PK is a timely movie – a message on the folly of organised religion that needs to be spread far and wide. Box office wise, it has the commercial might of Chopra – Hirani – Aamir (more later on how that may be their undoing). PK entertains, but how compelling is it in terms of its core message?
An easy comparison would be with the surprise 2012 hit OMG – Oh My God (OMG). In my book, OMG delivers much more effectively (and cheaply, I am sure). I also predict that in the years to come, OMG will become a television cult classic. Here’s why – and since PK is fresh, allow me to spend more time reminding you of details that OMG:
- The human element: PK, an alien, is a clever plot device by Hirani. PK needs to go back home and his desperation to get back his gadget is well played out by Aamir. On the other hand, in OMG, Kanji bhai (Paresh Rawal) is a middle-class business man and on choosing to fight his battle against the profiteering agents of religion, has to deal with both societal and familial pressure. A very life-like situation for all real-life atheists, placed in a world with real financial constraints and tough choices. In spite of being an atheist, Kanji bhai accompanied his family to temples and made regular donations – the receipts of which he so effectively brandishes in court as his disaster-risk-insurance premium! Throughout the movie, you empathise with Kanji bhai’s situation – his shop destroyed, no buyers for his land and fighting a mafia of religions that come together to fight him and retain their monopoly over god and faith.
- The conduit: Hirani took five years to write PK. Five years back, the 24*7 news channels probably had a lot more credibility than they do now. Today, this is where we are! The idea that the news channel in PK has purely the public interest in mind when it takes on Tejaswi, the godman, is almost laughable! What is Boman Irani’s political affiliation? Who is bankrolling his channel? These are the first questions anyone would ask. Like I said, the choice of the electronic news media as the conduit for the message might have made sense five years back. In 2012, OMG nailed its choice of conduit in delivering its message, through arguments and counter-arguments presented forcefully in a court of law. Over the last three years, we have looked towards the courts more often than not for justice and to fight a battle on behalf of citizens, directing governments to undo their wrongs. While there have been issues on which the courts have over-stepped their mandate, it would not be wrong to say that they (in particular, the Supreme Court) have become an essential part of our moral compass. By using the electronic media as just one of the many tools of communication, Kanji bhai gets it right.
- The moral conflict: PK is sweet, cute and devoid of any internal moral conflict. The only man bearing even a semblance of ambiguous morality was Bhairon Singh (Sanjay Dutt), who contemplates abandoning PK after that accident. In OMG, one amongst a tribe of godmen is shown to rebel against the dominant corruption. In the eventual deification of Kanji bhai (before he pulls down his own statue), it also gives us a glimpse of the dangerous consequences of blind hero worship, the fickle-mindedness of the mob, as well as the insatiable appetite of the breaking-news-hungry media.
- Finally, There are unverified allegations that the makers of PK tried to stop the makers of OMG from producing/releasing their movie. Such stories are not unheard of in Bollywood. There is no doubt that we need both OMG and PK and many others that carry the same message, but given the blatant 3 Idiots rip-off and the movie-tickets pricing controversy, are Chopra – Hirani – Aamir getting too big for their already-huge boots? The Munna bhai movies from Chopra – Hirani were fantastic. But with 3 Idiots and PK, the narratives have turned simplistic and the ideas seem derivative.
- Finally finally, OMG had Mere Nishaan, a superb Kailash Kher track that on its own is better and deeper than the entire PK album put together!
If I think of any more reasons, I will update this post. Meanwhile, let me know what you thought of PK.
And to all those shouting #BoycottPK, I have only this to say: in PK, if Hirani lampoons Hindu godmen, he also shows a Malala arguing for girls’ education and a peasant pushing back against conversion to Christianity. In those two shots, PK shows how the Islam is misinterpreted to deny girls a fundamental right; and how Christian missionaries target the poor in their conversion drives – two charges that have basis in reality and that are far more serious than the charge of Hindus being fooled by fraudulent godmen into rolling on the ground, undertaking ridiculous pilgrimages or wasting money on idol worship!