Critics rating: 3 Stars
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Irrfan Khan, Moushumi Chatterjee.
Direction: Shoojit Sircar
Produced: N.P. Singh, Ronnie Lahiri, Sneha Rajani
Written: Juhi Chaturvedi
Duration: 2 hours 5 minutes
There is never a moment’s peace in the Bannerji household in New Delhi’s Chittaranjan Park. Bhaskor Bannerji (Amitabh Bachchan) rants on about his imagined afflictions. His daughter Piku (DeepikaPadukone) is beyond feigning patience for her Baba’s hypochondriac ways. In one particular scene, he shows genuine disappointment on receiving a clean chit in his health report.
Their mutual irascibility has a ripple effect on those who come in their range of vision. Baba reserves his finest truth bombs for family gatherings. Piku vents her barely contained frustration on the rotating crew of taxi drivers who drive her to work every day (with growing reluctance).
For all his reasoning that Piku should marry only the most progressive man, Baba’s exploitative dependence on her is evident. Her unmarried status ensures him a caretaker for life. Most of their conversations revolve around his bowel movements and the texture of the output which will prove appetising for neither the dining characters nor the popcorn-munching audience.
The scatological talk is not all in bad taste. Thank goodness for taxi service owner Rana Chaudhary (Irrfan Khan), who doubles up not only as their driver to Kolkata but also the voice of reason. Their constant bickering and allusions to Baba’s portable commode chair tests his patience. You expect him to burst out, “We are in a mental state!” like Arjun Kapoor, the beleaguered driver in Finding Fanny, another road journey starring DeepikaPadukone.
There is little by way of plot. It reads like a novel instead. The lines are snappy and the edits just as crisp, transitioning seamlessly between two conversations in a living room. Each well-times cut feels like an effective eavesdropping between two different (groups of) characters as they engage in brutally honest banter.
All characters have their little nuances and moments. Raghuvir Yadav as the family doctor and Moushumi Chatterjee as the sassy aunt make for lovely supporting characters. Even Piku, with her need for control, surrenders it in a telling scene when Rana assures her that he will keep driving through the night as she sleeps in the passenger seat.
The performance that takes not just the cake but the bakery is of Amitabh Bachchanas the testy septuagenarian. He sells his act, steals every scene and makes you wish the film was titled ‘Baba’. However, the film is an ensemble effort and not centred on the titular heroine.That is quite a balancing act to achieve.The only strained chord is the abrupt ending which would work better for a short story. Otherwise, Piku hits all the right notes, making it another feather in director Shoojit Sircar’s cap.