After an entire year of being subjected to unalloyed trash generated by box office sharks that cannot see beyond their weekend collections, Bollywood enthusiasts who value their intelligence – and their hard-earned money – finally have reason to rejoice. PK is here.
Rajkumar Hirani’s first film in five years is a warm, funny and piercingly provocative satire that should blow the blues away.
It is the kind of full-blooded but genteel entertainer that should get us all into just the right frame of mind to usher in Christmas and bid adieu to a year that has seen us celebrate ugly excess on all fronts with unseemly glee.
PK, buoyed by a magnificent script and outstanding acting all around, is an uplifting fantasy that springs a surprise at every turn but never overplays its hand.
It comes as close to storytelling perfection as any mainstream Hindi movie has done in living memory.
It has great songs, beautifully filmed musical set pieces, brilliant pacing and nary a moment that flags.
As a cinematic send-up on Gods true and fake, PK pulls no punches at all and speaks its mind like a carefree child that has just learnt to talk and make sense of the world.
But this hard-hitting critique of all that ails a nation that seems to have lost its human moorings and is in blind pursuit of false panaceas remains good-natured all the way through.
The screenplay by Hirani and Abhijat Joshi demands a degree of willing suspension of disbelief, especially when it comes to a few of the pivotal coincidences that drive the narrative.
The characters and the crucial dramatic and comic moments are, however, informed with such infectious warmth and beauty that nothing that the plot throws up is ever in danger of ringing overly false.
The five-year hiatus between 3 Idiots and this film has clearly served them well. The screenwriters have worked a delicately crafted love story into the taut tapestry of PK, thereby lending it an emotional dimension that usually eludes a high-minded satire.
Even the principal antagonist in PK, Tapasvi Maharaj, played superbly by Saurabh Shukla, isn’t an ogre designed to evoke disgust.
PK is out to provoke but not to shock. The film asks questions via its idiot savant protagonist, but does not attempt to deliver facile, absolute answers. And that makes it all the more effective.
PK is propelled primarily by Aamir Khan’s delightfully droll superstar turn as a nameless seer from outer space who is stranded on Planet Earth – in Rajasthan and Delhi to be precise.
This is an unlikely saga of an alien who lands in the desert completely naked like a new-born baby and then proceeds to acquire the ways of human adults in a bid to survive in a hostile environment.
His fate hinges on whether he can regain a stolen gadget that he needs in order to return to his home light years away and cling on to his purity as his brushes with mankind becomes increasingly hazardous.
In one of the film’s quirkiest scenes, he learns the language of humans by drawing words out of the mind of a sleepy Bhojpuri-speaking sex worker that he is led to by his only friend in the desert of Rajasthan, band master Bhairon Singh (Sanjay Dutt).
The search for the remote control device that he needs to summon his spaceship back to earth eventually sees him end up in India’s capital city.
There he encounters a tenacious television journalist Jaggu Sahni (Anushka Sharma), just back with a painful heartbreak in beautiful Bruges.
He also comes up against a rapacious Godman who is responsible for thwarting Jaggu’s marriage with her Pakistani boyfriend Sarfaraz Yusuf (Sushant Singh Rajput).
The girl, befuddled by the long-eared stranger’s unpredictable and inexplicable powers and saddled with the ‘breaking news’ of a suicidal puppy, sells the story to the channel boss (Boman Irani).
Once he finds his way on to the television screen, the unflappable extra-terrestrial unleashes a storm that sweeps everything and everyone in its way. And that most certainly includes the audience.
Anushka Sharma, playing a feisty poetry-loving girl who knows her mind far more than most Hindi film heroines are allowed to, holds her own against Aamir Khan.
Aamir revels in the character of the wide-eyed, fearless rebel who dares to challenge the societal and religious structures that encourage bigotry and distrust.
Sushant Singh Rajput has only a cameo in PK but in the handful of scenes that he is in – including one in the run-up to the climax that ratchets up emotions and vigorously pulls the heartstrings – he gives a great account of himself.
Do watch out for Ranbir Kapoor – a little icing on a cake so appetizing that it will have you clamouring for more.
PK is a winner all the way, a film that Raj Kapoor, Bimal Roy and Guru Dutt would have been proud of had they been alive. Rajkumar Hirani is without a doubt their most worthy standard-bearer