Bhaskor decides to go to Kolkota to see, and possibly sell, his ancestral property there. For the journey, the only option that Bhaskor finds viable given his stomach troubles, is to travel by road. When a hired driver designated for the journey does not show up, a third character, Rana (Irfan Khan) steps in. Rana, owner of a taxi service company, is now caught up in the drama between Piku and Bhaskor as he offers to drive the two from Delhi to Kolkata. Soon, the trio are off in a cab with a ‘potty chair’ perched atop.
A road journey from Delhi to Kolkata can be challenging – especially when three grumpy people have to travel together. The three – Piku, Bhaskor, and Rana – fight, throw tantrums, and stop multiple times on the way – chiefly for Bhaskor’s ‘false nature calls.’ But, they finally arrive at their destination – exhausted and not wanting to see each other anymore. Nonetheless, the journey also brings Rana and Piku closer – not quite in a romantic sense, but as friends, as fellow travellers, as those who knowingly or unknowingly, get to know bits and pieces about each other’s lives. For example, Piku learns that Rana is an engineer by training, and was working in Saudi Arabia for a couple of years before starting his taxi company. Because of the oppressive work conditions in Saudi Arabia, he chose to come back to India as soon as his contract was over and he could retrieve his passport back from his employer. Rana, on the other hand, figures that as asocial as Piku seems to be, she is strongly attached to her father. She will never abandon her father no matter how difficult it is to take care of him. As she puts it, one does not simply leave parents because they are old and tiresome. After dropping Piku and Bhaskor at their ancestral property in Kolkota, Rana leaves the father-daughter duo and returns to Delhi. Bhaskor finally finds his ‘liberation’ in Kolkata.
There is not much of a plot to this film about a father-daughter relationship. The film mostly presents a challenging, fast paced urban existence; Piku is a working woman who tries to balance her personal and work life, while also taking care of her aging father. This task is certainly not easy. Piku is stressed and her daily arrogance, anger, and frustration – in part triggered by the city traffic she has to deal with for her commute to work, but also by her father’s constant talk about his health – reflect her stress. However, it is the funny moments that emerge from, or rather despite, constant worry, that keep the audience immersed in the film.
The comedy has been popularly hailed as a ‘film about constipation.’ It is that and much more. It is a reminder of human life in its very raw form with its colours, sounds, and smells – no sugar coating, all reality. Bhaskor represents a liberal father who understands his daughter’s ‘free’ lifestyle; in fact, unlike stereotypical Indian screen fathers, he has no qualms about his daughter’s unmarried status or her active sex life. Rather, he discourages her from getting tied in a relationship which might curtail her career.
Juhi Chaturvedi’s unique and creative script turns the mundane realities of life into a statement about human relationships that function in myriad ways. A film with progressive ideas about women’s lives and the potential for complex relationships between parents and adult children, Piku showcases human bonding and realism at its best. Piku is both entertaining and emotionally enriching. It is also a welcome addition to the rising number of Hindi films with feminist themes.