PK: Hirani needs Sanju!

Note: When I refer to Raj Kumar Hirani (RKH), I equally refer to his partner in crime Abhijat Joshi.

Rather than the obvious disappointment or anger I have towards a bad movie, I was rather disgusted by PK. It is that movie whose every beat serves a purpose, a purpose of proving a point so obvious, a point so dumbed down, a point already proved last year at the cinemas. It doesn’t have a single moment, which is just out there without any ulterior motive.

PK PosterFew years back, Roger Ebert introduced me to a word ‘frisson’. It is a french word, whose literal English translation is ‘thrill’, but more aptly it means the small brief ‘kick’ that we seek in daily life, like, someone liking your FB post, enjoying a joke on whatsapp, getting to know some gossip about your colleague at office, and so on. These frissons don’t result to much in retrospect, it is just that fleeting kick we get and keep on seeking on a daily basis. If we were to translate this in movie terms, it would be the beats in the movie, those small comic punches, those small story twists etc. Our most esteemed director RKH, who is loved equally by a rickshawalla and Anurag Kashyap, is a director of frissons. Each moment in his films, delivers a frisson. These are either quick fire jokes, quick trigger sentimentality or contrived story twists. Each dialogue, each moment serves this purpose, give the audience a frisson. Mind you, it is not an easy job; he has a reasonable mastery over the craft of filmmaking. But he uses this craft to create highly manipulative stories and manufactures emotions for fast food consumption, and he does acknowledge this when he shows us the inserts of side-characters crying and being overwhelmed by the emotions of the scenes through radio (in Lage Raho Munnabhai) or TV (in PK). It is exactly what you see, manufactured sentimentality for consumption of social media.

‘3 Idiots’ was equally manipulative, but still had some genuine moments between friends, lovers. But here you get a love story, which has couple of genuine beats, one of them when Anushka withdraws from a conversation with Sushant, when he is revealed to be a Pakistani. A very important point to note here is that she withdraws not when he tells that his name is Sarfaraz, but soon after when he tells he works for Pakistani embassy. That moment really stuck with me, because it was not about the religion, just a kind of jolt we receive when we realize we just interacted with someone from our neighboring country. But this very love story of a Indian girl with a Pakistani dude is milked for religious purposes, and used as the defining moment in the movie’s climax. This disgusted me out completely. And this might be lesser offender when compared to a train bomb blast, which kills a bogey full of people, just to add some weight, some sort of emotional buildup to the film’s climax. It serves no other purpose at all except proving the agnostic world-view. It plays the evergreen ‘Aasman pe hai khuda..’ from Raj Kappor’s Phir Subah Hogi on the images of the aftermath of the blast. It extracts the agnostic vibe from the song and uses it as an earnest cry out to god. But in the context of the film it is far from earnest. From an alien’s desperation of seeking god, it abruptly cuts to a horrific human tragedy and projects the tragedy via the alien, a quickfire way to add weight to the waferthin premise. The entire film is made up of moments, which provide quickfire frissons.

PK Still 1Enough of disgust. The difference between PK and earlier RKH film is that this is a really bad script. If you take out the central idea, “An alien comes to earth and we see the stupidity, duality and hypocrisy of humans through the alien’s eyes”, there is no scene with any real situational humor or strong drama. Every line of the script stems from the central idea of the film. It sounds like great film-making integrity on display, but when your central idea (which at the most deserves a 1 hour film) is as thin as this, there is a strong need of situations resulting in comedy or drama. There is none to be found here. The antagonist in RKH’s movies is slowly becoming more and more caricatured and one-dimensional. Dr. Asthana was cartoonish, but he still had well-rounded character moments with Sanju, his daughter and colleagues. There were few scenes where I empathized with him. Lage Raho Munnabhai’s Lucky Singh was a shrewd and cunning Sardar. He was not as well rounded as Asthana, but still was a character in its own. The real caricature started with Virus. He was a unique caricature, but a complete one dimensional cartoonish character, with no real personality. And now we have a completely generic caricature of a character in Saurabh Shukla’s Hindu preaching baba. It is a character well suited in Singham Returns (Come to think of it, Amol Gupte added more spunk than Saurabh Shukla was allowed to). It is RKH’s complete lack of conviction in this character that resulted in this.

I really don’t care to delve any deeper into the endless machinations RKH applies to illicit a laugh and a tear. It is an exhaustive exercise to uncover his manipulations, which are slowly rising up to the surface. With more people noticing them in PK, a part of me is happy to be not alone (like I was during 3 idiots). I was conned twice (MMBBS, LRM), Sanju managed to put some soul to the contrivances, Aamir exposes them further. I think I’m done with Aamir-RKH combo. I feel next would be Ranbir-RKH, which I would still give a try hoping Ranbir can work some miracle like Sanju.

PS: Talking about Sanju, he is the one who delivers the best punchline in the film, “Thukai aur memory mein koi connection hai!!” a harmless observation stemming out of a situation.


  1. I completely agree with you… In fact i had same problems with Pk that you mentioned there so much so I was feeling like i wrote the article… It’s a compliment… RKH is using same methods again and again… MBBS was fresh though inspired from a hollywood picture.. It was a fresh and unique approach towards the subject.. But Pk has revealed the faults that RHK has in terms of creating his stories and structure.. they are always one dimensional storyline.. Kudos to this article.. :).


  2. gaurangj says:

    Thanks Shitiz for the kind words. 3 Idiots was kind of an eye opener for me. But I feel, PK is his first real BAD film. People are now also noticing the obvious formula in his movies. Hopefully he has something newer in store for his next, but I guess the intent of ‘pushing audience buttons throughout’ will stay as is and that is what I am against. There is no organic quality to the writing. And that really irks me. Unless you get someone like Sanju to put some soul to the dialogues, I don’t see myself liking his movies ever.


  3. Shammu Johnson says:

    What the heck is wrong with you man. This film was beautiful, the problem with you people is that you guys can’t appreciate simplicity and prefer complex things. Once you can start appreciating things that are more simple, you will finally get on the path of Moksha.


  4. Kelpha says:

    Disagree with all points. RKH’s central theme was religion and how some people are fooling the people. RKH employed an alien to become the protagonist and bring out what was wrong. It appears simple because many of us are aware of these facts. Not so for many others. The simple humour moments were the best parts, according to me. Yes. RKH appears to have hit upon a formula. But I aint complaining.

    RKH is a director of frissions. Yes thats the best part. If he wasnt I would not watch his movies.

    quick fire jokes, quick trigger sentimentality or contrived story twists… Yes, of course. Why else would one want long drawn out scenes on a single emotion? RKH is not an art director


    1. gaurangj says:

      @Kelpha – Agree about the humor moments. We want them and love them. Small learning lessons through humor, could be well-intentioned, and I respect that. But the last 20 odd minutes are not well-intentioned as they seem to be. Please explain me how do you justify the bomb-blast in the context of the movie? Was it not just to add some weight to the climax? nothing really led unto it (you can argue that nothing never leads to it, such events are sudden), but what does it add to the climax, I don’t even remember it being mentioned. A bomb-blast just killed a bogey full of people, and what we have here is debating about religious mis-conceptions? The next offender is the climactic argument, if you were to break it down,

      1) If Sarfraz cheated Jaggu ~ then her religious teacher is CORRECT ~ not much is known about his religious views except that he lies about god
      2) If Sarfraz didn’t cheat Jaggu ~ then her religious teacher is WRONG ~ because there can only be a “true god” or “false gods”

      The above dissection is courtesy –

      What does it all boil down to? Whether a guy cheated on a girl or not? I was thinking that if the girl whom I met a week back, suddenly came to me and told me lets get married tomorrow, I would vanish from there that same night. And initially I thought Sarfaraz did that. But RKH and Abhijat Joshi had religion on mind (the central theme of the movie) and they milked the situation to justify cheap-shots taken on a religion.

      All contrivances aside, but these 2 contrivances of the bomb-blast and love-story parable of religion are unpardonable for the premier writer-director of India.


      1. Kelpha says:

        Agree that bomb blast scene was totally irrelevant.

        But if they choose to milk the situation to justify a take on religion, isnt that what writing is all about. Many people like the situations to naturally move into the climax and Pk seemed in a hurry to reach the climax. But there really was nothing else remaining in the story than to simply bring the climax, which had the requisite twist to call it a climax.

        By the way the religious teacher was asking those who come to him to do all those ridiculous things which are not going to help them. Go away 2000 kms, touch an idol’s feet there, keep 16 somvar, etc which these religious teachers are notorious about. A religious guru would be a Sri Ravi Shankar, not most of the babas. People would actually go to a baba than a doctor. And such things are what Pk targetted according to me.


  5. Kelpha says:

    The title, I thot, was completely misleading.

    Would like to see a post, on why the film industry is the only industry, which is quite ok with people having dubious backgrounds. Criminals, call girls, people are quite ok with working with such kinds. With females, its understandable, simply because producers employ casting couch and exploit women. But people like Sanjay Dutt who is a terrorist. People are willing to employ him and work with him. Other industries simply sack people if they indulge in simpler crimes like eve teasing, or visiting porn sites. But film industry is ok with employing terrorists, and taking funds from dons


    1. gaurangj says:

      I think RKH feels the same, and that is why he ruthlessly kills Sanjay Dutt in the train blast. “Take this! You bloody terrorist, there is no room for you here. Forget me making a Munnabhai with you”

      Sorry, just trying to diffuse this with humor. I have really no strong feelings about this topic. What I meant with my title is, Sanjay Dutt, the actor, puts a lot of soul in RKH and Abhijat’s dialogues, that I fail to see with Aamir Khan.


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