They were lurking around, uniformly faceless. Cowering under the stench of the made-up attitude being thrown around. Mere silhouettes, flitting in and out of squeaky clean shadows that we left behind. We were a rambunctious herd, a class apart, not to be messed with, on our day out. At first they were at the entrance gates, parking lots, then at the security ramps and now inside. They brought our refreshments, offered a towel to dry our sleazy hands or mopped up after we messed the brightly lit washrooms. As usual we looked through them - imperfect, weightless, beings with no attitude, the other.
As our herd settled down, we whinnied at the ‘Clean India’ bit that was shown prior to the full-length feature.
Moments into Piku, we saw them there too, sharing their lives with Bhaskhor, Piku and Rana. We saw them in the form of Budhan, a man who had to suffer Bhashkor through the day while our Piku went to work. In the form of the hapless drivers that worked for Rana, tolerating Piku’s feisty moods and random bouts of temper. Yes, the film is all about loving and looking after your old parent, sacrificing a big chunk of your life and bonding over emotions. That’s nice and comforting, makes us feel happy and Piku-like. But it is also about the invisible ‘other’ on whom we all depend on, day in and day out, but whose very existence we never acknowledge. If they do not turn up or take a day off, our life is a shambles, quake-hit. But are never ever considered a part in our glorious ‘selfie’ moments. Piku unconsciously is a tribute to that invisible mass.
Picture this. Without Budhan’s help would Bhashkor’s ‘throne’ be atop the soon-to-be harried Innova, a scene that lends itself to being one of the most enduring images of a movie from Mumbai this year? Would Bhashkor ever have experienced the thrill of cycling, if that bumbling newspaper delivery boy had not reluctantly handed that wheelie over? Would he have been one with the wind, breezing past in the by lanes of Kolkata, contemplating our future, maybe not so dark, as he paused to take a peep of that little girl aside her harmonium? After the ride of his life, and that perfect motion, where would have Bhashkor slipped into for his final blissful slumber, if Budhan and others had not huffed and puffed that giant antique bed to its place.
Our hearts are eager to know if Piku and Rana take a serious walk down the courtship causeway as the film ended. Do we spare a thought for Budhan, with Bhashkor gone? Fittingly Sircar makes Piku mouth a welcome back to her domestic maid towards the end as she casually returns a shuttle aka a Padukone.
Our herd arose and surveyed the scene about. The wasted popcorn peppered the red carpet floor all around, empty cups that once held fizz and zero-carb cartons strewn everywhere. We left it for them, the nameless and the faceless. Cut to the whinny earlier. On screen Bhashkor, Piku, Rana and Budhan applauded, slow clapped. We feigned ignorance and in our zombie like trance trooped out.
Leaving, I thought which woebegone Bhashkor had to forcibly part with his ancestral paradise giving way to the steel, glass and mortar behemoth from which I had just emerged with Piku? I just wondered.
(The writer is a Social Development Consultant based in Delhi working with The World Bank)