Director: Rajkumar Hirani
Cast: Aamir Khan, Anushka Sharma
Perspective. That sets what we see apart from what really exists. Like the blind-folded men who touched different parts of an elephant and proclaimed that a trunk was the whole elephant or perhaps the tail was, we see the world in our likeness. When in reality, as Rajkumar Hirani’s PK reminds a religious absolutist, “You sit in a corner of a small planet in a galaxy vaster than your imagination, and you say you want to defend and protect the God who has created everything? He doesn’t need your protection.”
In an authentically Indian narrative, Hirani also poses this question... just what or who is God? PK describes how in his darkest days, his ally was a God he had never seen and he drew comfort and hope from this vast source of goodness that he believed was listening to him. But when he turned to religion, or religions, all of them... he realised endorsed a God in the likeness of man. A God, that was petty, vengeful, frightening, someone who could be bribed...someone who met the rich first and kept the poor waiting in long queues.
PK may have been inspired by a science fiction fantasy but in reality, he is an unprogrammed, unconditioned mind. Someone who sees the world without filters, fears, prejudice. He is like an infant who was born naked... without a, thappa, a stamp of caste, religion. In a scene, PK examines a newly born baby to see where God marked his religious identity. He calls the gatekeepers of religion as “managers” who tell us what are the rules of our individual faiths. In one scene, PK demonstrates just how one beard can be interpreted as the signifying feature of a Hindu, a Muslim and a Sikh. How religion is just a dress, a name... not the human being.
The story of a lost soul in a country where everyone must know and defend their identity is poignant, funny and ultimately profound. Because PK sees everything that we miss. He notices that the only time Gandhi is valuable is when he is on a rupee note.
In a scene, he asks the vendor selling a God’s idol for `15, “Have you made Him or has he made you? And if God is everywhere, why do you need an idol?” He wonders, why agarbattis can’t be lit in churches, why does a wine chalice not belong in a mosque (and in the backdrop you can hear the Mukesh song from the 1959 film Main Nashe Main Hoon..channeling Ghalib’s, “zaahid sharaab pine de masjid me baithkar.. ya vo jagah bata de jahaan par khuda na ho”(“Oh adviser, let me drink in a Masjid or tell me a place where God is not present”). Why is religion based on fear and not love? To prove the point, PK smears a stone with paan kattha and puts it outside a college gearing up for an exam. He puts a few coins before the stone and sure enough, nervous students start putting money before the ‘idol’ to plead for an easy time at the test. “See?” he says, “Little investment, double returns.”
In a hugely significant scene, he is shown bathing a Shiva lingam with milk, observing Moharram, rolling in penance towards a temple, praying at the church, bowing in a mosque and in the end, he finds himself, among half-finished Durga Puja idols and cries, “Tell me God, who can I reach you? By reading Gita? Quran? By folding my hands? Bending my knees?”
When he finds himself in the heart of a terrorist attack, his two-in-one emits Sahir’s lament, “Aasman pe hai khuda..aur zameen pe hum..aaj kal woh iss taraf..dekhta hai kam.” And he tells a religious leader, “This is the most dangerous thing you are facing on this planet..this need to protect your religion... one day... you will have nothing but empty shoes where human-beings once walked.”
Yes, the film in places references 2012’s OMG – Oh My God! A film that brilliantly questioned the fundamentals of religion and poked fun at Godmen. But right from the opening scenes when Anushka Sharma’s radiant Jaggu meets Sarfaraz (Sushant Singh Rajput), a Pakistani... you know you are in for a ride that will compel you to question your perceptions about human identity.
The film’s heart and soul is the simple and powerful writing by Hirani and Abhijat Joshi who has worked as the screenwriter also for Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006) and 3 Idiots (2009).
Aamir Khan’s PK is unlike any other character you may have seen before. His eyes and ears are characters in themselves, as is his body language. But what is most striking is the passion and sincerity Khan invests in a character he obviously feels for. Anushka Sharma is refreshingly gentle and the ensemble cast, including Amitabh Bachchan’s 80s sidekick Ram Sethi in a nostalgia-inducing cameo, is competent as well. The music by Ajay Atul, Shantanu Moitra and Ankit Tiwari flows with the narrative and C. K. Muraleedharan’s cinematography is stunning especially when it captures religious fervour in various hues. Hirani once again proves why he is one of the most significant makers of our time. His cinema always confronts the harshest truths with unsparing tenderness and never loses its sense-of-humour.
Sample the final scenes of the film, when PK is describing the earth to his friends, “you are not allowed to walk around naked here. Here you express love in privacy but can be violent and even kill..right in the open.” Go watch it.