Rajkumar Hirani could easily be mistaken for that kindly neighbour in one’s building, the sort who greets you in the lift with a warm smile and offers to help you with the grocery bags.
But mostly he’s the genius generator of best-selling philosophies like jadoo ki jhappi, Gandhigiri and all izz well — persistently seeking some good in an unthinkably dark world through oddball protagonists driven by curiosity and a desire to repair dated, defective mind-sets. It’s the foundation of all his features, be it Munnabhai MBBS, Lage Raho Munnabhai, 3 Idiots and, now, PK.
Somewhere through the frolic, in playing society’s self-appointed conscience, Hirani has fallen in a monotonous, pattern-predictable rut. In PK, he tackles the widespread evils of religion-dictated farce in this country, the bizarre rituals it entails whilst acknowledging the distinction of a divine presence from idol worship.
Previously Paresh Rawal-starrer OMG-Oh My God, a satire I quite relished — in fact a tad more than PK — raised similar concerns through hard-hitting rationality and an element of mythological fantasy. Part comedy, part drama, PK opts to share its genre specification with science fiction.
To get across his point, Hirani appoints Aamir Khan to play PK, a freakier, flashier version of 3 Idiots’ Rancho. The actor, given his newfound comfort in the socially aware, is on the same wavelength as his director resulting in a performance that’s flamboyant enough to make a splash. One sees a lot more of him than is accustomed to in PK. While it’s certainly not pin-up material, refreshing to see a mainstream star in such an uninhibited space.
During the course of his zany quest to return home, filled with madcap discoveries regarding God, fashion, music, language (watch out for one hilarious achha scene), social etiquette and self-defence (who knew Hanuman stickers could come in so handy?), PK bumps into a pixie-haired television journalist Jaggu Sahni with daddy issues (Anushka Sharma) and they join forces to blow off the whistle on a flimflam Godman (Saurabh Shukla is a hoot).
Before arriving to the story’s simplistic and lacklustre conclusion that points out to Hirani’s chronic weakness – schmaltz, PK moves at a blithe, buoyant pace save for the Aamir-Sanjay Dutt (a special appearance credited as a lead role) track, Tharki Chokro, which feels needless and punctures the narrative momentarily.
Music, as in the case of most Hirani offerings, is not a strong point in PK. His fluency shines in storytelling where even the most mawkish moments scrape through largely on his conviction and his actors’ charm.
Most of the initial film is centred on Aamir’s drollery and unique logic, wherein he uses a cycle lock to safeguard his chappals from temple thieves, pees on the walls of Delhi’s Red Fort (the notoriously picky censor board did not mind?) and tries to barter food for Gandhi’s pictures presuming it’s the man and not the moolah that carries worth.
Considering how rare it is when the hero and heroine do not romance one another, the dynamics of a high strung Aamir and sunlit Anushka’s animated chemistry are more Lilo and Stitch than, say, Shrek and Fiona.
Beneath its vibrant bouts of humour, PK mocks at the societal arrangement we have grown apathetic to. Those jokes are ultimately nothing but PK spewing sarcasm at the expense of our collective banality and desperation that wagers to chance and dubs it a miracle, rejoices in disparity, exhorts fear and has forgotten their fundamental right to question.
When PK works, it does with great merit, spunk and surprise. When it does not, it meanders, sermonises and guilt trips exactly in the tone of the one it reproaches.