BY MANJIMA MISRA
The subtle expression on Irrfan Khan’s face was the hallmark of his acting style. With voice modulation, a slight shift in the eyebrows and small gestures, he could build a natural connection with the viewers of his films. Irrfan Khan was one of those few legendary actors who could transform portrayal of his characters into real lives, ordinary lives, the usual day to day existence of the common man. Hence, he was able to strike a personal chord with our ‘emotive self’ through the relatable roles which he brought to life.
I have watched several films in which Irrfan Khan played a lead role. But out of all those movies which I watched, Piku has been my personal favourite. Irrfan Khan has done a fantastic job as an actor throughout his acting career. However, due to a lot of other factors, Piku has stood out for me.
I think that I found Piku relatable because of its thematic foundation and the translation of that foundation into a specific form of dialogues and background music. Out of the various issues the film touches upon, the real-life concerns of a young Bengali feminist drew me deep into the film. The background music in the film is innate to Bengali culture and the style and content of dialogues are based on the typical middle-class Bengali way of life. My Bengali root is one of the reasons because of which I could connect deeply to the film.
Bhashkor (played by Amitabh Bachchan), the 70-year-old father of Piku (played by Deepika Padukone), in spite of his eccentricities which annoy everyone, is a feminist father according to me. He says that “Western Culture is not the benchmark of progress”, when Rana (played by Irrfan Khan) tries to imply that Bhashkor’s opinion on marriage does not prevail even in the ‘progressive west’. Bhashkor thinks that marriage without purpose is a low IQ decision. He is critical of his female relatives, including his wife, who sacrificed their own needs and desires, devoted themselves to their husbands in servitude, and throwed away their careers into the backburner. When one of his female relatives says that she didn’t take up a job because it was more well-paying than her husband’s job, Bhashkor rightly says that it is this narrow thinking, this “low IQ” thinking which is the cause behind their frustration and sorrow. Unlike conservative parents, Bhashkor is okay with his daughter getting into ‘casual’ or ‘physical’ relationships.
In the film, Piku (Deepika Padukone) is a strong, independent and practical young lady. She is career driven, assertive and determined to exert control and agency over her choices in life. Her firmness and strength shines throughout the film while she struggles with the psychological pressure she is under. In spite of having an “irritating” and “exasperating” father, she considers that it is the moral duty of adult children to look after their aged parents. This value system is not very common, especially in patriarchal societies, where a girl is supposed to leave her parental home after marriage.
However, it is Irrfan Khan who is the most natural actor out of all three. His acting makes his character look so real and effortless that we are unable to picture anyone else who will bring uniqueness to Rana Chaudhary (played by Irrfan Khan), an otherwise ordinary character, who owns a taxi business. Irrfan Khan’s speciality is that he never makes the emotions of his character explicit enough. We do get a subtle indication of an emotional bonding growing between Piku and Rana, but he never takes it to the level of an evident romantic relationship. The relationship between Rana and Piku is an unspoken one, of an atypical kind. Irrfan Khan is one of those very few artists who can portray a relationship to be an elusive and understated one. It is this rare fineness in Irrfan Khan’s acting that makes his demise even more sorrowful for everyone. Not many actors can discern the nature of the character he/she is portraying to the extent that Irrfan Khan can. With his finesse, he made significant contribution to the comic element of the movie. The movie would not have been a delightful comedy without his distinctive throw of dialogues and his signature acting style.