'PK' – The most important film to watch in 2014

One of the official posters for 'PK' – Photo courtesy: bollyone.com

If I were to judge PK based purely on its merits as a film, I would give it a score of 3.5/5. It’s good, but not great. The strong premise and intriguing script by Rajkumar Hirani and Abhijat Joshi provide a foundation for a promising examination of contemporary values and the manner in which opportunists and 'godmen' twist them.

But Hirani's penchant for emotional manipulation removes nuance in favour of simplistic philosophy. In order to keep the focus on the message, he ignores many other aspects of the movie.

 Sanjay Dutt in PK. – Photo courtesy: IBN Live

Somewhat repetitive and bordering on preachy, judicious trimming was needed for tighter scenes and less predictable plot devices.

An unrequited love storyline that added nothing to the narrative was shoehorned near the end for no apparent reason.

The side characters are two-dimensional. Competent portrayals by Sanjay Dutt, Saurabh Shukla, Boman Irani and Sushant Singh Rajput cannot offset that they are not given much to work with.

Anushka Sharma's otherwise engaging performance is marred by a distracting wig and whatever she has done to her lips.

The music seems to be an afterthought and the forgettable songs are there simply because mainstream Bollywood movies need them.

However, none of this changes the fact that this is the most important film to watch this year.

While it may not be perfect as a movie, it works wonderfully as an exploration of an idea. Like all good art, PK communicates and evokes empathy even as it entertains. The discussion it initiates makes any minor flaws irrelevant.

Aamir Khan makes the most of one of his meatiest roles in years, perhaps his most serious acting challenge yet and reveals an openness and vulnerability we haven't seen before. His affectations and quirkiness, which have seemed out of place in much of his other work, serve him well here.

PK as a character is in a blank slate. With no cultural or moral biases he questions human customs and hypocrisy without an agenda. Aamir Khan as PK. – Photo courtesy: prabhatkhabhar.com

Although (or perhaps because) he has no defined religion, PK has a strong and steadfast belief in a creator.

The journey to find God is a cornerstone of faith. Turning that spiritual search into a literal one can provide an honest representation of how religion works.

The film conveys that spirituality and sceptism are related instincts, not opposing forces. To question is not to condemn and PK questions to get closer to God, not to discredit religion. He does not question faith itself, but the rituals and rules and outwardly trappings.

Clothes, language, the different methods of prayer do not define faith and while none of these things are bad in themselves, the film conveys that they may sometimes keep us from looking further.

The film's questioning approach however applies not just to religion, but can be extended to society and culture as a whole. We are so entrenched in the status quo that we see it as reality and ignore injustices with a "that’s the way it is" approach where hypocrisy often masquerades as good behaviour .

PK reminds us to use fresh eyes and a new perspective and tells us that "the way it is" can be so much better if we are willing to fix it. It reminds us that questioning ourselves and the deeply-rooted preconceptions around us is not just timely but necessary. Anushka Sharma and Aamir Khan star as the leads in PK. – Photo courtesy: koimoi.com

The film recalls such benchmark commentaries on religious manipulation as OMG – Oh My God! did in 2012 but without the biting edge. OMG – Oh My God! was a sharp satire that may have been smarter and funnier than PK, but not nearly as heartwarming and life affirming.

PK trades in a cynical worldview for a loving one. Where OMG – Oh My God! was a slap to the face and a much needed wake-up call, PK is a warm hug reminding us that we are going to be all right. It holds up a mirror-to-society without trashing it.

People have the right idea – we are only a few questions away from salvation. If some people are using religion to spread hate, it is in us to use it as a tool to spread love.

The send-ups of godmen and evangelism is deftly emulated. Especially poignant is a scene where PK puts stickers of deities on his face to keep from being beaten up even after stealing, reminiscent of the way that simply mentioning religion may shield those who presume to speak for God from any criticism.

The film conveys that religion is about a personal relationship to god and making one a better person but when people use it to push an agenda or oppress others, they are doing a disservice to religion or as PK would say, "you have the wrong number". PK takes a lighthearted approach to pressing issues. – Photo courtesy: filmibeat.com

The movie's greatest strength and its greatest failing is its lighthearted tone that renders it safe and non-controversial. While this is wonderful because it reaches a wider audience and is guaranteed not to offend, it is unfortunate because issues of faith and society are raised but not truly addressed or resolved.

For a social satire, it is not challenging as much as validating. I agreed with everything this movie has to say so I was nodding along rather than pausing to reevaluate.

Nevertheless, the film can be regarded as a brilliant starting point to encourage discourse on society. A film like this could not have been made 10 years ago and this sincere, feel-good movie may just result in people engaging in soul-searching and improving their lives and those of others.

Overall rating: 5/5

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