Movie Review: PK

December 19, 2014

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

First things first. All those guesses about who PK is were right after all. Aamir Khan’s bulging eyes, pointy ears and unblinking stares do mean that he is an alien from a planet far, far away, who lands on earth to “research” us human beings.

He appears stark naked in an arid desert, and soon discovers that earth is not a very friendly place. His only means of going back home is stolen, people keep slapping him for holding hands with them, and when he finally turns to the mysterious entity called God, who everyone seems to trust to solve their problems, he doesn’t seem to be heard at all.

Through this alien, filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani presents his latest social cause – religion and the commercialisation of it. He references the Hindu-Muslim divide, conversions, and rich godmen.

There are broad, ambiguous questions about religion, and the film tries to provide simplistic answers. But you don’t mind because it is all done with a touch of humour … until the end of the first half, that is.

Post-interval, Hirani and his good intentions seem to have run out of steam. Aamir’s wide-eyed look gets repetitive, and it feels like someone is chanting the same mantra over and over again. We get it, Mr. Hirani and Mr. Khan. God is one, godmen are fake, and Aamir Khan is the greatest actor in Bollywood. Can we move on, please?

But Hirani seems to be in no mood to oblige. He uses all the tried-and-tested tropes to further his plot. There are media houses which ignore bomb blasts and instead focus on PK and his questions about religion; and reporters who don’t seem to have much news sense.

Like his past films, Hirani makes his main protagonist an outsider, places him in a corrupt environment, and then lays the onus on him to change the system by constantly questioning tradition. As with most good things, the trick lies in knowing when to stop. Hirani, and at times, Khan, don’t. They seem so enamoured with their idea and so intent on hammering the message home that it hampers the cause more than helping it.

After a whole song where PK explores Hinduism, Christianity and Islam – rolling on temples floors, flagellating himself at Muharram processions and offering prayers at a Gurudwara – Hirani chooses to insert a scene where PK chases someone dressing up as Hindu god Shiva because he thinks he has finally found God. At this point it gets exhausting.

The message might be noble, but the narrative is weak, and this is perhaps the weakest of Hirani’s films. His trademark humour is sparse; and inspite of Anushka Sharma’s spirited portrayal of a reporter who helps PK, and Khan’s over-earnest performance as the protagonist, the film is a tedious watch.

(Editing by Robert MacMillan and David Lalmalsawma; Follow Shilpa on Twitter at @shilpajay, Robert@bobbymacReports and David @davidlms25 | This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

4 comments

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I completely agree with you on this review Shilpa…was really a tedious watch and it started at 11 p.m and ended a little after two :(…struggled to keep myself awake for this film!

Posted by SwatiBhat | Report as abusive

looks like one miffed reporter trying vainly to wield his mighty pen to vanquish the monsters who dared to provoke his wrath.

Posted by sukanyaGhosh | Report as abusive

PK

Raju Hirani would have paid with his life for ridiculing the sentiments of any other Religion but Hinduism.

Aamir Khan would never live peacefully for enacting such roles or in the first place would never had the guts to take up such role barring Hinduism.

What we understand and learn is neither Raju Hirani nor any one else in the film industry has ever had the time and Guts to explore the truth that is seeked through Hinduism.

Religion across Hinduism has always been following Non Violence as its basic worship and understanding – It preaches God for Heavenly abode and Peace on Earth for himself and all others. That is one single reason that you will find no Hindu Terrorism any where and no Hindu indulging in Life taking Violence.

Hinduism has been preached and practised with thorough understanding of the various Tatvas in our natural surroundings – various Nakshatras and other systems which not many or any religion has been able to see and understand but eventually had to accept it when proved by some so called Scientists.

What Raju Hirani has on his mind is the shallowness of the deep river which he has left unexplored and fallen bait to Science and Technology it seems.

Though he is a great articulator of this media here I would comment that he is novice when it comes to religion and Hinduism.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Don’t go see this movie..

-If you feel that religion and entertainment should not be mixed and that you do not want to get the religious (or anti-religious) message from liberal/secular actors who are out to shake your faith.

-If your view of religion (specifically Hinduism) is so skin-deep that it could be hurt by anyone asking innocent questions.

-if you think that your particular guru, swami, baba or spiritual leader can’t stand up to questioning.

-If your view of the message is always colored by who the messenger is. Would you have a different opinion if the movie was from Abhishek Bacchan or Hrithik Roshan or some other generic Hindu sounding actors (instead of Aamir Khan)?

-If you strongly believe that the movie was funded by some Muslim organization or country that is out to malign Hinduism.

-If you are afraid that by seeing the movie, your deeply held beliefs could be altered. I personally am under no illusion that people’s minds will be changed by merely watching a movie (that too… on the topic of deep rooted faith)!

-If you feel that for all the time spent in the movie, on Hindu rituals and fake gurus, an equal amount of time should be spent on similar aspects of Christianity and Islam (money grubbing televangelists, molesting catholic priests, Taliban and Boko Haram should be given equal time?)

-If you are offended by male actors showing off their well-toned bodies (almost) in the buff. Remember, they never show Aamir Khan totally naked. There is always a branch or a Boom box that is strategically placed. So, maybe it’s the allusion to male nudity that is the problem for some folks. Meanwhile, there are several such portrayals of women which are usually met with whistles of approval. There are routine and gratuitous displays of blood and gore and disemboweled bodies in movies as well as TV news, magazines and newspapers. This seems quite acceptable. No one is worried about the negative impact of these on impressionable young ones.

If you fall into any of the above categories, please DO NOT go see this movie! It will ruin your day for sure!!

The movie is not attacking Hinduism. It is not even attacking all gurus, babas or spiritual teachers. It is highlighting some specific kind of babas and religious practices. Why not assume that your particular baba is the “good kind”? One who is merely preaching love for all, universal brotherhood, peace, tolerance etc. Not that kind who is always trying to relieve you of your material burdens (e.g., cash or jewelry). In fact, I understand that some of the sayings and ideas used in the movie are from popular religious teachers.

This whole “alien from another star/planet” stopping by, is a very clever vehicle for the director/writer to ask some “innocent” questions about religion, faith etc., which, if asked in any other context would get you thrown out (maybe even get you beat up, just to underscore that we are “peaceful and non-violent” people). Religion generally requires that you suspend critical thinking and curiosity. The PK character does exactly the opposite in the movie.

I thought that the overall treatment of the topic was fairly even handed by the writer and the director. They did not go off and question the existence of a creator. They just questioned some intermediaries (agents) between the creator and the created.

If the worst thing that can happen from watching this movie is that we start questioning instead of blindly following, not just in matters of faith, but in all aspects of our life, then we will be a much more enlightened and tolerant society.

Sure, that whole affair with Sarfaraz in the beginning and the melodrama at the end with the conference call with Pakistani consulate staff seemed too sappy and formulaic! But, hey.. this is still a Bollywood movie and you just have to take certain aspects of it on blind faith (in the director’s abilities to satisfy box-office appeal). Couple of the song and dance sequences looked good on the big screen but none of them so catchy that I would remember after a day.

All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable and funny movie. A perfect dessert after a sumptuous New Year’s lunch! Compared to Aamir’s earlier movies, I would rank this slightly below “Taare Zamin Par” and “3 Idiots.”

As we walked out, we heard the conversation of couple of older white ladies who were in the theater with us… “Wow! What a wonderful movie”, “What a great way to start the New Year!”, “I wonder why it only got 87% on the Rotten Tomatoes website?” One of them even asked me as we exited the theater, “How did you hear about this movie?”, before we could ask them that same question!!

If you have not seen the movie and if you are currently blasting the movie (and/or vandalizing movie theaters in India) for its negative portrayal of your particular religion (based on inciting views from others), then please DO NOT go see this movie, as it could sap the energy out of your righteous indignation!!

Posted by DailyIowan | Report as abusive