Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Film Review - Piku, a film of Bengali eccentricities

You have to give it to Deepika Padukone! Sandwiched between two stalwarts, Amitabh Bachchan and Irrfan Khan, she struck out and carved for herself to be acknowledged as a remarkable actress with an unforgettable role as Piku, in the film by the same name, directed by Soojit Sarkar.

Depicted as they come, a serious Bengali girl who is an Architect in Delhi, Piku is single, unmarried yet and a care giver to her 70 year old father, Bhaskor Banerjee, played by Amitabh Bachchan. Bhaskor is inflicted with a condition often a problem with aging people called constipation. Had it remained at that, it would have been fine but it has the Bengali twist to it, that being, constipation has become an obsession with the senior. From morning to night, breakfast to dinner, all conversations are around constipation!

Poor Piku! Needless to say, she is in the thick of having to listen to it and handle her father’s bowel condition, day in and day out. Being a dutiful daughter, she does not show resentment although a war of words ensues every now and then between the two.

Syed Afroz  played by Jisshu Sengupta is a good friend, although her Boss too at work and Piku and he could have made a good partnership, had Bhaskor not played dirty, like most Bengali single, to be read, widowed/widower father was not so selfish. He wanted Piku only to himself.

In the meantime, it is decided that the family house in Kolkata must be sold and Piku and Bhaskor, set off on a long journey to Kolkata by car! Bhaskor is mortally afraid of both Plane and Train, because, he is paranoid that his bowels which are already so reluctant will now create havoc for him.
Come Rana Chaudhary played by Irrfan Khan, the man who is a Civil Engineer but has had to settle to his father’s business of running a taxi service, after being cheated in the Gulf, by taking a job there, but made to do something else. He returned as soon as he could and then, took up his father’s business.

Through the long and quintessential journey from Delhi to Kolkata, Bhaskor and Piku get fond of him and find that even after arriving at Kolkata, they are averse to leaving him. But Rana must return soon to be followed by Piku  - alone.

Having given up the idea of selling the Kolkata house, Bhaskor overdoes his fun moments in Kolkata and leaves all of a sudden for his swargloka, happy as a lark, having had his full measure of fun and also having then forgotten all about his constipation.

Deepika returns to Delhi and its business as usual, with a difference! A game of badminton between Piku and Irrfan is indicative of things to come, in future, perhaps!

This review will remain incomplete with the mention of Chaubi Mashi, played by Moushumi Chatterjee, who is Piku’s maternal aunt, always visiting the family and never stopping to deride Bhaskor Bannerjee, Amitabh Bachchan, her brother-in-law in the film for causing the early death of her sister, by his constant idiosyncrasies.

I give 4 STAR to the film if you are to look at it from the Bengali point of view. It does a wonderful job! But if you are to look at the larger mass, I would give it only 2 STAR, because, unless you knew Bangla and their absolute eccentricities, it would be a film that could not have been watched at all!

Having said that, the director missed out on another Bengali idiosyncrasy, that being gorom joler kulkucchi – a warm water gargle.  But then that may be in the making of Piku II.


Amitabh Bachchan as Bhashkor Banerjee
Deepika Padukone as Piku Banerjee[5]
Irrfan Khan as Rana Chaudhary
Moushumi Chatterjee as Chaubi Mashi
Balendra Singh as Budhan
Raghuvir Yadav as Dr. Srivastava
Jisshu Sengupta as Syed Afroz
Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury as Nabendu
Akshay Oberoi in a cameo

Maushumi Chatterjee boasts of her role in Piku: Click Here

Thursday, May 21, 2015

She's come home to me!

                                                She's come home to me
                                     (Dedicated to the memory of my ‘intellectual mother’, my Chotomoni)

Many year before she left her mortal body, she had called me one day in Delhi, to tell me she was going to visit and stay with me here for two months. My partner and I were really happy and looking forward to her coming. 

However, back where she stayed in Kolkata, discussions began at her home about how she could be sent to Delhi. Her husband had got so used to having her around, serving his every need, her son had not outgrown the umbilical cord connection, her own home needed her for each and every thing – what was going to be cooked each day, how much and for how many people – the list went on and on. Needless to say, the discussion of her coming to Delhi ended, only when she decided not to come at all.

Next, I decided to spend a year in Kolkata in my newly acquired home. My flat was only a forty-five minute taxi distance from hers. I pleaded with her to come and stay a week with me, with her husband, my meshamoshai. But then, once again the question arose, as to how she could go, because her husband refused to come along and her young toddler grandson, I was told by her, asked every day, before he went to Kindergarten, whether, she his granny would be home when he returned from school…

The plan to come stay with me was dropped yet again!

I was furious! Women, I told her, always put themselves aside to put men first and then complain that they don’t get heard. My Chotomoni, only smiled. After all, it was her gentleness which was most used against her. 

I never asked her again. I knew she would feel guilty both ways, to refuse me or to listen to her family only. I did not want her to suffer the fragmentation of an undecided mind. I let it go and instead increased my visits to hers.

Until, last year, on 16th May, 2014, she left her body. I was not at her bedside at that moment, but when I went back to her house after a few days, her photo greeted me with the enigmatic smile that was typically hers. I wept uncontrollably. She had not set foot in the house, that was mine and she would never do so, now.

On the 6th this month, May, 2015, we completed the one year death formalities by Hindu rituals at Kolkata.
On the 16th evening, I called my brother, her son in Kolkata and talked to him, consoling him. On the 17th I woke with a dream vivid as real life. 

In my dream, I was preparing to eat a breakfast of what used to be my maternal grandfather’s favourite dinner. Doodh rooti  is what it is called. Chappatis torn to small pieces and thrown into milk, with a dash of sugar, was in our family pure joy, learnt from habits passed down the generations. 

I saw, my partner returning home with Chotomoni beside her. I was overjoyed. Helping her to sit on a chair, I hurried to give her my bowl of doodh rooti, which she accepted and was stirring the spoon in the bowl, before taking a bite, when she looked at me and said clearly –

“Wear diamonds around your neck.”

I was a little stunned, both from the fact that I was not given to such showbiz, nor felt I could do so because diamonds are so expensive, but my partner interpreted the dream to mean, that in her accepting the doodh rooti, she has indicated that she has accepted what I have had to offer her and in return she has blessed me with the diamonds, to symbolize, a sparkling white and pure clarity of life and path ahead.

No wonder, then, to keep the magic of the moment alive in me, I quickly placed the Chrystals around my neck.

She has come home to me, my Chotomoni. I am wearing her around my neck.

On the isle side in a printed border white silk sari, Chotomoni, Dr Pratima Konar seen here with her friend and room mate with whom she lived over seven years in London, doing her Ph.D. This picture was taken when they were visiting Holland. She wrote at the back of the photo taken in the 60s, Mira Dasgupta and Pratima on boat in Europe.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Can read; will fight hunger!

First generation learners @ Imlee Mahuaa School
When we give a child the gift of letters, we prepare them to never go hungry in their lives.

A letter came on email today, which filled me up with so much joy. 3 years ago I had traveled all the way to the Naxalite hit Bastar District Chhattisgarh, to meet Prayag Joshi at his school run by an NGO Trust, dedicated to teaching children their 4 Rs, where even the Government of India fears to run a school. Let me take you to this letter straight away.

Dear Julia,

How are you? Hope you are doing well.

I am happy to share with you the Annual Report and photographs of the work we did at Akanksha Public Charitable Trust during the year that just went by (you could use the links at the end of this message to view the Annual Report and other documents).

We have had an encouraging and satisfying year at Akanksha.

The 11 children whom Akanksha supports for their formal education in Chennai have progressed well at their respective schools. We expect to add another 3 to 5 children in Chennai and 50 children in rural Chhattisgarh to this program during the next two years.

At Imlee Mahuaa School, we watched our 60 children play, explore, learn and get insights from a variety of games, experiences and work. Some of the older children eagerly took on the challenge of engaging with their course work without being ‘taught’ by the adults and some even started participating in running the School.

Our educational experience was rendered especially joyous by various steps that we took during the year to free ourselves from many structures, rules and givens that we’d constructed for each other at School. It was also enriched by the variety of interactions that we had with many people who visited us in Balenga Para and with those whom we met during our excursions away from School.

This year, our children started saving up the scholarships they received from the School in their own Public Provident Fund Accounts. They expect to use these savings for higher studies, entrepreneurial pursuits and other important purposes in future.

Of course, the encouragement, support, and contributions that we have received from you and others like you over the years has made all this possible. Thank you very much.

All of us will be very happy to hear from you and have you over with us again. So do write to us and come and visit us whenever you can. 

Bye now.
Warm regards.


a. Annual Report  Click HERE:
b. Photographs Click HERE:
c. Audited Financial Statements  Click HERE-
d. Audit Report  Click HERE
e. Minutes of meetings of the Board of Trustees Click HERE-

Click here for Imlee Mahuaa School on Facebook:

Prayaag Joshi with hs kids in Nainital

Friday, May 08, 2015

Missing from earth but not my memory

L-R: Rustam ji Taraporevala, Julia Dutta, Erica Taraporevala

The one missing from the picture above is Sengupta aunty. 

The beautiful, vivacious, talkative, forgetful but forever young lady, Anima Sengupta, mother of my school friend Erica Taraporevala just left planet earth on 7th May, 2015.

The last time, I met her was when I wined and dined with the entire family at their lovely residence, at Nagar Road, Pune, two years ago. Sengupta aunty and I engaged with talking about the days, we all lived very happily in the LIC Colony, Borivali, Mumbai. We recalled, while her daughter and son-in-law went to bed upstairs, about the times when in that colony was a little town made of Bengalis who had come to live from different parts of India and of course Bombay. Did I remember, Bhattarji uncle, and his pure Bangal accent and the way he made us laugh? Of course I did! When he related the story of the young boys playing in the football field had gathered with mock show of fearlessness, rolling up their sleeves and tucking in their lungis (football was played in lungis, the national dress of Bangladeshi men in the 50s) to fight against establishment, but no sooner had the police come to lathi charge them, they fled so hard that some of the boys even went bottomless, because, their lungis had dropped off and they did not even realize it!? And just as in those days, we all laughed so much, Sengupta aunty and I cracked the night air with our giggles.

And of course the time, she went to Juhu beach and the naughty wave came forcefully in and grabbed her set of Made-in-London dentures, the whole set, leaving her toothless but not humour deprived. Sengupta aunty and my maternal aunt, my mashi were very good friends and often when school broke and I returned home to a snack before dinner, Sengupta aunty was in our house chatting with my mashi.

“My God, Mrs Shyam, it is late!" She gasped, "Erica must have come home too. Let me rush back!”

This time too when we met, we talked of the past and memories filled like never before. Talking to her made me realize that she filled up a void in my heart - when she and I talked, it was just like when I lay on my diwan in the drawing room and my mashi sat after dinner on the sofa and we chatted about this and that, people from the past and incidents etched in our minds.

That luxury is now lost. The moments of togetherness as niece and aunt, are gone forever now. Sengupta aunty was a great story teller, and so is her daughter, Erica Taraporevala.  Like mother ; like daughter.

And I, will always miss the closeness of that hour when we talked, just like I talked with my aunt, my mashi. The door to that story in my life is forever closed now.

Goodbye Sengupta Aunty! I know you are having a great time out there, meeting up and talking about the past on planet earth with all those who left before you, from Borivali LIC Colony Bongo Samaj!

Ebar janai propam!

R-L: Sengupta Aunty, Rustam ji Taraporevala, Persis, Erica, Mrs  Freny Ginwala , Natasha.