Eleven years ago, Rajkumar Hirani gave us Munna Bhai. The film was a fresh break from the over-used Bollywood masala crap and it broke the notions of what the audience will like and what it will not. The film was extremely successful and of course, Mr Hirani decided to make a sequel. It was a risky venture, yes, for we have seen Rohit Shetty and Golmaal series, Neeraj Vora’s Phir Hera Pheri, RGV’s Sarkaar Raj and don’t even get me started on Sajid Khan and his Houseful of disasters. So yes, it was a risky venture, but boy did it pay off! We are all constantly harassed by the system and to see a man go up against that system was very, very exhilarating.
If Lage Raho ruffled the elder, then 3 Idiots stirred up millions of youngsters. The formula for both was simple: one man, going against orthodoxy to claim the prize of radical change. Hirani’s observational humor, coherent narrative, excellent casting and catch-phrases that take hold like parasites and you have movies that are bound to break records. But like any new idea, these were inviting for one reason above all else – that they were new. What happens when the idea, along with the format, the execution and the intent gets old? Well PK happens.
If you haven’t seen the movie, then please don’t read any further. Although it doesn’t contain major plot details, it is still enough to ruin the movie for you. But to be honest, if you have watched Lage Raho and Oh My God!, and if you have a brain that’s a little more receptive than an average eleven years old, then there is nothing that will surprise you in the movie.
The premise of the movie of an alien searching for God works because to have a completely unbiased opinion of religion and God, with no preconceived notions whatsoever, you literally have to be of another world. But that’s only how far the premise works, because he/she/it tries to reason his way into a solution and we all know that religion, especially in India, is nothing if not utterly irrational. Faith, by definition, is an antithesis to logic and reasoning.
Then there is the problem that every filmmaker dreads: predictability. There was a time when the only way to watch movies was going to the theater. There too you are only watching mainstream Bollywood. That has changed. Today torrents, youtube and the 400 channels streaming right into your TV have changed our consumption pattern. We are watching more movies per capita than say, twenty years ago. And that has made us much more experienced at guessing story lines. Twenty minutes into a movie we know exactly what is going to happen, yet we sit through it hoping and praying that we are proved wrong. But in PK, every little prediction comes true. And that is a huge disappointment.
For a director who claims to base his stories on real life situations, the characters in PK are outlandishly black-and-white. That for me is a bigger let down than any other. They are either 100% good or 100% bad and that is just infant fiction. And quite unlike his previous movies, in PK the story develops but the characters don’t.
The genius of Boman Irani is painfully underutilized. The story arcs of terrorist attacks and love triangle seem fictionized and forced which side track the movie, reducing the impact. Hirani’s previous movies were about engrossing people, their struggle with themselves and their redemption. The messages were only seasoning. With PK, Hirani tries to become a preacher leaving characters bland and tasteless.
In all fairness though, Hirani is only 4 movies old and this needs to be a learning experience. He’s like Shikhar Dhawan in Tests. He debuted with guts and made everyone stand up and take notice. Then he got carried away and now he is underperforming. He needs to stop and assess himself and come up with a new plan if he is interested in doing well ahead. I’m talking about Hirani, not Dhawan.
The only good I think that will come out of PK is that it will stir up a discussion on our religious beliefs. It will open the older generations to a new perspective. It will start a dialogue. A dialogue that will most likely go nowhere, but still it will plant a seed of doubt, and that’s enough for now.
In the meantime, I am glad that the year will not end with the dullness of PK and that before the year draws to a close, the audience will have a chance to look at what powerful cinema is all about: Go watch Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly.