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.
Few 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.
Enough 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.