The reaction of Hindu fanatics to the release of the new Bollywood film PK is not surprising.
From an online protest to hashtags like #BoycottPK, all possible tools are being used to dissuade people from watching Rajkumar Hirani’s movie, which takes a dig at religious hatred and superstition.
PK is the story of an alien (played by Aamir Khan) who lands on earth as a blank slate and is uninfected with religious prejudices and material urges. He realizes that the human species is no different from him and it’s only religious beliefs and nationality that divide and polarize people against each other.
The story revolves around a Hindu girl, Jaggu (Anushka Sharma), who falls in love with Sarfaraz (Shushant Rajput), a Pakistani Muslim boy. But their relationship ruptures due to some misunderstanding and a Hindu saint takes advantage of the situation to create mistrust in her mind against Muslim men.
That's where PK comes to the rescue.
The story actually challenges myths and prejudices being spread against Muslims in India by supporters of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party. The BJP and other far-right groups recently launched a campaign against so-called “Love Jihad”—an imaginary project constructed to blame Muslim males for luring Hindu girls into their traps to convert them to Islam.
Obviously, PK has stepped onto the toes of these BJP supporters by bringing up a highly sensitive subject. In the past, the BJP has used more violent means to protest against books, films, and TV serials depicting such realities.
Earlier, a similar kind of film, Oh My God!, was banned by the Punjab government in which the BJP is a partner.
PK also ambivalently touches upon the contentious issue of Rama temple, a favourite subject of the BJP. The party has always promised to build a Hindu temple on a disputed site in Ayodhya, the reputed birthplace of the Hindu god Lord Rama.
BJP supporters say that the Moghul ruler Babar, whose reign lasted from 1526 to 1530, destroyed the original Rama temple years ago and built a mosque in its place. Hindu extremists razed the mosque in 1992 and many top-level BJP leaders were present during the assault.
That culminated in the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat in 2002. Indian prime minister Narendra Modi was chief minister of the state back then.
Human-rights groups and the victims’ families have claimed that he was responsible for the carnage that followed the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims from the proposed site of Rama temple.
More than 50 people died in the incident, which Gujurat police blamed on Muslim fundamentalists. BJP leaders were seen leading the mobs targeting Muslims during the violence.
However, PK is not just about Hindu fanaticism. The story pulls no punches while questioning the blind faith and superstition that prevails in all religious communities. These include Muslims and Christians, besides the followers of Sikhism, which is largely known as a modern and progressive faith group.
The makers of PK have raised basic questions, such as why one has to waste time and money on rituals and ceremonies when everyone knows what material conditions cause miseries in life, or why people blindly follow the saints and ascetics who actually con the public with magic tricks.
The larger question that PK has rightly raised is how come one god is better than the other or why people of different faiths follow different gods, making life complicated?
From an atheist's perspective, PK fails to question the myth of god. It rather accepts the existence of god and only attacks those who keep exploiting people in the name of religious beliefs.
Yet on the whole it must be watched by the humanists and secularists as it offers a refreshing outlook when the entire world is grappling with the danger posed by identity politics and religious nationalism.