Not too often does a Bollywood movie appear with promotional posters showing a naked man covering his bits with a radio. This is when you know that Indian cinema is beginning to head in a new (and probably eyebrow-raising) direction.
Here’s introducing the new and very controversial release of PK into Indian cinema. Directed by Rajkumar Hirani with a fantastic cast comprising of Aamir Khan, Anushka Sharma, Sushant Singh Rajput, Boman Irani and Sanjay Dutt, the story of an alien’s arrival on Earth to complete a research mission quickly escalates into his quest to find the stolen “remote control” that will get him home. This results in a hilarious journey which sees the breaking of Indian taboos and some frank discussions on issues that would much rather be swept under the carpet by the larger Indian majority.
Aamir Khan is an endearing, loveable PK with no knowledge about life on earth and implicitly poking fun at how Indian society works, from judging people based on their clothing (the white colour signifies an Indian widow but is also the colour a bride wears when she gets married) to critiquing the way in which people carry condoms in their pockets but refuse to talk about sex and using protection. The main premise on which PK is built underscores the need to question India’s various religious and social beliefs as well as the corruption and falsity often attached to them.
This is done in a perfect balance that sways between extremes of shock, sadness and humour, and Aamir Khan proves his versatility as an actor through the precision with which he captures a non-human’s response to Indian society. For example, at a stall market selling miniature statues of Hindu Gods and Goddesses at varying prices, PK asks: “but does the one costing 20 rupees do the same thing?” Later, when he asks God to help him find his remote control and get him back home and receives no answer, he asks the stall owner “have God’s batteries run out?”
The social message behind the movie is simple and direct: we instill a huge amount of faith in religion, where people in India go to huge extremes in order to prove their religiosity and devotion, but does it bear fruit for them or for those who capitalise from it? And on a wider scale, what happens when you try every path and you find no resolve? It is indeed a controversial movie to make and market within India, and there has been uproar at the mockery made of religion and particularly Hindu dharma, but PK dramatizes in a completely ingenious way the questions everyone thinks about but refuses to ask, whether in Indian society or not.
A beautiful soundtrack interweaves throughout this colorful and vibrant movie as well as a quirky romance that keeps the movie from becoming too overbearing or righteous. Anushka Sharma also shows a transformation in her role as the charismatic and bubbly Jaggu, who has a style and fashion sense I fell slightly in love with.
PK is a strategically paced movie bringing provoking questions to the forefront of Indian cinema. It is one of a few Bollywood movies attempting to decode and unravel the complexities of Indian thought and society and leaves audiences with moments of utter comedy and despair. ★★★★★