Piku’s invisible friends

Did dad Bhaskhor succeed in depriving sisterhood and girl talk from Piku’s life too? Or is this yet another instance of Indian cinema giving short shrift to women bonding, wonders the writer.

July 04, 2015 04:00 pm | Updated 08:33 pm IST

A still from Piku

A still from Piku

Bhaskhor Banerjee is a formidable man. Much has been made of his unabashed attempts to pre-empt potential suitors that come Piku’s way. Seconds after an eligible bachelor is introduced, he brings forth his daughter’s unchaste sexual status to vanquish the bewildered man back to his art gallery in California. Even away from his in-person surveillance, Piku manages to quite effortlessly nix a date in the bud; thanks to her father’s perfectly timed call about his constipation, which she dutifully relays back to their doctor. At home with the theme, she remains unmindful of her date’s growing squeamishness at her unreserved poop talk at the dinner table until it is too late.

While Piku’s unsuccessful attempts at trying to normalise her sex life are plotted and explained, the absence of any girlfriends Piku may or may not have had is striking. After all, Rana Chaudhury and Syed Afroz have been friends for long and support each other in many ways. So, why are women friends missing from Piku’s on-screen life? Given his overbearing claims on her, did Bhaskhor succeed in depriving sisterhood and girl talk from Piku’s life too? Or is this yet another instance of Indian cinema giving short shrift to women bonding?

When they are easing onto the highway to Varanasi, we see Piku smiling indulgently as she slides bangles on to her wrists. We learn that she forced a halt for this purchase leading Bhaskhor and Rana to comment on her impulsive act. Piku is obviously not above the call of her feminine desires and allows herself moments of permissiveness. Such as letting calls from Syed, her partner with benefits, go unanswered when she is pouring herself some wine to steady her nerves that Bhaskhor spectacularly scrambles in public. She has her Chaubi maasi as a zany and well-meaning presence, but does Piku long for the kind of friendship to discuss things that are meaningful to her beyond her sex life? Such as her fondness for Satyajit Ray’s films and her civic consciousness? Does she seek out women friends for conversation only to find herself alienated from them? Perhaps they had become scarce and disintegrated when she found herself increasingly short on time for anything other than work or father and could not keep up with their timelines as they moved on from bachelorhood to matters marital.

I wondered then if Piku was at least lurking around as a blogger. If she had claimed space in the online world and sought acceptance and release in the ‘intimate public’ that bloggers nurture over time. If she sneaked time off from designing physical spaces on her Mac to also write about her life. If, like many other personal blogs written by women, she wrote under a pseudonym to protect her privacy? Maybe, she was even real-name friends with those who regularly commented and dialogued with her as they exchanged thoughts and stories and found support in one other. Is that why we don’t see Piku’s friends on screen? Because she probably found deeper kinship and succour in the blogosphere?

For fun, I embellished Piku’s persona further with the blogs I am familiar with. A place where sisterhood is often in plentiful supply if you have a good story to tell. I decided that I would probably enjoy reading her, especially when she declares that she is 10 times stranger, weirder, more irritating, and annoying than her father. Her blog would make compelling reading, as it alternates between her concern and annoyance with her father, her journey as a woman entrepreneur, the way her relationship with Syed seems to meander endlessly with no destination in sight, and her everyday bickering with the long- suffering drivers. On days when she is feeling particularly nostalgic, she perhaps writes longingly of the Kolkata of her childhood and her unsuccessful attempts at reproducing the taste of her mother’s khichuri . May be she enjoys dwelling on the quirks of the various characters that people her life: the family doctor who is a tacit supporter of her hypochondriac father; the scandals around Chaubi maasi; or the indispensability of Budhan and how he became family. Maybe, she finds the blog world a welcoming space for all of this and more.

Piku’s life has resonated strongly with many who identify with either parts or the whole of her being. So, I hope that Piku’s world includes supportive women friends who, though missing from the celluloid version of her life, are real characters who come alive on her blog. After all, it is probably where Piku went to write about Rana after the maid interrupted their badminton match. And that’s one post I know I would love to read.

Preeti Mudliar is a researcher and ethnographer based in Bangalore.

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.