Some Ramblings - PK (2014) by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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The ground is getting shakier and with it, the stance more and more wobbly. Hirani's first movie, MBBS, was rooted in humanity, in finding a heart in the medical profession. 'Lage Raho' was about the power of truth, and the impact of sincerity and honesty. In both these movies the emphasis was on the values, the principles that attempt at the reformation of the person for the better. So far so good. And then with '3 Idiots' and with the current offering 'PK' the focus shifted from values to opinions. And therein lies the rub. Where once was no contest when it came to rooting for the right value, when opinions (however informed or otherwise) are dispensed with the same moral highhandedness wrapped in 'holier than thou' sermons, the results come across as pretentious and, sometimes, downright ignorant. Education is good, but its propagation methods are at fault; religion is good, but the faith dispensers are a sham. And to prop up both these blanket statements Hirani employs stereotypes of the worst kind. '3 Idiots' has a curmudgeon professor on the transmitting end and a bookish misanthrope at the receiving end, both representing the far ends of the spectrum. And the hero, a wide-eyed anti-establishment agitator declaring war on the ills of the system. 'Follow your heart, your interests should be where your passion lies', he professes. Except that simplistic statement/position doesn't take into account the real word scenario, where the population numbers skewers the whole personalization logic. It doesn't seem to take into account the root of the problem, where demand, government policies, employability for certain skills, social, economic situations and conditions, and above all, the education inflation (where more numbers chase fewer prized seats) are the real reasons why education has become such a tangled issue in India. And to simply brush all these off with a simplistic 'Follow your heart...' and the advocacy of 'one size fits all' approach appears childish at best. And with 'PK', Hirani trains his guns on yet another widespread sentiment/practice - religion, and the results, the box-office performance notwithstanding, are equally disastrous.

Good things first - the first half of the movie is simply splendid until it gets down to the real issue in the second half. The writing sparkles in the first half, and the acting (of Aamir Khan) oscillating between (literal) wide eyed wonderment and twinkle eye playfulness is pitch perfect and the whole concept of an outsider getting acclimatized to the ground rules and realities of life in such a diverse country as India, is really charming. And then the second half happens. And Hirani falls back on his tried and tested toolset of a caricature villain making sweeping pronouncements, the outsider winning the arguments over with equally flimsy and facile counter punches, and the unwitting audience to the proceedings wiping their eyes away having near instantaneous change of hearts, all to the collective cheering of audience to whom the key moments are either telecasted or broadcasted live, gets tiring the 4th time around. When Hirani's movies work, they work like a charm, and when they don't, they simply lack the same, but in the both the cases, his movies are about something. They are not merely time and space fillers to be forgot right after the exit of the auditorium, and therefore his stands and stances cannot be exempt from close scrutiny. So what is it that he tries to say in 'PK' on religion, that God seekers better beware of His gatekeepers? Then why choose a low hanging fruit when making profound statements about an equally grave matter, going with a buffoon preacher to peg his argument on, who has issues of credibility right from the get go (the same problem choosing a cartoon teacher-student duo in '3 Idiots'), and who is only a fringe element to the real face of religion in the first place? Already weakening the debate by choosing a shaky position to argue against, even the most sincere of appeals come across as preaching to the choir. For someone to whom sincerity in intention and delivery is a big thing, it would had served well had he chosen a true apostle of religion to Aamir's agnostic, chiseling to the core of the idea of faith, questioning (even if there are no answers) the concept of belief and trying to find the true nature of the concept of God (recall the soliloquy at the end of the movie 'Guide'). Now that would had been more emotionally draining and satisfying, much like Munna's trials with truth.

While the Munna series brought out the best of humanity by highlighting the efficacy of righteousness, his latter two efforts tried to score points by juxtaposing with the worst of respective systems (education, religion). There are two ways of making oneself look better - 1. trying oneupmanship with the best 2. choosing a lowly target and climbing down till one rung above it. Sad that Hirani had chosen the latter in the last two iterations. It is as though he is in need of a catch phrase, that he is so fond of coining in his own ventures, to motivate him to aspire for better the next time around. To borrow Swami Vivekananda, 'Rise and Shine'!

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