Starring Aamir Khan and Anushka Sharma. Rated PG. In Hindi, with English subtitles. Now playing
Director Rajkumar Hirani has always grappled with large social issues and broken them down into their basic human elements. In PK, he takes aim at those who “manage” religion. This is his most controversial film, but he delivers it with the same humour and emotional insight that he showed in 3 Idiots.
The trailer for PK kept the plot deliberately vague. Consequently, it’s shocking when a spaceship lands in the Rajasthan desert and a naked Aamir Khan emerges. He is an alien whose conduct will result in the moniker “Tipsy”, which in Hindi sounds like the English initials PK.
His first human contact results in the theft of his communication device, which strands him here. Like many cinematic aliens before him, PK’s struggle to “go home” forms the narrative of the film. This brings him into various religious communities as people respond to his behaviour by telling him that only God can help him.
He sets out to find God, but everywhere he turns he finds conflicting guidance. Jaggu (Anushka Sharma), a young reporter with her own history of religious disillusionment, takes up his cause.
PK’s innocence allows him to ask difficult questions of those who claim to be gatekeepers for the divine while accruing personal gain. These are deceptively simple questions, and the film delivers its message with some heavy-handed exposition. It’s held together by Khan, who is believable as the wide-eyed interloper whose perception is askew and yet precise.
This story might make some people uncomfortable. The film’s portrayal of religion is fairly limited to corrupt spokespeople and duped followers. In reality, there are other experiences of faith and religious practice that are beyond this dichotomy. Those are not represented here. The inclusion of such complexities would have made this an even stronger film.