PK is a Poignant Piece of Cinematic Enlightenment. How?

A Bildungsroman and a high-minded satire.

Rajkumar Hirani’s first film in five years is a warm, funny and piercingly provocative satire that should blow the blues away. Bildungsroman ~ that is what PK is. Woven in magical realism and abstract themes, PK is, at its heart, a tale of growing up and understanding life as it is. The screenplay by Hirani and Abhijat Joshi demands a degree of willing suspension of disbelief, especially when it comes to a few of the pivotal coincidences that drive the narrative.

There’s a surprise at every turn but it is never overplayed. The Hirani-Chopra duo flawlessly depict the very same in a rugged Indian context. The nude scene of Aamir Khan (an integral part of the movie) and many more such scenes bear testimony to the real theme of the movie, which has been assiduously wrapped in a commercial blanket by the auteur Rajkumar Hirani. As a human being ages, his/her mental condition and understanding of the society/world at large undergoes numerous phenomenological changes, most fundamentally from compliance to cognizance and finally to deeper consciousness. This is what Rajkumar Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra portray in this movie, scene after brilliant scene. The screenwriters have worked a delicately crafted love story into the taut tapestry of PK, thereby lending it an emotional dimension that usually eludes a high-minded satire.

PK is out to provoke but not to shock.

The film asks questions via its idiot savant protagonist, but does not attempt to deliver facile, absolute answers. And that makes it all the more effective. PK pulls no punches at all and speaks its mind like a carefree child that has just learnt to talk and make sense of the world. He happens to be hard-hitting critique of all that ails a nation that seems to have lost its human moorings and is in blind pursuit of false panaceas remains good-natured all the way through.

A story breaking the stereotype and changing perceptions.

PK’s (Aamir Khan) only means of returning home was stolen from him the moment he arrived in the remoteness of Rajasthan. This is an unlikely saga of an alien who lands in the desert completely naked like a new-born baby and then proceeds to acquire the ways of human adults in a bid to survive in a hostile environment. In one of the film’s quirkiest scenes, he learns the language of humans by drawing words out of the mind of a sleepy Bhojpuri-speaking sex worker that he is led to by his only friend in the desert of Rajasthan, band master Bhairon Singh (Sanjay Dutt). Now, with language as his effective tool, PK travels to Delhi in search of the thief who stole his device. Through various sources, he is recommended to follow the path of God, who would offer a solution to his problem. This is when PK is confronted with several Gods among diverse religions that sometimes have the opposite principles. Through rigorous devotion to his cause of searching for the one who could help him, PK realizes that God wasn’t answering because of the wrong connection with his devotees. Aided in his quest to change people’s views about God by a tenacious television journalist Jaggu Sahni (Anushka Sharma), he dares to correct the iconic servant of God, Tapasvi Maharaj (Saurabh Shukla). Once he finds his way on to the television screen, the unflappable extra-terrestrial unleashes a storm that sweeps everything and everyone in its way. And that most certainly includes the audience.

PK conjectures that Tapasvi and other godmen must be dialling a “wrong number” to communicate with God, and are therefore advising the public to engage in meaningless rituals. Jaggu encourages the public to expose fraudulent godmen, by sending their videos to her news channel. This “wrong number” campaign turns into a popular mass-movement, to the dismay of Tapasvi. Meanwhile, Bhairon finds the thief and contacts PK, telling him that he sold his remote control to Tapasvi, after which PK realises that Tapasvi was actually a fraud all along and that it wasn’t a “wrong number”. What ensues in Rajkumar Hirani’s well written script is a delicate walk along the line of pragmatism and self-belief.

Brilliant Supporting cast

Anushka Sharma, playing a feisty poetry-loving girl who knows her mind far more than most Hindi film heroines are allowed to, holds her own against Aamir Khan. Her energy is consistent throughout and that is perhaps her strength as an actress. Saurabh Shukla’s Tapasvi Maharaj is the manipulative hypocrite whose ego and lies reflect much of what is wrong with religion now; he though isn’t an ogre designed to evoke disgust. He is excellent in the debate scene with PK where his demeanor even sets doubts in our minds about the outcome.

Bhairon Singh’s brevity on screen was definitely inadequate and we realize how well Sanjay Dutt complements Hirani’s form of storytelling in any character.  Sushant Singh Rajput impresses in his brief role while Boman Irani is outstanding as the media mogul who is keen to avenge the trishul attack on him. Parikshit Sahni’s depiction of a stubborn religious follower is quite a treat from one of the most under-rated supporting actors.

Aamir Khan

With his wide open eyes and flappy ears, PK is constantly observing and learning to adapt to a strange land. His child- like viewpoint of life around him on the “gola” is portrayed convincingly along with his frustrations, confusions and deliberations. His objective view of things we do on a day-to-day basis in a subjective manner is what prompts the best dialogues, performances and comedy in the film. The dialogues of course, are funnier because of him speaking in bhojpuri. Aamir Khan is riveting, and consistently endearing as the child-man who poses impossibly innocent questions that sting. Never reducing the character to caricature – despite his innumerable tics – Aamir Khan delivers one of his best performances here. The actor revels in the character of the wide-eyed, fearless rebel who dares to challenge the societal and religious structures that encourage bigotry and distrust.

Hirani’s genius solution

The characters and the crucial dramatic and comic moments are, however, informed with such infectious warmth and beauty that nothing that the plot throws up is ever in danger of ringing overly false. PK is a brave movie, a social satire and a call to change. Rajkumar Hirani isn’t new to breaking the stereotype and changing perceptions. With ‘Munnabhai’ and ‘Rancho’ having influenced a generation in their own way, he now faced the challenge of accusing religious leaders of connecting people to a ‘wrong number’ with God. He had to often ridicule common practices, rattle faith and yet remain inoffensive to each religion in a country that boasts of its diversity. Hirani’s genius solution was to have an alien look at this from a child- like perspective and question our common sense and conscience. Optimistically, the result will alter the way a billion people waste gold, money, milk and sundry products in age old superstitions that are commanded by the fear of uncertainty. Pessimistically, these billion will simply erupt in guffaws provoked by PK’s outrageous learning process while munching on their expensive popcorn.

Guest appearance

Do watch out for Ranbir Kapoor – a little icing on a cake so appetizing that it will have you clamouring for more.

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