Cast: Aamir Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Anushka Sharma, Sushant Singh Rajput, Saurabh Shukla, Parikshit Sahni
Director:Raj Kumar Hirani
Rating: * *1/2
Raj Kumar Hirani’s films may not have the power to provoke social change but they do manage to at least set fire to the audience imagination. His latest crusading salvo aimed at opening the eyes of the masses regarding the fraudulent nature of the ‘Managers’ of God -which cuts across all religions, God men and their ‘fear’ mongering practices, is nobly intended and has the simplicity to endear itself, at least to some extent, to the ticket buying, cinema going audience but it doesn’t have the sting or the power to provoke a spiritual renaissance in a nation plagued by religious intolerance and bigotry. Well..expecting too much from a cleverly commercial filmmaker who wears his intentions on his sleeve is also not done. So lets not go there..!
In terms of cinema aesthetics, this film has questionable form. The narrative straddles several genres in it’s attempt to put forth an ideology that has strong relevance but little commitment to purpose. The Alien, referred to as PK, central to the telling, references the Adam and Eve principle with Chaplinesque fluidity and ‘Back to the future’ naiveté. His intelligence quotient is also suspect. He is basically a simpleton sent down to earth to research on humans who appear to have similar form-save for arched eyebrows, wide open eyes and rubbery ears that stick out oddly. His only special talent appears to be an ability to absorb knowledge through a holding of hands. The inference that he is an innocent naked child open to influences but unalloyed by either conditioning or peer corruption, is predicative in nature. So is the utter lack of mystery and suspense in the narrative spiel. The film opens with a single cloud passing over the clear skies of a Rajasthan desert descending down to reveal a spacecraft depositing it’s only passenger (Aamir Khan), stark naked, onto the desert sands. As he walks a small distance he comes across a nomad with a transistor who promptly makes a grab for the alien’s only ornament, a transmitter shaped as a gemstone encrusted pendant that he wears around his neck. A hot pursuit follows but in vain.
The opening sequence at once establishes man’s corruption and this specific alien species singular lack of special skills. So it’s quite clear as to where this movie will go as far as it’s ideology is concerned. Cut to Jaggu(Anushka Sharma) a student of media studies, trying to haggle with a tout the price of a ticket for Amitabh Bachchan’s reading of Harvanshrai Bachchan’s poems, in Bruges, a quaint European country. How incredible is that..you may well ask? She also happens to compete with a Pakistani Bachchan fan Sarfaraz(Sushant Singh Rajput) , a student of architecture, for the same bit of printed and priced paper. As long as she doesn’t know his name, she is open to being friends with him but the minute he introduces himself as a Pakistani, a Muslim at that, a shutter promptly comes down. He sings one of the Senior Bachchan’s paens against prejudice and the shutter goes up again. The two fall in love and are happy until seeds of mistrust are sown by her orthodox father(Parikshit Sahni) and his personal Godman(a compelling Saurabh Shukla). A disillusioned Jaggu promptly goes back to home city Delhi and PK too conveniently transports himself to the same city. Thereafter it’s a foregone conclusion that it’s up to the Alien to shovel clear a path through religious bigotry and misconceptions before making it possible for a positive ending.
The backstory relayed through flashback reveals how the alien got referred to as PK and the reasoning which is thrust down our throats doesn’t come across as either smart or intelligent. The flashback also serves up expository material that leads up to the final Televised confrontation between PK and the Godman. There’s nothing subtle about the intent nor is there any attempt to couch the preconceived sentiment in crafty aesthetics. This is a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of invocation that is straightforward in it’s spiel and allows for little attachment. Even the empathy you feel for the characters is fleeting. Nothing stays with you for long. The music is also not populist enough to add to the trifling attachment. Add to that the expansive ideology of having the Alien mouth his enlightened-speak in Bhojpuri- the lingua of an audience yet un-charmed by the Vidhu Vinod Chopra-Raj Kumar Hirani magic and you know that ‘All is (not) well’ with this corpulently packaged crusade. The message is clear and well imagined but the form is so simplistic and unchallenged that it almost veers to the inane. I won’t add to the spoilers by revealing a fatal flaw in the ending but needless to say this well-meaning film is not one that is likely to achieve much staying power either in the hearts of the public or in the theatres!