I had a Bengali friend while I was in school and she always use to correct others for whatever they did wrong!
In a way, a true blue fault finding machine she was!
And a loud declaration of superiority!
Are all Bengalis like that? I always thought!
And Piku, stamped my belief to a great extent!
No, I am not gauging the pedigree of this rosogulla community by the looks, or the way they pronounce certain words or what they cook in their kitchens!
I am simply going by the attitude of superiority and classiness they portray, without being asked for!
Bhashkor Banerjee’s (Amitabh Bachchan) repeated references to being a Bengali in Piku and Rana Chaudhary (Irrfan Khan) being asked if he was a Bengali ‘Chaudhury’ captured this aspect of the perceived superiority of the Bengali bhadralok accurately.
While I loved Shoojit Sircar’s frames that captured the upper middle class life aptly, be it C R Park in Delhi or a heritage house in North Kolkata, what also struck me was how Piku justified Bengali community’s deep-rooted classism through its characters and dialogues.
“He is the owner Baba,” Piku (Deepika Padukone) introducing Rana to Bhashkor Banerjee as the owner of a cab-renting agency and not a taxi driver himself, seemed like a justification her who is an educated Bengali architect, to fall in love with him. I’ve lost count of the number of times the viewers are told in one way or the other that Irrfan Khan was not just a taxi driver, but an educated guy who lost his engineering job abroad and now runs a taxi service. And that is the reason Piku, who otherwise would not have entertained an iota of his personality, is at the least talking to him!
What was the director scared of?
Ruining the portrait of a Bengali Bhadra Woman?
There is more than one instance when over the top persona of Bhashkor meanders from being a sophisticated Bengali to a classist Bengali in Piku. The way he shouts at his domestic help when she complains about his intrusive behaviour to Piku or how he makes his caretaker, Budhan from a West Bengal village do everything for him – even cleaning and sanitizing his portable shit pot. And well, if this can be overlooked as nursing and caring for the elderly, Sircar gives a classist shade to his younger characters as well.
When Piku’s dinner date is blown away due to Bhaskor’s “potty demographic call”, right at the dinner table, Piku actually goes out and cribs about the guy not knowing any of Satyajit Ray movies and not quoting anything from them! Well, really?
Would you really size an otherwise cultured, good-looking and pleasant guy based on how many Bengali movies he watches and not?
Bhashkor Banerjee, the dear dad, ready to put his daughter’s life at stake and wouldn’t mind her going marriageless for the rest of her life just because he is CONSTIPATED!
And that he calls the IQ of a high thinking Bengali! Which very conveniently goes down the drain when he declares his daughter’s virginity to an absolute stranger he is meeting at a party!
And what? Do all bengalis always discuss potty, everywhere, anywhere? And to the graphic details?
That’s something I don’t see a Punjabi or a South-indian doing! Not at meal times at least!
Otherwise a bold film, appreciated by many for openly talking about a woman’s choices in life and her sexual needs, Piku according to me plays extremely safe when it comes to challenging the Bengali classist undertones in our society.
The film definitely draws from real life and perhaps Piku has successfully reflected the existing post-colonial hang-ups of Bengali Sahib and Memsahib culture, which the modern society has come past by now. Instead of a critical representation, it has embraced it as a current day situation. And that certainly bothers me, and holds me from going near a Bengali!
If all Bengalis are like Bhashkor Banerjee and Piku, I really do hate them!