Food For Thought
Cast: Aamir Khan, Anushka Sharma
Directed by: Rajkumar Hirani
Duration: 2 hrs 33 mins
Rating: * * * ½
Since he made his debut as director in 2003, Rajkumar Hirani has made four films and each one has wooed audiences and critics alike. The distinct feature of his films is that not only does he entertain, but in the process he makes larger points about society and people.
This time he has admirably taken on an issue that has not been highlighted much in films and, if it at all, it has mostly been in a preachy form: godmen and religion have plagued society for long, and Hirani attempts to address this matter.
The end product may not be entirely satisfactory, but for what the director has attempted to highlight and does successfully, the film deserves applause. Plus, whenever the screenplay hits a few road bumps, the lead actor Aamir Khan comes to its rescue with his savior faire.
Imagine someone from an alien planet who lands on this earth and discovers our strange ways of life. By strange I mean, hating, mauling and killing other people for no discernable reason except that they belong to another religion or caste. Ideally, I think he or it would laugh at us for being the densest species in the universe, for our infinite capacity for self-destruction.
PK (Aamir Khan) is an alien who has come from outer space but looks human. He lands in the deserts of Rajasthan wearing nothing but his birthday suit and the ‘remote control’ of his spaceship. He doesn’t speak any language but eventually learns Bhojpuri in just six hours. And like many humans, he rolls his eyes and bobs his head. The ‘remote control’, or the device with which he controls his spaceship, is stolen and he is stranded. Luckily, he acquires an ancient Panasonic two-in-one (model RQ-565D for those interested in trivia) to cover his family jewels. He is told that only God can help him retrieve it but the question is, which God should he turn to for help? He tries all possible options – Jesus, Allah, Krishna and the other deities – but with no success. This is where director Hirani lays the ground to make bigger and bolder statements. Occasionally they are not so subtle, and that factor depends entirely on your own sensibilities and notions.
Anushka Sharma plays Jagat Janani and wisely enough, she prefers to be called Jaggu. A television anchor who returns to India from Belgium, she doesn’t buy PK’s story to begin with, but when she is convinced, she helps him retrieve his ‘remote’ which is in the possession of a self-serving godman (Saurabh Shukla). That sets the ground further for an all-out expose of blind faith that plagues the country.
The first half of the film is breezy with some witty dialogues and situations. It is not easy to make people laugh by portraying their own silly beliefs (like the majority of students praying before their exams as if that will alter the result, to quote just one oddity).
Boman Irani as Jaggu’s boss and Sanjay Dutt as PK’s rustic buddy make an appearance with relatively little screen-time.
While there is subtlety in some scenes, as when PK visits religious places, Ghalib’s Zahid sharab peene de masjid mein beth kar sung by Mukesh plays in the background as he approaches a mosque and he lands up at a church with a coconut and incense in a thali.
At the same time there are passages that are preachy and the second half of the film takes a tumble with the dramatic climax. The faults are easy to spot but they can be ignored because the larger picture takes precedence. The theme of godmen was tackled in Oh My God as well but this movie takes it a notch higher. The writers (Abhijat Joshi and Hirani) have ensured that they are equal opportunity offenders when it comes to different religions.
The success of the film lies not only in what it portrays on the screen but also in how it makes the audience ponder about the central theme. After all, how many films offer any food for thought these days?
While a couple of the songs (Love is a waste of time and Bhagwan, Hai Kahan Re Tu) may be hummable and well-picturized, they are out of place in the narrative and slows down the momentum. The background music is also a bit frenetic at times.
Of the cast, Anushka Sharma is sufficiently bubbly and charming as her character demands. Aamir Khan gives one of his best performances and plays the lead role with terrific conviction and ease.
On the whole, PK is far from being flawless but it remains a must watch film for those who believe in god, and also for those who don’t.