Sunday, December 28, 2014

PK [dir. Rajkumar Hirani]

Today I saw PK at the cinema with my mum. I found it a slipshod, almost insufferable movie that by the theme it tackles and the willingness therein of the people behind it to attach their clout becomes ironically a courageous, even important film.

With a tip of the hat to the Terminator movie series (and also an oh-so-subtle "innocent infant" metaphor), a big-eared alien with a gym fetish turns up buck naked in a Rajasthani desert and is immediately robbed of a literal MacGuffin, a locket that calls up his spaceship. In a not-funny-the-first-time and even-less-humorous-later gag, the alien steals clothes from couples obliviously having sex in cars (I guess, because even with his sculpted pecs Aamir Khan can never look threatening enough to tell someone "I want your clothes...NOW"). For the next twenty minutes the scene abruptly shifts to a so-sketchy-it's-dead-in-the-water romance angle in Belgium, notable only to Bollywood nostalgists for a cameo by Prakash Mehra's Man Friday Ram Sethi. Then we hurtle forward again in time and space in this awkwardly bumpy script: the Brussels romance girl turned Bollywood's version of a journalist, runs into the alien, now called PK, clothed in gaudy garb and spouting Bhojpuri. Why Bhojpuri? Plot machinations aside, it is an attempt at giving the character a language that is understandable while still underlining the difference from earth-people (or Dilli-people) around him. I personally felt it an unnecessary conceit for a movie whose raison d'etre is mass acceptance; People like my mum that can just about handle conventional movie Hindi were left behind and laughed mainly at the cliched sight gags. The meat of the plot concerns PK's attempts to get a hold of this "God" character, spoken of as the only one that can help him get home. In extended and occasionally amusing sequences that poke at faith ritual and superstition, PK tries various ruses to get God's attention and seek his help, only to find himself frustrated by the lack of a definite answer to his pleas. He then challenges the authority and the concept of God as defined by religion.

As a film, PK lacks the relative sprightliness that Lage Raho Munnabhai had. There appears to be a good amount of anxiety about the humor, the sharpness of the religious digs frequently diluted with lame sitcom / slapstick. Aamir Khan's profile is great for the visibility of the film, but the character has to suffer his severe limitations as an actor. There are occasional scenes or visuals where the film shows its teeth in examining the illogic of specific religious rituals (like the milk bath of Hindu idols or the self-flagellation during Muharram), but these are few and far between. In the end PK is important mainly for the fact that a bunch of people with a massive following stuck their necks out with digs at the inherent folly of organized religion. We snobs can scoff all we want at the film's cautiousness and tendency to sugarcoat or over-explain, but let us not forget that we're in the country where a rationalist Sanal Edamaruku was driven into exile by the machinery of law for his act of "blasphemy" in exposing a fake miracle. Any film that can persuade its audience to question blind faith deserves all the support it can get.