Nagpur: In our family, we prefer going for movies on week day evenings instead of weekends. Less crowded multiplex’ and cheaper tickets beckon. So we went for latest release ‘Piku’ starring Amitabh Bachan, Deepika Padukone, Irfan Khan and Mousumi Chaterjee on Monday night.
We arrived at a multiplex almost half an hour before the movie was to begin and were really surprised that almost all tickets had been sold. Only a few seats in the second row were available. We took them. In the hall we realized that afterwards even the first row got fully sold – so the movie was a ‘House Full’!
As we all know, this movie was hardly marketed much on TV. In fact, a month before its release lead actor Deepika was in the eye of a storm for her controversial video on the ‘free spirit of a woman’. Most men AND women too had panned it. A week before the movie’s release Deepika had finally spoken about it in her defense.
Thus is it was very surprising that the movie is doing so well – even on week days. One can make a safe bet that this one is going to join the 100 crore club: may be the first movie of Irfan’s to do so though he is a very critically acclaimed actor.
In my opinion, a lion’s share of the film’s success should go to Deepika. She is definitely the most bankable star in it. There are many who will give the credit to Amitabh Bachan; he has a significant role and has carried it off with his usual panache but no one can deny that as Piku, Deepika is the main proponent of the movie. In fact, the name ‘Piku’ could itself easily be an abbreviation of Deepika! We know all Bengalis have this penchant for pet names, but till the end of the movie, Piku’s real name is not divulged.
This is not the first film this beautiful and versatile actress is carrying on her shoulders. Finding Fanny also belonged to her, and to certain extent Cocktail and Kartik calling Kartik too.
In fact these two are said to be the turning points in her decade long career. She arrived with a bang on a Diwali night with Om Shanti Om, co starring SRK and produced and directed by Farah Khan. Though Deepika had a double role in it and the movie was a block buster, later speaking on Coffee with Karan Farah did not have very charitable things to say about Deepika’s acting talents. She almost dismissed her off as average in this department. But later she re calcified her statement saying she had not factored in how Deepika was evolving and had certainly made a mark in Kartik calling Kartik.
If one were to look back on her journey Om Shanti Om onwards, one can say that in fact OSO was an aberration where in both her roles Deepika comes across as a ‘dumb blond’ without much spine or grey matter. This was not a mistake she made – or her Directors made – in any of her subsequent movies. In her second outing ‘Bachana ae Haseeno’ costarring Ranbir Kapoor who with this film became her real life beau. it was Deepika who turns down Ranbir’s proposal as she wants to concentrate on her MBA causing him to be heart broken and start introspecting on all the women he had ditched in his life. Deepika had played the unusual role of a woman cab driver in Australia who is saving money for her education. After this whether it was K calling K, or the block buster Yeh Jawani hai Deewani in 2013, Deepika has always played a professionally qualified, career woman. Even in Chennai Express where she is just a student being taken home forcibly to get married by her southie Godfather goonda dad she plays a girl who has the guts to go against the brute force of her father’s mighty underworld and then with her sensibilities teach sense to the ‘forty and still unmarried Shahrukh’.
Another unique aspect of Deepika’s career is that she has been given roles with strong ethnic undertones – A Tamil accented south Indian in Chennai Express; a Bengali in K calling K and Piku, a Gujarathi clan girl in Ramleela a Goan in Finding Fanny and a Bombay lower class dancer in Happy New Year : whatever, the state and ethnicity thrown at her, she has carried it off with aplomb. And conviction. Even in movies that did not do well at the B.O. the characters she essayed won her acclaim. Like the role of a blind girl, who still wins a difficult competition, in Lafangey Parindey.
What do Nagpurians have to say about Piku and why are they flocking to see it?
Reasons are not difficult to find. Apart from the obvious fact that both Amitabh and Deepika, as also Irfan have a good fan following in the city, it is the Bengali overtone and the subject of chronic constipation that is the main theme of the movie (Yes!!) that are striking cords with Nagpurians.
Let’s face it – with a very large and old population of Bengalis living in Nagpur, we ALL know a Banerjee, or a Chaterjee or a Mukherjee. We have them as neighbors, we have them as class mates, we have them as employees and we have them as bosses. The character of ‘Bhaskar Banerjee’ played by Amitabh resonates with all the Bengali gentlemen we have known.
We may all have at some time or the other, complained about the strong smell ( even stench, some may call it!) of Rohu fish being fried in sarson ka tell ( mustard oil) but if we are non vegetarian there is hardly anyone who can resist a good fish fry or fish curry made by a Bong. And Bengalis in that respect are very loving and loveable neighbors – they will never fail to send you a plate of whatever it is they are cooking.
This Nagpur – Bengal association is very old and given by the British with their first train in India which was Bengal – Nagpur railways. ( Then called BNR now south eastern division) Since trains were run on steam generated by burning coal, and Nagpur sat on vast reservoirs of coal, this was a very significant station and destination. It brought hundreds of Bengali families to Nagpur who later settled down here. First Calcutta sweets ,then Anand Bhandar , Bengali sweets’ shop have had their presence for 100 years old and mithai from here was ‘exported’ for Mumbai and Pune weddings for many years. So popular are ross gullas , ras malais and sandesh with us that even Haldirams have to dish out Bengalis sweets as a main product.
With cuisine is tied culture. I have often noticed that Kolkatta and Nagpur are in some ways culturally closer than Mumbai – Nagpur even. Remember how strong a hold Communism had made in Nagpur that a Nagpuri Bengali, A. B. Bardhan became one of the most powerful CPI General Secretaries of India?
Bengali school Deenanath Vidyalaya has been around for almost a century – it was founded in 1918.
Why just Bengali? Nagpur being a thoroughly cosmopolitan city, genuinely so, that the characters of Irfan and Yadav, who are both from UP in Piku, have many Nagpurians identifying with them. When these two forge a front against the predominant Bengalis of Pink and start speaking about UP ki mithai, there was much appreciative laughter in the audience. Who in Nagpur does not like Agra ka petha?
The subject of constipation too stuck a sympathetic note with many viewers it seems. And homeopathy treatment for it…
All in all, though Piku is filmed in Delhi and Calcutta with a long car journey between the two cities passing through Benaras, Nagpurians are feeling very much part of the journey!
… Sunita Mudilyar