Naked @ New Year.
India, Jan. 5 -- "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return" (Job 1:21). This was the experience of the Prophet Job, known to Muslims as Ayub. These words are apt for Aamir Khan's latest blockbuster - "PK". My wife and I watched the movie on New Year's Day, the first day that it had been declared tax-free in U.P.; because Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav believed that it contained a strong social message, and hence needed a wider audience.
Having just seen the movie I couldn't agree more. The theatre was houseful. More than the movie's message was the audience's response, which was the real proof of the pudding. There were moments of comparative quiet in the fire-bucket seats below, where the "lumpen elements" usually sit. Otherwise they were with PK all the way, whistling and thundering their approval. Such an audience connect was the best retort to those right wing Hindutva elements that were crying foul and opposing the movie. If vox populi is indeed vox dei, then the people have expressed their collective social conscience.
For those lesser mortals that have not yet seen PK, it is about Aamir Khan, an alien from another planet, who gets a rude awakening when he lands nude on planet Earth. Apparently, on his native planet there was no need of apparel, social mores or putting on pretence. You were what you were, hence did not need to wear anything, let alone a plastic smile! Period.
Not so on Planet Earth. Clothing is its first cover up operation (pun intended). Then comes language; words and colours that mean different things to diverse peoples, religions and cultures. So we have Hindu widows and Christian brides wearing white, while Christian widows and Muslim women wore black. We may take such things for granted, but for an alien like PK it is an eye-opener. And Aamir does manage to keep his eyes wide open, his big ears flapping, his Charlie Chaplain gait amusing, and his abundant flow of seemingly innocuous questions quite flabbergasting.
It is his constant questioning of human behaviour, that we "normal" humans take for granted, that he finds so abnormal; earning him the sobriquet "PK", Hindi for somebody who is inebriated. He is indeed inebriated, with another spirit - that of seeking rational or plausible answers.
PK's search is most exasperating when he is confronted with organized religion, which seems replete with double standards and intolerance of the "other". This is especially marked in the Hindu-Muslim divide. There are some minor takes on a terribly Bambaiya style of Christianity, and Sikhs (minus stupid sardarji jokes). But the undercurrent is on the Hindu-Muslim divide and the sheer hypocrisy of sham babas. With the likes of Asaram Bapu in the clink, for alleged rape and murder, this is not surreal.
There is a hilarious take on an actor bedecked as Lord Shiva coming on stage for a drama; which some could find offensive. But I recall several such gags in a French-Canadian comedy show called "Just for Laughs - Gags". They have several spoofs on priests, nuns and even the Lord Jesus. I have also seen some shows on Comedy Central where they go to town with their light-hearted banter about various ethnic groups, and definitely not politically correct. Has anybody seen "Citizen Khan" a British spoof on a Pakistani Muslim family? No offence meant anywhere. We Indians have lost our sense of humour (if indeed we had one) and are more prone to rumour. We lack the ability and humility to laugh at ourselves.
But PK is no laughing matter. In a light-hearted manner it addresses some really heavy stuff. Devoid of the Bollywood hype, PK is definitely paisa vasool. Both Aamir and co-star Anoushka Sharma acquit themselves well, while holding the rest of us guilty! I would agree with Akhilesh Yadav that PK has a strong social message. To find out more, go see the movie. It is better to bare one's soul than to walk around naked like the Emperor who had no clothes; but nobody had the guts to say so. PK does. It should make the new year happier for you and yours.
(The writer is a Kanpur based social activist)
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Indian Currents.
Copyright HT Media Ltd. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. ( Syndigate.info ).