Bhashkor Banerjee of Piku points out a flaw in our society

We all saw Piku and loved the movie. The simple story and the amazing star cast made this movie worth a watch. Even when it didn’t have conventional romance or an item number in its 2.5 hour long saga, it moved us. The high point of this movie was its story as it connected with many of us. Most of us are at a stage where we are or have to deal with our aging parents. The little nuances in a Bengali household were captured beautifully without exaggerating on the regional aspect of it, though I found Amitabh’s accent to be over the top. Bhashkor Banerjee, a man in his 70’s who has settled in Delhi but has not left his Kolkata roots is edgy and eccentric in many ways. He cannot fathom anything beyond his bowel movements and is possessive about his daughter Piku, .aka. Deepika Padukone. I loved her deglamourized look and real to life acting in this movie.

Amitabh Bachchan, Piku,  Bhashkor Banerjee

Amitabh Bachchan as Bhashkor Banerjee, image via Indiatoday.Indiatoday.in 

But coming back to Bhashkor Banerjee’s peculiarity (can say pikuliarity as well), he doesn’t want his daughter to marry who is already in her 30s. In fact, Irrfan Khan’s character is a little baffled when he comes to know of this. He is from UP and says, “Agar bas chale toh, hamare yahan beti ki shaadi bachpan mein hi kar dein.” This is how the society has been in our country, to marry off daughters as soon as they reach puberty. But Bhashkor is adamant that no one should encourage his daughter to marry. He fends off her suitors by telling them that she has had physical relationships in the past, as well as emotionally blackmails his daughter by telling her that he has given birth to her, so it’s her duty to take care of him first. He feels that all the women who marry and leave everything behind to serve a man are of low IQ. Piku’s mother was a school teacher who left her job to be with Bhashkor Banerjee and he hated that about her. But during the course of the movie Piku defends her mother by saying that it would have been a task to put up with a demanding husband like Bhashkor and continue with her job and family roles.

Now you must be wondering, where am I heading to? What is the purpose of this article? Is Bhashkor Banerjee right? Well, to a certain extent he is. Though his approach is rough but all he wants to communicate to his daughter is to think beyond marriage. In an ideal family set up, a man who is ambitious is backed by a strong family support system. A support system which is mostly his wife who has no ambitions whatsoever than dedicating her life to her man and her children. A good and HAPPY family is the one where a wife will take care of the children, their education and hobbies, the food, the aging parents of the husband, etc. so that the man can concentrate on earning money and rising in the social platform. And in return, the man will take care of her needs. Even our marriage vows (mantras) ask the man to take care of the woman’s needs of Bhaat, Kapod and Ghar. (Roti, Kapda and Makan, to be precise. Rest of the needs are unnecessary as per our patriarchal society). That’s how our family units have functioned till a few decades ago and in many families it holds true still. The woman is made to feel obliged as she gets her basic needs fulfilled by her husband, who then wants her to treat him like a god. Bhashkor Banerjee wanted his daughter to rise above this, have ambition, earn a position in the society and explore opportunities before surrendering her entire life to a man.

Leave aside the small unit in the society which is a family, who treat women as secondary. The society as a whole feels that women are meant to serve men. But is it right or wrong? I remember many of my father’s colleagues advising him not to spend a lot of money on our education (we are three sisters). My father felt proud getting me educated in a convent school. They would say why waste money on daughters, after all they will go away one day to some other household. Which is a fact! I married and moved out of my father’s house to my husband’s. Am I contributing in any way to my father’s household now? Not much! Other than occasional visits and weekly phone calls, what is the kind of support that I am providing to my old parents? Actually, none! So, somehow those colleagues were not wrong, however hard it may sound. We stay in two different cities and there is no one around them. Though, my in-laws stay with us and my husband can travel for work at peace. He knows that if some emergency arises at least I am around to take care of it.  So in effect I am serving my husband and his family and not my parents who gave birth to me. Does it sound fair? Who is to blame? The structure of our society? Or the mind-set of the people. Or the choices we women make.

Actually these choices are governed by the social moulding that we receive since we are born. Get married by 25, have children by 30, etc. Who made these timelines? And why do we adhere to them? The society still raises an eyebrow at single women in their 30s. Why can’t we women exist like individuals who think, who desire and who feel happy in their achievements, with their own people. Piku wants to get married in the movie. Of course, she has physical and emotional needs. But is marriage the only way out for her? She could have still got married to Irrfan Khan’s character and taken care of her father as they lived in the same city.  Or may be asked her husband to move in with her. But will a man ever agree? The stigma of ‘Ghar Jamai’ will loom hard over his entire life. We women are told to accept the new household as it is. We are ready to accept parents in law without any hiccups. But how many men are ready to take care of their ailing, old, parents in law? May be a handful. Piku could have asked her father to move in with her, her husband and his family. But in reality, is it possible? Not really. Balancing two sets of old parents isn’t easy in many families. Moreover, our Indian mind-set prohibits a girl’s parents from even eating or drinking at their daughter’s sasural in many communities. So what is the solution?

No, I am not saying that Piku shouldn’t marry. Piku should marry someone who treats her with respect and understands her situation. Who allows her to shuttle between her responsibilities of her father, work and his family and supports her with her choices in the limited time that she has in a day. She should marry somebody who is not vying for her time and attention all the time, dictating her the rules of marriage. He is an ideal partner. But it’s not easy finding such a partner in the real world. Isn’t it?

Now that is just one aspect. The second aspect is self-depreciation by women. Women are perceived as all giving and nurturing. And many women succumb to this notion seamlessly without thinking about their life and their goals. Bhashkor Banerjee thought serving a man was a trait of a low IQ woman. Well, we all fall under that category in some degree or another. If by god’s grace a woman is working after marriage then it becomes her duty to put her family and husband on priority, though it is not necessary for a man to do the same. If she doesn’t think about her husband and children before her and pays more attention to her career or job then she is a selfish witch. Society demands that she should be available and active 24 by 7, emotionally and physically, soothing her crying baby or comforting the poor husband who has had a hard day at work. In many households, a man and woman both get back from work where the woman quickly goes to complete her pending household duties like cooking, cleaning, etc. whereas the man simply planks himself in front of the TV and yells to order beverages of his choice. I am not saying men don’t help in the household but that’s rare. Why should a man get such privileges? Is he doing a favour by earning for his family? At least, many men would like to think so. Most of the times, he works hard for his own ambitions and not because of family responsibilites. Here, Bhashkor Banerjee is right. He feels that both genders should have equal responsibilities and equal rights. A woman should not feel that all the household chores are only her responsibility. If a man can have ambitions so can a woman.

If a parent can expect their son to take care of them in their old age, it is absolutely ok for a parent to expect their daughter to take care of them. Moreover, in India where there are no social or government support for aging individuals, it becomes all the more necessary for the aging parents to rely on their offspring for support. When the parents dutifully take care of their children while they are young, it is as much the duty of the children to take care of their parents while they are aging. (It is a different story that children feel less flexible when it comes to career movements due to their aging and ailing parents.)

Amitabh Bachchan as Bhashkor Banerjee in Piku. Image via Ibnlive.in.com

Amitabh Bachchan as Bhashkor Banerjee in Piku. Image via Ibnlive.in.com

This movie also tells us to not take life very seriously. With age, a few health problems are bound to happen. But rather than fussing over it, one should concentrate on how to make their lifestyle better. It teaches us to enjoy the present and never hesitate to learn something new.  Like Bhashkor Banerjee who decides to ride a bicycle at the age of 70 in the lanes of Kolkata and thoroughly enjoys it, we should aim at learning something new to keep our lives interesting. Bhashkor Banerjee’s character comes out as selfish, crude and attention seeking old man but may be somewhere he also has a feminist and progressive streak which we shouldn’t miss.

What do you think?

About MumbaiGloss

Parimita Chakravorty is an author, blogger, features writer and a communications specialist. She has written for various popular magazines and websites related to beauty, fashion, jewellery and lifestyle, including HAIR India, Femina.in, BeBeautiful.in, Hello, etc. She has also contributed to various youth blogs and magazines. Her book ‘Look Stunning At Any Size’ has been well appreciated and received by the readers. Currently, she is part of India’s leading IT brand and takes care of their internal communications. Parimita is also working towards bringing awareness about Endometriosis in India; a silent epidemic which is consuming a lot of lives. She manages a page ‘Endometriosis India Files’ where patients discuss their condition and diagnosis.
Bookmark the permalink.