Aamir Khan, Anushka Sharma, Sanjay Dutt, Boman Irani, Sushant Singh Rajput
3/5It's hard to believe at times that Rajkumar Hirani, as a director, has just four films to his credit. You somehow tend to think of him a veteran, someone whose work you look forward, and hold to a higher standard. After all, his track record is stellar - three films, three massive successes, both commercially and critically. Yet, this is Hirani's longest break between two projects. His last, 3 Idiots, released five years ago. Whatever the reason for the gap - legal tussles of one particular actor, or an alleged script rewrite - the number of people in a 9 am show on a Friday morning was indicative of just how eagerly anticipated PK has been. Does it live up to the hype, though? Yes and no.
It's a signature Hirani creation. PK has that kind of mirror-to-society subject that can easily turn negative or cynical in other hands. Yet, in the ever-optimistic Hirani universe, there's always light, always some deeply human good that surfaces. And at the heart of his stories is a lovable, if improbable, central character. With PK (Aamir Khan), the Bhojpuri-speaking, funny-dressing alien, the background resolves the issue of improbability. He displays the kind of innate goodness that all of Hirani's protagonists do - be it Munna (Sanjay Dutt in Munna Bhai), or Rancho (Aamir in 3 Idiots).
But the presence of the other-worldly hero causes improbable scenarios. Why is he here? How does he know so little about human behaviour, language and dressing? Did a spaceship seriously land up camouflaged in a cloud? In a magic realistic fantasy, such questions don't seem to bother the director.
Watch: PK teaser
Yet, the film, at its heart, isn't about the alien at all, but a satire on religion. And in that, in its core subject and intent - making a statement on god versus divisive religious practices, on showing the futility of blind faith and the corruption of self-proclaimed godmen - it bears similarity to another film: the Akshay Kumar-Paresh Rawal 2012 release, OMG! Oh My God. There, the other-worldly presence was that of Krishna (Akshay); here, it is the alien PK.
He makes a Terminator-like entrance in Rajasthan - naked, and then dresses in borrowed clothes. He immediately loses his flashy remote (used to call the spaceship back, it seems). In his journey then to retrieve it, he meets Bhairon Singh (Dutt - his first friend, and a marginally important character) - and then, Jaggu (Anushka Sharma), a journalist on the hunt for a new story. He tells her his story over a long-drawn flashback. Hirani uses it to explain what leads to him religion - and what makes his disillusioned about it. Some of it is simplistic, as Hirani can, at times be.
But what he does consistently is extract stellar performances from his leads. A lot of the scenes in PK, though predictable or goofy, are buoyed by Aamir's uninhibited performance. Anushka, too, in a supporting role, is credible and measured.
At one point, Jaggu, speaking like a true TV reporter, says that the audience wants to see content in a fresh manner. Hirani, likewise, knows how to package the hackneyed - and potentially boring - debate on religion versus rationalism in the right amount of humour and comedy. If he gave Rancho the chant of "All is well", he gives PK "wrong number", used to call out religious malpractices. In what is easily the stand-out scene -a train explosion causes PK's radio to accidentally play a jarringly incongruous song about life and humanity - he also shows his capacity for visual drama.
PK is, to put it simply, a Hirani-esque adaptation of a not-so-novel subject. But his version of it is one of the more entertaining ones you'll get to see.