90. PK (2014) — It is a great pleasure to encounter a film that is both entertaining and powerful, a pleasure compounded by sharing it with a first-time and slightly fearful Hindi movie viewer (she was delighted in the end).
“PK” — to a Mandarin-speaking reality TV viewer, a “PK” round is one in which the loser is immediately out of the competition, an allusion to “player kill” in a multi-player game. In “PK” the Bollywood movie, it is a play on the sound of the Hindi word for “tipsy”. “PK” is also the name of a popular Russian rifle … anyway, the point appears to be that the word could and would mean different things in different cultures, for such is the oddness and wonder of human languages.
What we have in “PK” is an alien’s eye view of humanity (mostly represented by brethren in the subcontinent), specifically its tendency towards religiosity. (The twist in the romance was suitably tear-inducing, and added to the big picture instead of being the big thing — huzzah!) As the alien casts his eye across humanity, it is not from the vantage of a throne or castle, but as a vagabond tossed about by the usual slings and arrows of fortune, made all the more outrageous by his unfailing honesty.
What it seems we are being led to see through his (mis)adventures is the paucity of truth in much of our ever-searching for God (even when we think we have found him — non-gender-specifically), which has inevitably led to a myriad variations of idolatry (making God in our own image; taking anything or anyone other than God to be God), with “managers of God” doing their daring best to exploit the misery of the masses.
“PK” sometimes veers close to the arrogance of those who declare that all gods are the same — for would they not have to be a god to judge so? In its send-up of the “wrong number” dialled by various religions, it does get Christianity wrong — no one is ever born a Christian, even if they’re born into a Christian family. Following Christ is a decision you make, not a decision made for you — in other words, God has no grandchildren.
But I take the point about the confusing damnation of hell — why would God destine his children to eternal suffering? Yet here the moviemakers are guilty of using terms without defining them and of taking imperfect language to be a full description of the perfect. I should be wary then of how the other religions are depicted/caricatured in the film — but could even this be a masterstroke of a point?
In any case, the movie’s points remain, given to the audience not in masala or half-measures, but as strong and subtle assertions for any work of art. We are all seeking for God, but surely the Creator gave us minds — and hearts — so we would use them. It follows then that if God were powerful enough to create us, then we are fools to believe we need to protect his honour by doing violence unto his creation, instead of honouring him by protecting our fellow creatures. We should be wary of disdaining honest questioning (wouldn’t God be big enough to take it?) and depict our fellow seekers as enemies.
These points are all the more keenly felt in the wake of the many mindless, heartless massacres from Peshawar to Paris.