Film & Metaphor - Scenes From Satyajit Ray's Pikoo

By Satish Krishna Reddy. Posted on June 22, 2015

In 1980, Satyajit Ray directed Pikoo, a short film for a French TV channel. The film, adapted from Pikoor Diary (written by Ray's for his book), showcases a day in the life of a six-year-old child, Pikoo, in the backdrop of his mother's extramarital affair.  The purpose of this analysis is to understand the director's intentions in composing and staging of scenes, the use of analogies, metaphors and symbolism to convey hidden messages and the uses of subtext. The most important line in the film "Shall I use black colour to draw a white flower..?" is a simple innocent statement by a kid yet it has complex parallels. The film deals with normal people in a family but with complex reactions to situations they are in.

The subtext in the story is that if a woman is unfaithful, she doesn't really care about either the household or her family. The film is bold because of the housewife's audacity to have an affair in broad daylight in her own house. The film opens with photographs of Pikoo and his parents, an old black and white photo of the couple indicating absence of colour in their present life.

Scene 1 - In The Bedroom With Her Husband

In the scene, the husband is angry at the broken button in the shirt and hints at being aware of her affair and casually questions about her boyfriend. There is a visible strain and tension in their relationship. As the husband complains at the broken button, the wife is least affected and she continues with her job. The broken button signifies that the lady of the house is not interested in her husband or her role as a house wife. He throws the shirt at her and she is unmoved. The scene of throwing the shirt is a visual equivalent to the allegations on her and subsequently her indifference to the allegations. In a striking contrast when she has an argument with her lover she apologizes as she desires to continue the affair.

Scene 2 - Thrombosis / Heart Attack & Death

The heart attack suffered by the old man and the discussion of thrombosis is a metaphor for the death of the heart and the loss of character and chastity in the woman. The death signifies the death of redemption and return for the woman who succumbed to her desires. The kid is aware of the fight between his father and mother and the old man could be a possible reason for the rift and implies the thrombosis in the family. The casualness in referring to the number of heart attacks the old man has suffered with her paramour shows her coldness and indifference towards the people in her own house.

Scene 3: The Barking Dog

In another review I came across on the web, the barking dog was assumed to be a metaphor for a sex starved housewife. I feel it is a metaphor for neighbor's gossip and the rumors about the affair and the innocent kid's reaction to shut up the common public. In a similar innocent vein the kid uses the words "shut up" again to stop the argument of the lovers behind closed doors.

Scene 4: The Servant Eating Chillies

In the scene as the servant is having his lunch, the kid watches the servant eat a chili; he asks the servant "isn't the chili hot?" The servant replies "it is hot but it is tasty", providing a parallel to the necessity of the extramarital affair. Though it is immoral she wants to continue the affair as she desires it, nonchalant about the consequences. The scene is again connected with the call of the woman's voice immediately which bridges the analogy.

Scene 5: Maternal Vs Carnal Instinct

In the scene, the mother looks at her son in the garden busy painting as she tricked him into doing so. She looks at him and he maternal instincts are at its fore. The staging is such that she is right in between carnal and maternal love. In front of her is her son in the garden and behind her is her lover who is waiting for her to make love. She is repentant for a moment as she introspects in misery but she succumbs to her carnal desires as it overpowers her maternal love.

Scene 6: In The Bedroom With Her Lover

As both the lovers discuss about her husband's suspicion about their affair, she places her husband's shirt inside the cupboard to signify she is closing him out of her life temporarily as she wants to enjoy the moment with her lover. She places a towel on the pillow to leave no trace of her lover's hair as she doesn't want her husband to get more suspicious. She then proceeds to close the doors and moves the curtains to shut the world out from their secret lives.

Scene 7: Drawings

White color signifies that there is nothing to paint a woman's good character. Chastity is a virtue and while it is easy to paint other colors it is impossible to paint spotlessness. To draw a white flower with a black pen is a metaphor for losing one's character. The kid goes about painting all the colors of the flowers and calls out to his mom as she is in the middle of an intimate moment with her lover that there is no color to paint white. The drop of water on the painting signifies the blot on the character.

The End

The ending is left open-ended for interpretation. The kid cries at the death of his grandfather and the indifference of his mother and then continues to draw. The mother doesn't make eye contact with the kid as she feels guilty. And for some strange reason we assume the mother son relationship won't be the same any more.


Satish Reddy is a short filmmaker. A diehard fan of Korean movies who loves watching movies and occasionally writes about movies and reviews them. He is a research analyst in a consulting firm.


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