Words by Aena Rizvi
Inquire any confident, intelligent, and cerebral woman about the purpose of women’s unenviable situation across the world, and the most suitable answer one is going to get is patriarchy. If you follow it up for a potential solution, and pat comes to the reply: Feminism. Now the question arises: is it a magic wand that will save the women of the world or a cuss word that will brand the progressive ones in society? Piku is famous for being a landmark feminist movie. In this brilliant movie, the creators have discussed feminism without letting it dominate the narrative. There would be more scenes in this movie that point out the prejudice women are forced to accept as routine.
There is a scene where Rana Chaudhary (Irrfan Khan) and Piku are sitting on one of the Ghats of Varanasi and discussing their respective lives. When Rana finds out that Piku knows driving, he immediately requests her to drive for some duration which would allow him to rest a little in the 1500km long road trip. He then starts telling her how in certain countries women are still fighting for basic rights. This is an instance when men ‘do’ feminism. Making pro-women statements, seeming to care for the honour of women, naming them as mothers and sisters, providing knee-jerk reactions to violence against women, are all but signs of ‘doing’ feminism.
The movie highlights the deeper issues of trust women carry, more so because they have been betrayed multiple times by men in different circles who didn’t turn out to be half as good as their words. In a world where gender relations are unbalanced and women are at the receiving end of injustice and prejudice, each deceitful or clever appropriation of feminism creates havoc.
One of the most frequent discussions in the movie is the right age for Piku’s marriage. While Bhaskar doesn’t want his daughter to get married because his entire life and bowel movement depends on her, he also feels that marriages should have a purpose. Unlike the mainstream cinema, Piku’s father is shown as someone who makes a conscious effort to forge a friendship with his daughter.
There are points in the movie where it is evident that Piku also longs for a normal life but she knows her priorities and can’t leave her father when he needs her the most. One sympathises with Piku who like any other girl her age wants to go out, work, date men, and focus on personal growth but is tethered to the responsibilities of a daughter whose father doesn’t want to accept changes in life. Piku is not foolproof either. In fact, she thinks she’s a lot worse than her father. Her abrupt withdrawal from work and her apparent lack of distraction with almost everything but her father hints she might be right in that assessment.
But she doesn’t like admitting this in front of strangers or friends. The moral duties are so imbedded in her that she finds it tough to break character and re-prioritise. Piku’s father is a self-centred man and feminism is his hobbyhorse, much like the bowel movements. Piku leaves angry when her father shares with a potential boyfriend that she is financially and “sexually independent.”
People think that it’s a movie about sticking to the roots and questioning development but if you watch it again, you are treated to more layers. Rana who is the third wheel to the story of Piku and her father, has an arrogant mother to deal with as well. Culturally worlds apart, Piku and Rana have one thing connecting them, that is, mutual understanding.
Also Read: 5 Women authors of voice you must read
There is another scene where Bhaskor (Amitabh Bachchan) criticises his sister-in-law for not taking up a job which would have made her the higher-earning member of the household. The whole scene indirectly tells a story of so many married couples where the women voluntarily choose to settle for a lesser job so that the husband’s ego isn’t hurt. The scene is merely 2 minutes long but about the society we live in and how women resign themselves to a fate even if they deserve better. The topic is quickly changed in the scene so that it doesn’t look like the director wants to preach about something which is logically correct yet not followed often.
Piku highlights problems about those who use feminism to manipulate women rather than free them. In an ideal world where equality prevails, there would be no requirement for feminism: both the magic wand and the cuss word. Until then, let us welcome it in true spirit. One step at a time, with our subjectivities leading us, we will arrive there. The most important lesson that this movie teaches us that Pikus should not be misled by Bhaskors.