Yesterday I was watching Mohabbatein (with a voice in my head saying Aditya Chopra ruined Dead Poets Society) and suddenly started analyzing Bachchan’s character. It also reminded me of Piku and I started comparing Bhashkor Banerjee and Narayan Shankar.
Mohabbatein was released in 2000 and Piku was released in 2015. Mohabbatein is a mushy fairy tale romance and Piku is a comic family drama. Both movies have their own set of philosophies and very different perspectives to look at life. Plot, genre, music, locations are totally different in these movies. There is nothing common in them except Amitabh Bachchan portraying a ‘father of a young woman’.
In both the movies, Bachchan portrays strong, possessive, pain in the ass yet a loving father. Both fathers love their daughters but fail to understand her. They take her for granted and like many Indian men, they consider women as their property. So they make decisions for her without her consent.
In Mohabbatein it was easier to hate Bachchan’s fatherly figure as his character didn’t have many facades. He was a strict father who was against his daughter falling in love. So to judge and hate Bachchan in Mohabbatein was easier. But in Piku it was way too complicated. Bachchan’s Bhashkor Banerjee had his reasons to behave in a particular way and those were made crystal clear by writer and Bachchan himself. That’s why instead of hating him, audiences felt mixed emotions of pity, sorrow and sympathy. In Mohabbatein audience put him in a negative box without even understanding his character or without giving him a second chance to hear his story. But in Piku Bachchan kept attracting audiences towards him, telling them about his ’emotions’, thus giving them multiple chances to understand his character.
Death is another common factor in both movies. In Mohabbatein, Bachchan’s daughter dies, leaving him alone in agony, full of guilt that he failed as a father. In Piku, Bachchan, the father, dies leaving his daughter alone but with an assurance that he lived his life to the fullest and now she doesn’t have to live with agony or guilt that she failed to perform her duties as a daughter. Bachchan has dealt beautifully with both deaths in respective movies.
The main factor of comparison in these movies is the maturity of the characters. Mohabbatein was a table turner for Bachchan as he left his decades-long ‘hero’ image, was trying to handle the bankruptcy situation and finally got a more mature role suitable for his age and experience. That’s why in Mohabbatein, sometimes he looks like he is trying very hard to give that mature feel to his character by giving strong pauses, showering deadly looks by turning his face to a 300-degree angle, his red eyes and sudo pride. But in Piku he comes natural and effortless. There is a gap of 15 years in both the movies, which obviously gave Bachchan the time and experience he needed to do such mature roles. That’s why it becomes easier to accept Bhaskor Banerjee but way too difficult to accept Shankar Narayan with open arms.
Amitabh Bachchan is indeed a versatile actor. But portraying those fathers with a gap of 15 years shows us how much he has grown as an actor in the so-called second innings of his life. By noting the differences in these two roles he has proven that there are no boundaries to learn, experiment and experience. In the future, if Bachchan portrays another father on screen, (irrespective of the genre) I believe that it will be even more mature than his role in Piku.