Piku

A lot of things about Piku will convince you that it’s the story of your family. The hypochondriac Bhaskor Banerjee (Bachchan) who unabashedly allows his constipation to dictate his life, Piku (Padukone) who seems to understand it yet dismisses it like most of us would, maids who don’t want to work in your home because of crazy old father who blames them for stealing phenoyl even as the maid notes that there are expensive gadgets lying around.

Like in Finding Fanny, the house is unkempt; clothes strewn about and table cluttered. I am not sure if it’s only the proximity with our own unkempt houses that makes it endearing to watch. It definitely doesn’t help that she looks gorgeous and her clothes are perfect and she is trying to balance a career and an eccentric home. The father-daughter are a funny pair, but only to us. Everybody else in the movie is used to him and her and their verbal fits. Even Rana (Khan) who is new to their madness, and comes from a family he would be thrilled to disown, doesn’t take much time to absorb them. And this, I am guessing is because so much of their private life is made visible to everybody who has an answer to constipation.

When they drive to Calcutta, they carry their home with them. The simhasan (Banerjee’s mobile commode) tied to the carrier of the Innova is proof of this. If you are the kind, who when they meet new weird people, think of how brilliant it would be to lock them up in a room with somebody else who is weirder, then you are going to be laughing throughout the movie. The writer is a sadist bastard who plays such a trick. The challenge that the movie throws onto itself therefore is, who drives whom mad.

And that is a question with a lot of potential because you wouldn’t expect Bhaskor Banerjee to take kindly to younger men who are capable of hitting on his daughter and you are right, he doesn’t. He doles out rebuttals to strangers’ faces and keeps at it with a fervor that is far more ferocious than Piku’s silence. ‘She is financially independent and not a virgin (no Piku?)’

But sadly, you don’t care about whether this disarms Rana or not because by then the movie itself doesn’t care and has moved on to other things. Thanks to Banerjee’s growing discontent with his constipation and the relief of stereotype, the movie does not slip dangerously into the Baghban syndrome. The capacity for this seems to have been exhausted when Piku casually mentions in a conversation with Rana that she cannot leave her father. It is in these moments that one begins to notice the risks that the movie takes without faltering into a love story or a bitter- sweet family drama. It is neither. Put simply, it is a greatly written movie because it attempts to surprise itself by continuously expanding the capacity of its characters in humorous situations.

Stupid Vacations

None of my friendships have sustained my growing detachment from myself. They were all headed for their regular doom right from the day they began. My first few friendships suffered because they got miserably entwined with my personal life, it was a world I liked to have kept separate and I should have. The next set of friendships suffered because I kept them far away from any of my other lives.

The only friendships that seemed to have survived were the ones that were left alone to grow. I like these. They aren’t bound by meeting regularly or time or the kind of information you give them and its proportions. They sustain over a period of time because of willing conversations. That is probably the only kind of relationship I am capable of today. They don’t hamper the necessity that space seems to have become for me. And for some reason I grow fonder of my space when there are too many people around it. Closeness has started to scare me. The lack of energy or interest to invest in new relationships isn’t the only reason why I seem to be running away from it. There is also this lazy comfort I have grown used to. It’s the slowness of a routine that I like when there aren’t any people around.

From previous lessons learnt, I have grown suspicious of how much of ourselves we allow the world to see. Before long you begin to wonder what the world is going to do with all that information. And how much of your self are you ever going to put through the test of friendship after being bitten thrice and more? I have never been one to learn from the experience of once bitten, twice shy. For all that cocky talk of space and boundaries, I am still a little child who wonders if people become best friends after spending a lot of time together. Maybe that’s what scares me, the fact that I am a little child who cowers in temptation to let go but does not.

Maybe I am just a prick who takes herself way too seriously because vacations have begun and I am jobless and Sarah Waters is not calling me like she used to. Pah.

Seaside

His face emerged yellower and clearer from where I could see the end of the beach. A rushing white line of waves, his smiling mouth, teeth grinning to the sides of his strong jaw, and his blue swimming trunks dripping sea water. I looked away from him and found a pair of brown slippers. Their owner, the babe was in a golden bikini basking in the now orange light the sea was beginning to cast.

I pushed my hands deeper into the sand, measuring its cold trickle between my fingers. Somewhere, the ice cream cart tolled its sad bell. Somewhere else, a bunch of boys were being noisy. A woman in a big white tee sat looking pleased at the sunset. I watched her and we smiled. The city was closing itself around this beach and this moment. As the ice cream cart bell lolled somewhere into disappearance, a family of five sit gaping at the bikini babe.

Behind me, the street is beginning to widen with noise and activity. I turn back to see the bustling red Pizza Hut shining next to its Shoe Bazaar neighbour. It’s the street you recognize very well. There’s a Kamat down the road, its dull orange and green standing out in your memory. That was the day you sat sulking next to your mother in the car, right after your father whacked you with his belt for running off without telling them.

It was a ship that looked interesting. Was it a ship? You weren’t sure. You are 12 and you beg your parents to take you on the ship. You have all just belted 2 rounds of caramel custard and even the memory of its taste isn’t distracting you from the ship that takes cars, people, and dogs alike and drops them to the other end.

Instinctively, you will lure your younger brother into the ship with you. It starts sailing and suddenly you are unsure about this adventure. What if they freak out? What if the ship stops at the other end? What if they came asking for money? What if my parents leave?

His little cap is getting smaller and smaller and I just realise how small he is. I notice his fingers and toes. They are tiny. And I had carried this little thing with me into my adventure. I saw them standing at the shore. Like my brother, they were becoming too small and I was worried about how small they looked from here. When the ship stopped, my panic grew stronger. I waited, my legs shaking, palms sweating and eyes growing wider with anticipation.

Finally, the ship made its loud bellowing call. We were going back and I felt relief thundering down into my panties and my long, terrified sigh masking the shame I was now carrying in my panties. We stopped.

They had been waiting there. And when I got off the ship, they weren’t around. I held his little hand and led him to the main road. My mother had wept. Her face was red and cheeks, flushed. It’s a face I am both terrified of and detest strongly. Not long after I notice her, my thighs are burning with a mark he has made with his black belt. My brother got one too. We didn’t cry. At the signal, the dull orange and green colors at Hotel Kamat keep me occupied. Its memory caving coyly into that ship I will always be unashamedly happy about.