Aamir Khan’s much-touted return to the silver screen sees him reforming an old alliance with his friends, Rajkumar Hurani & Abhijat Joshi, Bollywood’s most critically and commercially successful auteurs . The Holy Trinity behind 3 Idiots, arguably the most influential film in the Hindi film industry, were back to take the world by storm! Their first accomplishment was generating a killer buzz earlier this year when the first poster for P.K. was unveiled featuring a very muscular, very naked Aamir with only a carefully positioned boombox to conceal his highly-prized laddoos. The momentum soared afterwards to dizzying heights, for months everywhere you went in India whether it’s Mumbai or a hill station in Kerala, posters of PK abound.
The film, which also stars the unarguably gifted Anushka Sharma and Sushant Singh Rajput, is awash in a dreamy pastel palette and its pop songs are just as vibrant as its visuals but it’s all just a ruse, the sugar to let the medicine go down. At its dark core, the film is about an alien (Aamir) who experiences severe culture shock when he discovers that some Earthlings use faith to prey on the feeble minded. The film challenges popular religious practices, rituals and rites of passage and it does with no residual of remorse.
“None of us speak Hindi-mine is broken at best- but somehow we managed to understand the film in its entirety, we understood its bulletproof message.”
But India is not the West where Ricky Gervais films have thrived in a region where individuality is valued; India is rigidly, stubbornly conformist and proud of it. Luckily, PK and its critique of religion is spearheaded by Rajkumar Hirani and more importantly, Aamir Khan, two people who have managed to obtain the entire country’s love and trust over the years. Due to this reason, most Indians realize that their questions and slight criticisms of certain practitioners of the Hindu faith are not at all a hateful attack but a reminder that blind devotion has its ramifications.
Still, if Raju Hirani & Aamir Khan really wished to make a grand statement about the nation’s over-reliance on religion then they should not have raised questions solely about Hinduism, they should have placed the spotlight on India’s other major faiths so that everyone can understand the film’s raison d’etre. Doing so however would have inevitably endangered their lives (PK was released two weeks before the tragic Charlie Hebdo shootings).
Barring its shoddy delivery of its message, PK is a brilliant, emotionally charged film that had the audience in Nariman Point’s theater crying one moment and laughing hysterically another. It was a packed house as it was the film’s opening day. Rajkumar Hirani is an auteur in the truest sentence of the word; it would be criminal to compare him to any other filmmaker in any other region of the world. No one can simultaneously challenge religion and generate $100 million. At the time of this article’s publishing, P.K. has become the top grossing film in Indian history, controversy be damned.
“Rajkumar Hirani is an auteur in the truest sentence of the word. Barring its shoddy delivery of its message, PK is a brilliant, emotionally charged film.”
Meanwhile Aamir who hasn’t delivered a praiseworthy performance since the Academy Award nominated Lagaan is a revelation here. PK should reinstate him as the King of Khans, if the revolutionary, sociopolitical program, Satyamev Jayate, hasn’t done so already. To be able to transfigure to an extra terrestrial, while retaining your humanity is a Herculean feat. His role requires him to be overtly quirk, larger-than-life throughout the duration of the film and he does so with aplomb but, in one poignant scene that lingers in your head long after the credits roll, his mask falls off and his walls come crumbling down; he starts crying compelling us to follow suit.
My colleagues, Israelis I volunteered with in the Muslim quarter of the Dharavi slums, the second largest slum in Asia where Slumdog Millionaire was shot, loved P.K as much as I did. We all firmly believe that religion, when in the wrong hands, can ravage nations and become a catalyst for wars, conflicts and mass suffering. None of us speak Hindi-mine is broken at best- but somehow we managed to understand the film in its entirety, or at least its powerful message.