I am far from a movie aficionado. Though I love films and watch them all the time, the extent of my knowledge about movies and movie-making is pretty limited. So it should come as no surprise to you that PK is the first Indian film I’ve seen. This review isn’t going to be a long treatise on the history of Indian filmmaking, or an explanation about where exactly PK fits genre-wise in the Bollywood industry. What this review is—and what I think it ought to be given the subject matter of PK—is a reflection on how PK made me feel as a human being.
The plot of PK is relatively straight-forward (or as straight-forward as you’d expect a science-fictiony musical dramedy-romance to be): a humanoid alien arrives on Earth only to have his special spaceship remote stolen. In his quest to find the precious artifact, he is told many times (sarcastically) that “only God would know where the remote is by now.” So he searches for this “God” person who seems to know where his remote is. It’s at once a hilarious and heartwarming story and a critique of idolatry and religious exclusivity—the latter of which makes the film quite daring for a country that houses high numbers of Hindus, Muslims, and Christians.
I won’t spoil anything else about PK, but I do want to talk about its design. The film is in Hindi, and so subtitles will be required for most native English speakers. But I think this actually adds to the film rather than detracting from it. Oftentimes subtitles add a layer of removal—they constitute yet another barrier between the viewer and the film, and therefore require even more suspension of disbelief for the movie to work. Why do I think this is good for PK? Because it makes us feel alien and apart from the world of the film—just like the titular alien. We feel removed from the action to a certain extent, which mirrors the feelings of PK as he tries to understand some of the weird things we humans do. Thus, the emotional payoffs are more rewarding. PK’s insights feel more raw and relatable to us, because we are also viewing the happenings of the film through extra barriers. This is, weirdly, a movie that possibly works better when not viewed in its native tongue.
Aamir Khan—aside from being pretty buff for an almost 50-year-old—plays the part of childlike PK perfectly. He seems at once familiar and distant. Somehow off, but not in a sinister or scary sort of way. I imagine that such a character is a fine balancing act—you don’t want to be too familiar-seeming and risk spoiling the effect of your being an alien, but you also don’t want to seem too other and risk evoking that weird tribalism that is prevalent amongst us humans. He needed to be someone you could like and connect with, while still being able to critique our societal systems—and he succeeded.
PK is an amazing film. It is about humanity and compassion in the face of extreme social pressure. It is about loving one another regardless of our labels. It is about treating each other with respect at all times. I wanted to go into PK’s monologue against the leader of a popular Hindu cult in the film, but I decided against that because it possibly would spoil the effect of that scene for you readers. Suffice it to say that by the end of the film, I was filled with both love and sadness in equal measure—and as usual, this resulted in some tears.
Go watch it.