Shoojit Sircar’s filmography as director runs thus: Yahaan (2005), Vicky Donor (2012), Madras Café (2013) and Piku (2015). The seven-year gap between the first two movies must have been a period of hard and fruitful introspection, because Yahaan, based on terrorism in Kashmir, was not just a box-office dud but also one long yawn for the viewer.
Then John Abraham decided to back this director with the realistic comedy Vicky Donor—and struck gold. They later collaborated on Madras Café¸ a dark, grim narration on terrorism and Sri Lankan subversives, which despite bouquets from the media and industry, failed to win an audience.
And now, with a collection that must have crossed Rs 36 crore (domestic nett) by Wednesday and will close its first week at just under Rs 40 crore, Sircar has bagged his biggest success in Piku, unanimously considered the year’s best family entertainer so far.
Certain aspects of Sircar’s Hindi film career (he is an ad filmmaker who also produces Bengali films) grab attention: two of his films have been dark sagas on terrorism, and two have been wholesome family entertainers with an edge—while Vicky Donor explored sperm donation, especially its commercial side, Piku is expressly dominated by ‘shit’, as in ablution!
So, while the first comedy was initially not endorsed as people feared a sleazy story, this film too had people cautious enough to check if it was not about crass, (literally) ‘toilet’ humour. But word-of-mouth won the day, and so did the tag-line ‘Motion Se Hi Emotion’!
Shoojit’s forte is realism, and his research into regional ethos is truly immaculate. Kashmir, Punjab, Tamil Nadu & Sri Lanka, and his home state of Bengal have all come alive in his films, whatever the movies’ other virtues or weaknesses, through (primarily) the layered characters and ‘dialogues’, aided further by apt sets and locations.
It is said that any story (including a film) has three angles to its writing—the Emotional, Intellectual and Entertainment Quotients, which ideally must be in perfect balance. And Shoojit’s IQ and that of the writing in his movies is spot on.
As he put it when we met for Madras Café, “My intelligence officer (John) is real, not a filmi Rambo!” We have also seen how convincingly Amitabh and Deepika played Bengalis in Piku, going beyond their personae to get submerged in the respective roles of Bhaskor and Piku.
But the Emotional Quotient has been strongest, strangely, in his comedies, and obviously these two films rule even in the Entertainment Quotient, explaining their success as slice-of-life comedies of the kind that had blossomed with fellow-Bengalis Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chaterjee.
And that is the principal reason why I feel—after due consideration and immense certainty—that Sircar should steer clear of dark films (we have had enough of them sinking, not floating, around!) and if possible stick to comedies, or at least films that have loads of humor even in a story in another genre.
Sircar, who extracted superlative performances from Ayushmann Khurrana, Yami Gautam, John Abraham and the Piku star trio (including Irrfan Khan), and ensured brilliant writing in his two lightweight films, has the capacity to be a Mukherjee today, when such filmmakers are badly needed.
So, dear sir, please leave terrorism to others. When you have the capacity to tickle our ribs and occasionally give us that lump in the throat (to use the anatomical references a la Vicky Donor and Piku!) so well, then why would you want to peddle depression?
– Rajiv Vijayakar, a Senior Journalist, Film & Music Critic and Historian for Hindi cinema and Film Music is also an Author and Twice Jury Member at 58th and 62nd National Film Awards.
Rajiv Vijayakar tweets @rajivvijayakar
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