'Pihu' Review: A heart tugging tale of a two year old caught between marital discords and the aftermath

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

Rimli Bhattacharya

Are you females a part of the thirty percent? Pregnant women are you among the four present? I guess you haven’t understood my question. I am talking about the statistics of domestic violence on females here in India. To my patriarchal society let me not mess up things. Since I fully understand the fact that men too undergo the aftermath of domestic violence. So what do you do when you are caught up in the ugly fight? Go mad like a raging bull? You throw things at each other? You abuse each other with your fantastic vocabulary of adjectives? Do you try hitting each other even? What if you have a child at home? Do you think that your scrimmages do not affect them at all? And if the child is a grown up one, mark my words s/he will grow up a timid individual with low self-esteem. Or else we have more good news. The cycle of abuse is carried to their adult relationships and we will have a new life of bruises, cuts, court trials similar to a life a tadpole enjoys. I am in no jocular mood. We all know a tadpole sheds its tail like we know how to get rid of this abuse, may be through suicide. Who knows?

In the year 2018 as censor board names it thriller/drama a one hour thirty three minutes film ‘PIHU’ was released. Back in those years I was unaware of this movie but courtesy Netflix I watched it couple of days back. The movie triggers a one liner that the film is all about a two year old child whose mother has passed away and the father is out on an official tour. I read couple of reviews before watching it. And reading them I was sure I won’t carry on with the barbarous showcase on a child by writer/director Vinod Kapri and producers Siddharth Roy Kapur, Ronnie Screwvala and Shilpa Jindal.

But I guess I love dark films and this particular movie didn’t disappoint me at all. The film opens with a two year old Pihu (played by Pihu Myra Viswakarma) who had her birthday the day beforewaking up from sleepthis morning (we can make out the birthday thing during the introduction of the cast and crew), which is also the doomsday when the unfortunate incident takes place. She looks at her mother, tries to wake the motionless body lying on the bed. The house is in a total mess and the father is missing. Rest of the movie is a total nightmare. Tiny Pihu grapples with the little things. She runs to her mother every now and then asking her for help. Unable to wake her mother and also unable to control her little tummy, little Pihu carries the toilet seat to sit on the commode. Removing her Pajamas and her underwear proves a challenge to her. As the struggles unfold the first thing we know that there are certain things in our everyday life which are scarier than physical abuse to babies and little children. Pihu is a glaring example.

Pihu is based on a true story which took place in our capital city couple of years back. Though people have given poor rating to Kapri for his movie but let’s not forget Pihu is neither an unrealistic Home Alone nor Baby’s Day Out movies. Kapri made sure that he delivers the message to the watchers. No, I am not pushing Hollywood down but I want to say while those movies are for children, Pihu is not. Spilling the milk bottle and trying to drink the phenyl (color is white), the clothes Iron which has not been turned off, exposed wires, the gas whose all the four ovens Pihu lights to warm her roti and in process almost kills herself, a running tap on a cluttered basin, a flight of stairs and a balcony in a high rise it has all which adults need for their everyday life but certainly not children.

Certain spoilers like the mother’s body bearing injury marks multiplied by what the father says on phone clearly indicates domestic violence. Her lips have dried blood on them which further strengthens my statement. Yes the father speaks to Pihu. He starts by abusing Pihu’s mother but is surprised to find Pihu answering the cell. Kapri did slip a little. First, the cell lies on a bracket which is far from Pihu’s reach and he made the child go through hell to get the phone. A nail biting moment indeed. She could have fallen down and injured herself. Second, why is the phone always on a speaker? Is it for us, the audiences to gather pieces? I found it melodramatic, though not all will agree with me. Kapri should have given a sincere try on the audio track to avoid the dent which appears comical.

On the mirror is asuicide note written by Pihu’s mother by a lipstick mentioning she is going far away. As her husband had said he won’t step in the house until she leaves so she is complying with his wishes. She would have taken Pihu with her but developed cold feet. Morning after the massacre Pihu runs to her mother with that lipstick for a good makeup and in process spills all the sleeping pills from her mother’s hand which has caused the death. So what was it that have caused the suicide? Extramarital affair? Physical abuse? Mental illness? Non compatibility? Who knows? But whatever it might be it is a selfish and cowardly act by both the parents knowing fully well that the child cannot protect herself and will be alone at home toying with those dangerous items. Selfish, that is all I get to say.

But Kapri deserves a standing ovation for making a two year old act solo in the movie. The child is camera friendly and nowhere does she look like she is acting or mugging some lines and vomiting them. Burning her tiny fingers from the iron, running to her mother asking to tend her, locking herself in the refrigerator, slipping on the water coming from the uncorked water tap and the scariest - popping up some of the sleeping pills. At time she looks frightened and cries (the sound of the geyser blowing up was scary for Pihu), but nowhere does she get her parents to hug or kiss her. With limited food like chips, jam and cake she survives on this little mercies. She is naughty and needs supervision like any other child but that gives the audiences goose bumps when she climbs the railings of the balcony to bring her doll and a monkey. She calls out for her friends Amogh and Ishika to see her doll. While Pihu is on ninth floor both the monkey and doll have been accidentally slipped by her on the road below. Please watch the trailer I am not faking it.

The commotion of the neighbors are heard as the electricity starts fluctuating and also the water coming out from the house. They knock the door. Little Pihu answers each time they knock which they cannot hear. So all she does is to lie down on that watery floor and watch the activities from below the door. Something similar with the home of couples with marital discord.

But there is something very weird. The house is full of photo frames of Pihu with her papa but nowhere can we see the mother with her. Okay, now we get a justification as the movie at its closure brings the father who is now in tears and tatters. On hearing little Pihu’s voice he asks her where she is. The little girl astonishes the audiences by her expressionless reply “Mein ghar bana rahein hoon. Dekho do alag alag ghar meine bana di hein.”(I am making houses. And this time I have made two separate houses). And we think children don’t understand things.

About Author 

Rimli Bhattacharya is a first class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering with a MBA in supply chain management. She has contributed to two anthologies, A Book of light and Muffled Moans and has written two solo books, The crosshairs of life and That day it rained and other stories. Her other works have appeared in twenty nine literary magazines & E – Zines. She is also an Indian Classical dancer. Views expressed are personal.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated 

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