PK may have its flaws, but it is a thought-provoking tasteful exposure of the commerialisation of religion and the dangers of blind faith, without singling out any particular creed.
There is a war on the internet. Even as PK continues to attract crowds in its journey towards becoming one of the top five blockbusters in Hindi cinema, two warring camps in the social media are trying to suppress each other’s voices that have been raised in efforts to ascertain whether or not the film ought to be boycotted. Many warriors who are assaulting the content of the film have clearly seen it, while several others will watch it to ensure that their hyperventilation isn’t laughed at. That part, I guess, is a different story.
This duel makes one ask whether or not such a clash of perspectives is necessary. Exercising our freedom of expression is our fundamental right. But maybe, we need to calm down and try to assess the message which is conveyed by an alien, who is innocent but perceptive and also asks some uneasy questions in the film.
This protagonist enters the planet without wearing anything. Gradually, he turns into a medium, using which commercialization of religion is criticized. So is the existence of the fake godman, whose representation is a character that pretends to communicate with God, whose answers cannot be heard. That this godman is a hypocrite is shown by parading people from many major religions in front of him. He cannot identify a Hindu girl because she is wearing a burqa. Having come across the concept of religion for the first time ever, this alien doesn’t understand why human beings are a divided lot because of it.
He starts believing that the fear which torments human beings leads to faith in anything that is marketed as God. In order to prove his theory, he picks up a stone, rubs some ingredients from inside a paan on it and keeps it under a tree in front of a college. Many students stand in front of it and pray, and even give some money to please ‘that’ God before walking towards their college to appear for their examinations.
PK is a satire that makes us laugh and think from time to time. This happens since the questions are posed by an otherworldly creature that doesn’t know a thing about the history and traditions of earth. A first-time visitor, who realizes that people look different from one another only because they wear different clothes, he starts stealing them because he doesn’t have any he can call his own. Everything he sees and experiences is a discovery for him—well, almost everything—and it is his need to find God for a specific reason which lead to a few revelations that make him uncomfortable.
Director Rajkumar Hirani’s style of film-making isn’t unknown to viewers of Hindi cinema any longer. A storyteller who is brilliant at his best and who seldom leaves his sense of humour back home. He had questioned the irrelevance of Mahatma Gandhi in modern times in Lagey Raho Munna Bhai and focused on the academic system and its stereotypical methods in 3 Idiots. In PK, he has turned to religion and the way it is manipulated, a road that is best left untrodden. He teamed up with Aamir Khan in both 3 Idiots and PK because the latter is the only megastar, who is more than willing to experiment. Aamir’s approach has allowed Hirani to fulfill his cinematic dreams, and truly, there is nothing more he could have asked for.
In commercial terms, Aamir guarantees huge revenues whenever a film of his is made on a subject which addresses viewers of mainstream cinema. In spite of opening on a Friday which was not a holiday and without having a paid preview, PK’s net collections in India alone are hovering around the Rs 116 crore mark in the first four days. In the international market as reported by the website www.bollywoodhungama.com, the film had grossed Rs 47.6 crore by December 22 itself with facts and figures of a few markets yet to arrive. An estimated budget of Rs 90 crore has, therefore, been comfortably crossed because PK has been able to allure viewers in spite of the choice of a subject, the distortion of which can be potentially lethal.
But this distortion has not happened, which ought to lead us to one basic question. Why? The answer is a simple one. Although Hirani has used a Hindu godman to convey a message, the film hasn’t questioned the rituals and methods of any specific religion. Had that been the case, the parade consisting of people from all religious faiths wouldn’t have been part of the script. Sanjay Dutt’s character, a Rajasthani bandmaster named Bhairon Singh, who becomes the first friend of the alien in this planet, seems to have been killed in a hurry because the actor has been in and out of jail. But, how does he die? Because of a bomb explosion inside a train, which definitely wasn’t an exercise carried out by Hindu terrorists. In a simple manner which is his USP, Hirani shows that terrorists are born out of religious fanaticism. It is not an assault on Islam.
The broad message, in other words, is that human beings must coexist in harmony. Religious divides create fractures within the society, and they need to heal if the world has to become a united place where everyone can live together, without discrimination, without warfare. We must stop fearing God, because God is not someone we have to be afraid of. Since blind faith impedes progress, we must learn to distinguish between the marketing of non-existent power and pretentious access to God that preys on our vulnerabilities and flourishes because of them.
PK’s suggestion is a utopian one, and it does have its share of flaws. A talk show which starts out with a debate between the godman and the alien turns into a meandering melodrama straight out of a bad film of the late 70s. Not only does the alien chew paan, he also wears lipstick to highlight the redness, which is a pain to watch. The chirpy tone of the first half makes way for an overdose of sermonizing in the second.
But the film is not a scathing attack but a gentle reminder, and it does give rise to some fine moments such as a subplot involving Gandhi’s photograph which need not be divulged here. Another one is the entry of Ranbir Kapoor for a few very meaningful seconds. He shares the screen with Aamir, who tries to reinvent himself in each of his films. If Aamir is the veteran, Ranbir has shown that he aspires to inherit that space. His appearance is a memory that won’t fade away anytime soon.
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