Q. Films have rarely explored the deep bond between a father and a daughter. Piku promises to. How would you describe this onscreen bond between you and Deepika Padukone? Did that in any way remind you of your daughter Shweta’s relationship with you?
A. I would tend to agree with you. The bond between a father and daughter has perhaps limited itself, in our films, to that moment of ‘judaai’ at the marriage, or at the time of proposals of marriage from either side. The acceptance and the rejection have been formatted ad infinitum. But Piku is a departure, at best. The basics remain, as they should, but the operation is filled with large doses of maturity, understanding and acceptance. On-screen Deepika as Deepika the performer is a revelation to most of the film world now. Her rapid strides in the improved texture of her performances have surprised many. As a colleague, I can only admire her and wish her to continue her search for excellence in the years to come. Off screen she is lovable, endearing and as much a professional as professionals ought to be.
Q: They say, after a point the daughter becomes the mother. How would you describe your changing equation with Shweta now that she’s all grown up and a mother herself? Do you get along better now?
A. An honest answer to this question would harbour a certain realm of the private and personal. I would desist from going there. But yes, daughters do embellish motherhood from an early age. They are born such. In Bengali homes and in society too, the word ‘maa’ is omnipresent. Now whether it comes from Durga or Kali, two of the more important goddesses of worship in the region, one is not qualified enough to comment, but there we are. Ay maa, maa, maago are terms often heard in Bengali conversational expressions. In other regional languages, too, the importance of mother is always there — maa kasam, or in Marathi, aie chi shapath, are commonly known to all. From an early age, daughters get accustomed to run the house, mind the kitchen and so on. That has gone through a sea change in the present times. Daughters now multitask.
They work for a living and they mind home, and they are proficient in both. Piku, the character in the film, is that modern daughter. She works, she looks after her father, she runs the kitchen and most importantly, she has opinion. An opinion that may be challenged in debate, but never rejected purely because she is a female or in any way lesser than other more male-oriented thought. Shweta and I have no reason to not ‘get along’ now or even before. It was better then, it is better now.
Q. What do you think of a daughter’s role in a family? Do you think she binds the family together more than a son does?
A. In a harmonious home, both daughter and son have equal prominence and place. At least in my home they do. Children bind home and family. They are our continuity, linking the past with the present and threading it for the future. Each family desires that. They compliment legacy and I like that. Daughters bring grace, elegance and respectability. They build homes, a nest that is treasured. Sons do too, but somehow I can tell when the lady of the house is in or not.
Q. On a different note, many congratulations once again on being conferred the Padma Vibhushan. For someone whose home and office shelves are groaning under the weight of awards, how does this one hold a special significance?
A. Awards are a recognition expressed by another. I am most honoured and humbled to receive the Padma Vibhushan from the government of India, and feel truly blessed. This is a national recognition and carries its own weight and presence. The ‘weight’ of my other recognitions are equally heavy. Their sentiments and their emotions mean much to me as well. I accept all with the greatest of humility.
Q. It is heartening to see that women-oriented films are increasingly being conceptualised and made after a long gap. What do you have to say about that?
A. Yes, indeed. And I am happy to see that happening. Women are an integral part of our social milieu — 50 per cent of the strength of any nation and the ‘ardhangani’ — half the strength and part of the human. They are that proverbial mythical ‘rib’ that came out of Adam. Try living a life without that important bone. Their presence, importance and contributions are never to be ignored. Clichéd terms like ‘women empowerment’ have worn away their substance. Women are indeed ‘empowered’ and that is how it must be. This issue is subtly expressed in most vivid terms in Piku. The male protagonist, or call him what you may… Baba, for ease of reference, does make a comment that those that came with the earlier thinking and philosophy about women, about their subjugation, were and are ‘low IQ individuals’.
Q. Irrfan said that he always wanted to work with you. How was your experience working with him?
A. I have always admired Irrfan and his commendable work for a very long time. It has been an honour and a joy to have worked with him now.