film, and possible theatre production since its commercial and critical success, teaches all the dreamers out there, the road will not be perfect or without struggle. There are potholes for a reason and it’s the truest test of your dream for you to overcome it all the way to fulfilment. Sebastian forces the downcast Mia to remember that, he urges her to not give up and she doesn’t. What happens next will be a massive spoiler on my part, so watch the movie, it is definitely worth it. The ‘magic of the movies’ vibe La La Land presents to its viewers acts as that much-needed escapism from ones daily life, but it also sends the message to those same people that why escape for one day, when you can make whatever dream you have a reality, whether it is in the arts like Mia and Sebastian or something vastly different. A dream is a dream, and only the person dreaming can fulfil it.
A look at the new virtual reality craze of the genre and a review of the latest chapter in the Sense8 story.
The age of television is changing almost every second, with new ways to watch, new content to watch and new people to create what we watch. Despite this widespread notion of diversity and variation, stories are still boiling down to one form or sub-genre if you wish to call it so, one that transcends boundaries, blurs your perception of reality and allows you to escape into a fantasy, imagined, possibly even re-imagined world of the un-real or even real, but is too progressive and futuristic for the human mind to comprehend (even when we are now in 2017) Fantasy and Science Fiction have been dominating our small screens for a while now, with shows like Doctor Who, Star Trek, Red Dwarf and The X Files. Today’s, lets say, “version” of these forms/sub-genres are more rooted in the archaic or the historic like Game of Thrones, Penny Dreadful and Outlander, and then you have the supernatural creatures joining the race with The Vampire Diaries, Teen Wolf and True Blood. While these examples remain in good spirits, whether its because they are still broadcasting or being kept alive in fans’ memories, other forms of these popular styles of television have surfaced, and they are like no other. Like I said, we are in 2017, and technology is still developing and advancing to new heights, and one of the biggest gadgets to come out of the market recently has been virtual reality, a massively blurred conception that has already made its way into the stories of a TV drama, in the example of Westworld.
Now this was a brief history of fantasy and science fiction television, with a lot of name-dropping, but the one show I am going to discuss here has not been mentioned yet. It complements a previously addressed sci-fi notion, it is helmed by what some may call sci-fi royalty and it adopts a freshly incoherent and untraditional method of storytelling. Sense8, created and written by the Wachowski’s, Lana and Lilly and J. Michael Straczynski, is a Netflix-distributed drama centering around 8 strangers from different corners of the world who find themselves connected in visions, within thoughts and through actions. It is the ultimate sci-fi; destroying what you think you know, distorted reality, expansive extent of ones imagination type of story, and it is insanely good. If you loved The Matrix, then I suggest you watch – 12 episodes and a Christmas Special. I estimate half a day and you will be done and waiting impatiently for season two…in MAY. If you couldn’t tell already, my impatience is wearing thin. I need my Sense8 fix despite just watching the Christmas Special.
Now, about that so-called ‘special’ episode, I was under the impression that season two itself was to be released in place of it. A cheeky Facebook reveal told Sense8 audiences that we must wait 5 more months to delve deeper into the lives of the sensates and how they will overcome the adversities of their powerful connection. A Netflix original is an exciting venture for so many reasons, the progression of streamed entertainment, the freedom of creativity and the downright sass of not having to abide by bogus censorship laws. But, alas one thing overshadows all the good things…the wait. Some say the wait is needed to build the adrenaline for the story’s future, while others rip their hair out the second the end credits roll, wanting the next chapter right that second. I am absolutely, most definitely the latter.
Enough context, exposition and downright ranting.And here begins the review of the Sense8 Christmas Special…
After I finished season one, my mind was blown away by the interesting, unfathomable yet exciting aspects of this TV show. With all its larger-than-life content, it still managed to have heart. Sensates felt a romantic connection, they felt the power of their consciences, they learnt how to handle their connection and all the while they carried on with their own lives, highs and lows in all their glory. There was a story. The Christmas Special picked up where season one left a selection of enigmas and ambiguities, but I found the only significant beats of the 2-hour long episode was Will and Whispers’ tense standoff towards the end, which ultimately acted as an empty basket with the tiniest egg to be cracked in May’s second season, well he hope at least. The rest of the special was unnecessary festive partying, sex and yet another giant orgy. Do we learn anything important and different about the sensates and the progression of their story, possibly?
The sensates are paired up in this episodes; Kala with Wolfgang, Sun and Capheus and Riley and Will, with a small relation between Nomi and Lito. By forming these duos, the story is able to run smoothly especially when it is confined to two hours. Each pairing takes on a theme or motif to push their stories along; Kala and Wolfgang’s toxic love story, Sun and Capheus’ friendship, Riley and Will’s isolation and Nomi attempts to help Lito in his coming out and the repercussions. Sun and Capheus present a beautiful image of friendship, most notably being there for a complete stranger with whom you strangely connect, a similar storyline to that of Nomi and Lito. Lito suffers at the hands of regressive attitudes in terms of his sexuality after he comes out as gay. These 4 characters present a warm shift from the tumultuous journey Will is undergoing after being seen by their maker, Whispers. They act as the best friend who is willing to be the shoulder their friend can cry on, or in this case, they are the mind the friend can escape to. And that is one of other reasons why this show appeals to its audiences, because as a viewer you can watch the escapism from reality both on your screen, forgetting that you yourself are doing the same thing.
Having said that, I’m not sure escaping into the turmoil of Kala and Wolfgang’s toxic relationship is the best way to take your mind off things. Anyhow, lets discuss…Kala is married, Wolfgang is silently pining for her like the typical man he is, she doesn’t want to lose her virginity to her basic, but sweet husband and when she tries to, she drops into Wolfgang’s mind as he is in the middle of sex. If sex scenes weren’t awkward already, have them make conversation with a nervous bystander, no, its not even a tasteful sex scene, more like soft porn, no actually probably just regular porn. (This is where the lack of giving a shit comes in handy, no to censorship, yes to that 18 and above rating that MUST be abided by) So while Kala tries to seduce Rajan, she awkwardly chats to her former love interest while his one night stand moans naked on top of him. Once you move past the sheer shock of it, the scene is actually quite funny and significant to why Kala and Wolfgang will, sadly, never be able to be a couple. She is vanilla and he is an amalgamation of every other flavor, though I’m still rooting for them after that cute snow fight scene.
Moving on to the next pairing that takes center stage…Will is suddenly a junkie! Will was the good, sweet, fly to Iceland to save some random chick in his head, kind of guy. Although, at least the writing hasn’t strayed too far towards motifs characterized by vice as we are still on the right page with the follow-up to Will being seen by Whispers. They have really tugged on the strings with the spiral his character is tumbling into, good son/cop forced to hide his mind from an Omni-present lunatic by losing it to the blurs of heroin. A sad, brutal path, but artistically written and portrayed. I didn’t appreciate Riley’s role as becoming lost in Will’s lucid states either, she was so lost at the start of season one, we were introduced to the reason behind her lost persona and that gave her some power to then help Will as he realized he will too be lost to a higher force of supremacy. But the Special sees her drop too far down into that guiding light role, she almost becomes his keeper, the woman caring for his needs, providing him with intimacy, drugs and constant reassurance so he doesn’t lose his mind to Whispers. It is admirable to an extent, but the unexpectedness of this change in character remained present in my mind. Now I understand one can only transform characters and develop a story so much within a 2-hour special, but lets hope Riley and Will can escape the haze of their secret Icelandic shack in the second season.
Aside from keeping in theme with the progression of the story, this Christmas special adheres to its title very much – the celebration of Christmas and New Years Eve. Despite being a show embroiled with heavy sci-fi elements and notions, the story allows the sensates to sit down and enjoy the festive holidays with their loved ones, remembering that as long as you are with someone or a group of people who are their to love, guide and support you, life is good. They find it within their families, in different ways; Capheus, Lito and Nomi who considers Amanita’s loved ones as her own, Riley convinces Will to talk to his dad, Wolfgang’s best friend finally awakes from his coma, Kala has a warm moment with Wolfie and Sun finds comfort in her cellmates. While the holidays does bring people together, this special also made for entertaining TV and the progression of the story into season 2. The special still ends on a sour, cliffhanger style note with Wolfgang at the heart of a gangster brawl, summoning the help of his fellow sensates before uttering the now probably infamous words: ‘happy fuckin’ new year.’ Of course, it can’t end all happy and wondrous; it is a Sci-fi TV Drama at the end of the day. So for my final verdict, there is only one thing left to say…May couldn’t come any sooner!
As always, India and honestly the whole world, eagerly await the next from the man who has etched the SRK/Kajol duo into the Bollywood hall of fame. Each of his films has a common thread, love and family, tradition and honour, identity and freedom. K3G brought us the trials and tribulations of Indian families, SOTY brought us the love triangle of India’s college youth and now Ae Dil Hai Mushkil has delved into the depths of a love story usually locked away in a box of the heart, the story of unrequited love. With his talented star cast, tantalizing dialogue and captivating music, Johar steps out of his typical ‘parivaar and pyaar’ aesthetic to deliver a heartfelt and honest portrayal of relationships.
I think it can be clearly understood from the title that this film is not going to be brimming with ‘happily ever afters’, and contrary to popular belief with Bollywood, it really wasn’t. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil translated is “this heart is difficult”, meaning to love and to be in love is a tough feat. This is something everyone knows to be true if they have experienced it and for those who haven’t yet, they still know from all the angry, crying moments they have had with their friends. So audiences went into this viewing experience with the assumption that there won’t be a lavish wedding ceremony at the end with a peppy dance number, or the two lovers of the story won’t run to each other from a far distance to express their undying love. Bollywood hasn’t really been like this for a while. Around the same time as this release, Indian cinema saw the releases of Dear Zindagi; a film about loving yourself and your life, Befikre: the 21st century love story of friends with benefits, and Sultan; a story about the conflict between love and career. So love is a common thread in Bollywood, but of the four films mentioned here alone, each of them are not the typical boy-meets-girl story with a few, yet salvageable complications, and simply because of that Bollywood has come a long way to shed the stereotype attached to its name. Alas that is a different subject for another day.
Johar’s previous works showcase that to love is to be in the most beautiful, yet complicated position in life. He aims to present love as free and individual, something all should accept, understand and embrace, and that these values should be experienced by everyone in their lives. But for his main character, life wasn’t so fair. He sets his story in the modern day, void of parental hovering, cultural traditions and hometown expectations spread over two time frames. First we meet the timid and lonesome present day Ayan Senger, played by Ranbir Kapoor, a famous singer known for the heartbreak of his lyrics, who takes us on his recounting of his muse(s), beginning with ‘the one that got away’ Alizeh, played by Anushka Sharma. Jumping to the past, their story begins in London’s party scene where they have a riotous first meeting consisting of an awkward hook-up where Alizeh criticizes his kissing style. Johar sets Ayan up to always be one step behind Alizeh, whether that is to do with his limp kisses or his lack of emotion in his singing, which she later reveals to him ever so crudely. From that assumption we can already ascertain the ‘mushkilness’ of his heart will always be tethered to that one girl. From that point, their random make-out session becomes a crazily entertaining, yet intimately close friendship. We travel with them as their journey takes them anywhere and everywhere, from discovering their respective partners cheating on them with each other in a stylish porta potty of a London club, to re-enacting classic Bollywood scenes in the hills of Vienna where they had to Google ‘how to tie a sari’ (trying NOT to be desi, yet still ending up too desi for their own good.)
Though the moment, for Ayan, that their friendship became love, was the same moment when Alizeh bumped into her own unrequited love, Ali, played by Fawad Khan. After cursing him for breaking her heart and destroying her esteem, she falls back into his arms by way of his sweet words. Johar twisted the power balance of his duo at this point by eliminating Alizeh’s ability to hold onto her own heart, and by doing so, Ayan’s love fell to the ground in a stinging moment of bitterness and hatred. The girl he so admired had forsaken all her principles for a guy, and in his eyes, the wrong guy. Some would say the story only began at that point where the underlying emotional dysfunction revealed itself and characters broke down to identify themselves as something other than sickly happy by going on a pointless bender. To take a different viewpoint, I enjoyed the manner in which Johar demonstrated Ayan and Alizeh’s toxically confusing relationship with the pretentious double dates, ‘saas-bahu’ mockery, bar-hopping, ‘Baby Doll-ing’, and spontaneous, and very expensive continental gallivanting – it was plastered with Lisa’s ‘vatavaran’ and you have to admit it was highly entertaining. When all of this was pulled from under their feet and they became blinded by unreciprocated emotion, we finally realized we were watching a film so far from our Kuch Kuch Hota Hai mindset. Instead we became embroiled in a story latched onto the deprivation of love as a way of life.
By introducing his main characters without family ties, Johar rejects the culture of the extended family – eats together/stays together norm – to ignite western values of independence and riding the rollercoaster that is life. Despite leaving their personal troubles back in India, new ones form in the face of the Ayan’s painstaking, unreciprocated love for Alizeh. Johar created a beautifully wretched cycle of one-sided love, setting the story in motion and thus preparing the audiences for that stumbling moment where Ayan’s love is tragically thrown to the dogs, championed by the incomparable voice of Arijit Singh; the “Chana Mereya” song and scene. From the start to that heart-wrenching point, the film presented a unique friendship getting ahead of itself, dueling with only one heart, breaking and bruising emotions and egos leading to the post-intermission character transformation of a bitter, resentful and alone Ayan Senger.
The second half of the film is where Johar’s intricate characterizations falter, with the introduction of Saba, the walking enigma with a sultry voice and incomprehensible beauty, played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. She exudes the mystery one would, sitting alone in an airport lounge with a book of poetry and a stern raise of the brow at an intoxicated heartbroken boy stumbling over. At that moment, you feel her character developing into one of a hidden agenda, or closeted emotions, but Johar quickly destabilizes that possibility. He presents her as a flirtatious seductress after anything but love and by giving Ayan her number; her character is immediately read as the rebound girl with whom Ayan will realize Alizeh is still the one for him. Some months after recuperating himself, Ayan walks into Saba’s life looking for some ego rejuvenation, and she bites, because she too wants the same. And so begins their torrid love affair, starting at a one-night stand in Vienna to very un-Bollywood animalistic ‘jumping each others bones’ scenario, which finally results in an intensely passionate rock love ballad, “Bulleya” confirming her love for him, but his memory of Alizeh. At the risk of sounding cheesy, this heart really is difficult!
The appropriate word that can be used to describe the love relations of these four characters is toxic – not one couple at this point in the film truly loved one another, and not one listened to their heart and did the right thing. Or maybe they did, but to know that and to understand how and why this film ends without a happy ending, you will have to watch. Only Johar himself can reveal the big finish to his epic love stories, my spilling of the beans will not do it justice. But I can say one thing; Ayan finished the re-telling of his one-sided love story with a song…
As a major Potterhead, I have been anxiously awaiting the next great from J.K Rowling and she did not fail to amaze. Despite alluding to the world in which the great wizard Harry Potter was born, Fantastic Beasts is not a prequel to those films. It stands on its own ground with the wizardry of London travelling across the Atlantic to another metropolis that is New York City. And better yet, its set in 1926, the prohibition era which means for some dazzling Gatsby-esque historical context that addresses, not only a different domain of magic, but into the unknown wonders of the past. This new insight into the wizarding world Rowling so lovingly bestowed upon us mere muggles is all but one strand of the appeal audiences have for this film. We have new magical lingo, fresh character perspectives and a very grown-up tone. So a word of advice to those kids who grew up with the students of Hogwarts, myself included, buckle up, its time to understand the mature shade of witchcraft and wizardry.
There is always the issue of subconscious repetition when you read an authors next novel or watch a directors next film. I went in with this packed in the back of my head hoping to encounter Newt Scamander’s journey with a fresh perspective and honest curiosity. Rowling didn’t disappoint in terms of imagination for a story forever tethered to another magical world. Although the story beats partially fell flat in my eyes as missing the – for lack of a better, more befitting word for Rowling – magic it so deserved. I had the same feeling after watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the story is the same but the people different. A man/pseudo-hero arrives, encounters a problem, tries to fix it but finds another, deep-seeded, relevant to the whole world kind of problem which may or may not be resolved and thus paves the way for the second film. So do we bite, or do we shun it, as ‘been there done that?’ I believe it would be the former, as this generation of filmgoer’s just loves a teasing story about the battle against evil, which ends up forging a film series they can commit to. Having said that, the first film in a franchise almost always is labeled as contextual – we need to familiarise ourselves with a new magical setting and characters need to be introduced, but not wholly developed, so we can begin the journey with them, as well as start to form our own perceptions of them. So, is Rowling just toying with our emotions and deliberately keeping us in the dark about the question marks attached to this story? Like they say, you don’t reveal your game plan in one hit, you have to ease your audience in to then make the shot that will leave them wanting more. And in all honesty, I want more…
Moving on to the way she writes, rather than what, Rowling has a certain knack for creating a character the audience understands and embraces wholeheartedly. And just when we are besotted or repulsed by them, and pine for more, she takes her pen (*coughs* quill) puts it back into the pot and leaves the tale for another day, or year. We meet Newt the magic zoologist, a walking enigma, in all his beast-keeping glory and are delighted by his character right off the bat. He is an awkwardly sweet introvert, who would rather spend his time with animals instead of humans, one being Pickett, a Bowtruckle with whom he has a strong attachment, so much so that giving him away was a tear-jerking moment in the film. (Don’t worry, they were reunited.) His love for the freedom of these creatures and the affection he holds to their companionship is a beautiful and eye-opening lesson of morality in a world, both fictional and real, where they are quickly ceasing to exist. Newt leaves us with a possible revisit to the Big Apple but not without throwing down a few enigmas about his time at Hogwarts, his Lestrange love affair and his future role in the Grindelwald era of dark magic. Is he our new wizarding hero?
Rowling opens the door into Newts heart just a tad with the spark between him and the American witch Porpentina ‘Tina’ Goldstein, a character matching Newt’s moral alignment and heartfelt duties. Although beneath the surface, she is a solemn character forced into the basement level department of the Magical Congress because she simply fought for the marginalised. She is a hero in her own right, it just needs to be recognised, rather than spurned. Along with Newt and Tina, the sweet but short-lived – one aspect of magic we hope loses its vigour – relationship between Queenie Goldstein and No-Mag Jacob Kowalski. Theirs is a budding love story ripped away so cruelly by the Magical Congress that we hope will resurface in the remainder of the franchise. Jacob’s memory of the miraculous adventure he embarked upon with his new wizard and witch buddies had to be retracted in the obliviating rain as Queenie left him with a warm goodbye kiss. The building of character relationships in this film springs the story into action, as no good versus evil story is complete without a group of people bound by the love of friendship and/or companionship. And together this awesome foursome will continue to catapult us into the escapist world of magic and all its journeys and transformations.
The creatures themselves were as captivating and entertaining as the human characters, and rightly so for the title is dedicated to the magnificence and mischief spilling out from Newt’s case. They are the purpose of this film, the title says so, and they assist the journey the characters take for the story to reach its peak, and thus continue to until the franchises end. We start with the inherently naughty Niffler who just cannot stop peeking out the case in search of money, jewels and pretty much anything he can stow away in his body. The list is as long as it is mesmerising; Occamy, Murtlap, Billywig, Thunderbird, Swooping Evil and Graphorn are just some featured in this first installment. Though, I have to say the fantastic beast I swayed towards was the Demiguise, the cute, fuzzy-haired, sloth-eyed, and invisible, seeing eye into the future who was having a little shop in Macy’s where Newt et al arrived to retrieve the Occamy. And without the Erumpent, we would not have been graced with the wonderful thing that was Eddie Redmayne performing a mating dance in the middle of Central Park.
Now, we know Fantastic Beasts is not a prequel to those films. And neither is it remotely about Harry and his friends, but rather it revolves around a much greater force to be reckoned with. Mr. Newt Scamander, everyone’s favourite magic zoologist, is key to this five-film deal, but as you see in the epic stand-off of the climax, a beloved character and his long-standing feud is to become the primary focal point of this narrative. In most simple phrasing, Scamander presents himself as the subtle helping hand in the background of two great wizards and the contextual uncovering of what is to come in the next few years. Is it the case, or are we going to see much more from Newt in the coming films? Will he be our new hero to save the world from a dark lord, or will he remain the introverted underdog on the sidelines? We will have to wait and see, all we know is that four more films are in the works and we will most certainly be getting answers about the film’s contextual build up, both overt and covert. But how do you say? A young Dumbledore will be gracing us with his presence soon enough…
This is not the usual stuff of Bollywood films. Then again I would not even class it as within the ‘Bollywood’ industry. It is too real. You see blockbuster comedies and action flicks with terrible jokes and theatrical fight scenes, way too much for your eyes to take especially within 3 hours of screen time. Piku took a different turn, a crazy turn for Indian film.
Directed by Shoojit Sircar, it looks at the strained yet loving relationship between a dying father (Amitabh Bachchan) and his daughter (Deepika Padukone) who cares for him, with Irrfan Khan’s go-between character keeping the latter sane. As per old (I cant emphasize it enough) Indian tradition, the daughter should have been married off in her twenties, pure and obedient, but Padukone’s titular character is in her thirties, openly sexually active and argues and orders her father around. She is the feisty strong independent woman of India; an identity all should strive to be in a society still cornering women into a domesticated lifestyle, despite much change. Yes she cares for her father but not because she is a girl, but because she loves him and there is nobody else. Would she leave him in the lurch, to die alone? I would hope not, because then she lacks humanity, and would cinemagoers and film lovers root for a character that is inhumane? Yes she can be mean and destructive in the way she handles her father and everyone around her, pushing away friendship, isolating herself to work in the office AND at home, but does she not represent the life of a young woman with a lot on her plate? If you were a budding architect/full time carer for your sick parent and got a message in the middle of a meeting about your father’s daily bowel flow, would you not become sick of such behaviour? The very incorporation of that scene portrayed her fed up attitude with the crossover of her two lives and the comic lightening of a situation most people will go through themselves in life, whether they are the carer or the ‘caree.’
The film has many examples like this that give it a bittersweet comic element, like the chair (professionally named a commode) her father uses to go ‘potty’ as they call it. Bachchan plays the role brilliantly, any less would be out of character for him. He is a legend after all. (No bias here.) He fits into the role of a bratty old man, sick to the end, who is treated like a small child, fed by his daughter and forbidden from strenuous exercise like sitting down. It is ironic because in real life he is probably the fittest one can be at that age despite his many health scares and operations. He sounds like the typical elderly person who hates doctors and hospitals and refuses to accept he is ill, but in actual fact he calls the doctor over every day, has researched his health extensively and even educates others about what is wrong with him and even themselves. But he does it so they do not have to endure the pangs of old age so drastically as he is. As blunt and irritating his character can be, it comes from a place of love and care. And a sense of want shadows his bratty nature for he merely wants to see the world as he wants to before he bids it goodbye, which he finally gets when he cycled all around his hometown in Kolkata and passed peacefully in his sleep.
This film is filled with subverted stereotypes and they work well within a society and film industry obsessed with tradition and ritual. Another thing about Piku is its lack of monetary investment, yes in the production sense, but also in the reception of the film. In Bollywood it has been known for the box office to be very important, if not the most, so for an independent/ semi-independent film to come out of the industry with blockbuster actors like Padukone and Bachchan, it’s always a pleasant surprise. Then again when Irrfan Khan is starring in the film, you immediately get the indie, or unbollywood feel. His career choices have moved more towards the unconventional and appreciated, with the likes of The Lunchbox, Qissa and Talvar, all three of which have been screened at prestigious international film festivals, like Cannes and Toronto. However, I still wouldn’t class it as an independent film for the considerable amount of financial backing it probably had from the film’s notoriously ‘rich in resource’ production company MSM Motion Pictures (part of Sony Pictures Networks India) and distributor, Yash Raj Films.
Overall a breath of fresh air from the usual ‘bollywoodness’ and I would place it with the like factor of Imtiaz Ali’s road movie Highway and Bombay Talkies, a compilation of shorts commemorating 100 years of Indian Cinema.