Why does a film that seeks a deeper rational thought on our beliefs and practices and unquestioning faith in divine godmen have to balance criticisms by taking instances from other faiths?

Features Saturday, January 10, 2015 - 05:30
By Deepthy Menon While India celebrated its maiden voyage to Mars, Rajkumar Hirani was completing the post-production of his long-awaited, five-years in gestation baby PK. And the story of an alien, PK from a planet like Mars, looked much like a baby lovingly produced – Aamir Khan adding his unique touch to pre-release buzz, appearing in his birthday suit with just a tape-recorder to ensure no footage gets snipped! The rave reviews from the usual pack of film critics would have one believe that the director, who has so far only directed blockbuster hits, had it the jackpot yet again. The film, however disappointed me at several levels. Every film of Rajkumar Hirani has for me been couple of shades less appealing than the previous one. Look closely and you can see a pattern across his brand of film-making – Choose a subject that has class-mass appeal ( corruption in medical studies/industry, decline of social uprightness and truth in society, the flaws in the Indian education system and in PK – the reign of blind faith and godmen), add a formula phrase that works like a slogan, chant or jingle and also becomes a bookmark for the movie( remember Jaadu ki Jhappi, Gandhigiri, All is Well and Wrong Number?), stereotypical characterisation and black and white delineations to ensure there is no confusion among the all cross-section of the film-watching junta about who to cheer and who to boo. PK ticks all these categories too, so much that the over-simplification of a nuanced topic like religion, faith and godmen left me deeply disappointed.  In the five years since 3 Idiots (the climax of that film makes me cringe even today, though I haven’t watched the movie a second time), Rajkumar Hirani seems to have gone into a time-warp, not progressing much in his story-telling style. Since this piece isn’t a review of the film, I’ll restrict myself to saying, to me his film was a massive wrong number that garbled the digits into an illegible mess.My thumbs-down for the story-telling, however, does not extend to the theme it tackles.  In a country, where superstitions still rule lives of the majority population, being a ‘manglik’ is a blot on your matrimonial prospects, the ruling government tries time and again to praise the superiority of astrology and the scientific know-how that the mythological Hindu Gods possessed - a film on this topic is highly topical. Exploits of godmen and their diktats, the dogmas and superstitions that religious leaders have been perpetuating to keep their flock well behind them is a sad reality often reported across India. Perhaps that’s because talks of progress, scientific advancements and development have co-existed comfortably with superstitions, centuries old rites and rituals in India. However, when one infringes on another’s domain like it frequently does, rational voices are needed to make sense among the chaos. Fringe groups resorting to vandalism and hooliganism to stop PK’s run at the theatres because it insults religious sentiments is yet again another example of the blind leading the blind. What are the religious issues with questioning rituals and superstitions, being perpetuated in the name of faith? Why can’t faith remain in the private domain? If one’s faith is absolute, why does it need the endorsement of every other living being? Why can’t faith and religion be questioned? These are questions that as a citizen of a democratic country and a non-practising Hindu, I have the right to know. No religion, including Hinduism can thrive and survive without questions, course-corrections or timely reforms.  The issue raised by the fringe groups, that only Hinduism has been maligned while other religions, especially that of Aamir Khan has been spared, seems too childish even to be countered. Why does a film that seeks a deeper rational thought on our beliefs and practices and unquestioning faith in divine godmen have to balance criticisms by taking instances from other faiths?? By threatening or banning a film like PK, these religious fringe groups are perhaps doing Hirani and Co a major service – their hooliganism and blind trust that their religion can be maligned by a film is precisely the mind-set that PK seeks to question. In fact, the ruckus by the fringes have forced people like me, who didn’t find the film interesting enough initially to have a re-think whether there is merit to Hirani’s film-making style of over-simplifying of a complex theme like religion and blind faith.  Tweet Follow @deemen Read- Is Kerala regressing slowly?: Observations of a pravasi Malayali (Deepthy Menon is a burnt out TV journalist, with no political allegiance, left or right. Her current avatar as a mercenary writer and communication strategist is largely her way of funding her insatiable lust for travel and stories).
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