Thursday 25 December 2014

Fifteen Things I Learnt While Watching PK

Some time ago I’d written a review of a film called OMG which if you didn’t read, you probably ought to. It’s right here.

Then last night I watched a film which is attracting rather a lot of attention these days, another acronymic title called PK. The flick apparently is well on the way to becoming a superhit, just like OMG wasn’t. Which would go to prove some kind of point, only I can’t think what. Or rather I can, but it’s pretty much a cliché along the lines of “nice guys finish last”.

So, before we get any further, let’s go over the main points:

One day at high noon, in the desert of Rajasthan in Western India, a gigantic spaceship comes sailing down out of the sky and decants an alien. Said alien (Bollywood actor Aamir Khan, who isn’t the worst of the Indian acting stable by a very long shot) rather closely resembles a human being, but for permanently goggly eyes, a stilted gait, and stuck out ears. Oh, and he’s – apart from a blue glowing crystal on a chain round his neck – completely naked. You know, like all space travelers are in the softcore porno SF movie genre.

Well, and a local villager sees him, tears off his crystal and runs off with it, leaving him stranded. Said crystal was actually a “remote control” which would bring back the spaceship to take our alien home – because he’s here on a mission to research humanity. I’d have thought watching a few TV shows before landing might have been useful. But oh well. I’m not an alien and I can’t answer for their thought processes.

Meanwhile, far, far away, in Belgium, our heroine – a waiflike young lady called Jaggu – is desperately trying to get a ticket to attend a show featuring Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan. But the show is sold out, except for one single, solitary ticket offered by a scalper. As luck and stereotyping would have it, Jaggu has competition for the ticket; a handsome and dashing young Pakistani called Sarfaraz. And they fall in love, kiss and sleep together, all within the time that the sun hasn’t moved appreciably in the sky.

Oh well. Jaggu’s dad is a Hindu fundie who’s a devotee of a certain sleazy “godman” called Tapasvi. Jaggu tells dad over Skype about Sarfaraz, dad hits the roof, and goes rushing to Tapasvi, laptop in hand and open. Tapasvi lectures the girl on her ingratitude for loving a Pakistani Muslim and predicts the failure of the relationship. Just like any perfectly normal and well-adjusted girl would do, Jaggu immediately proposes marriage to Sarfaraz, you know, to prove the godman wrong. And the next day she’s at the registrar’s office, where all she finds is a letter saying, basically, and in BLOCK LETTERS, “SORRY, I CAN’T MARRY YOU”.

OK, so we jump six months to the future and Jaggu is in Delhi, working as a TV show hostess sick and tired of the crap she’s hosting. I don’t know, if you get enough money out of the job, most TVites would go right along. I mean just check the Western reporting on Ukraine. But sick and tired or not, she’s on a Delhi commuter train when a bizarre looking individual in strange clothes and a yellow crash helmet comes in, gives her a pamphlet saying God is missing, and leaves. Her curiosity aroused, she follows.

You know who this weird character is, don’t you? Our friendly neighbourhood alien, that’s who. So we find out – in an interview conducted in a jail cell of all places – that he got hold of clothes and money, was knocked down by a car and rescued by a friendly musical band leader, and learned Bhojpuri (a language closely allied to Hindi) from a hooker. He can read minds and learn languages from holding people’s hands, you see.

Being told that his remote control is probably in Delhi, he went there, and began asking around. Everyone mocked him as a “peekay” (drunkard) and told him god knows where his remote would be. So – like an alien might do -  he went around looking for god, and didn’t find him anywhere. Oh, he found plenty of godlets and idols and mullahs and priests, churches and temples and gurudwaras. But as for the god, he didn’t find it anywhere. So he started passing around posters asking for information about the missing deity’s whereabouts.

Read no further! Spoilers!

OK, so you will read further. On your own head be it.

So, to cut an overly elongated story short, the TV anchorwoman makes a star out of the alien, now called PK, who ends up challenging Tapasvi – who turns out to own the missing remote control, because coincidence – to a debate. During the course of the debate, the godman claims he has a direct connection to god and “proves” it by saying he’d correctly predicted the end of Jaggu’s relationship with Sarfaraz. PK then does some mind-reading, there’s some more conincidencing, and, don’t you know, all’s well that ends well, in the world and out of it.

Before I go on to the things this flick taught me, I’ll say a couple of things to the people who made this:

First, if you’re going to rip off OMG, try and be a leeeeeetle less obvious about it. Don’t repeat things almost verbatim. And please leave ET alone, that’s been copied about a hundred times. Doesn’t leave too much to the imagination if you can see everything coming twenty minutes in advance.

Second, you guys are supposed to be professionals. You’re supposed to know when to quit while ahead. A film that works in its first half and falls off the cliff in its second half, mainly because you decided to make it maudlin and saccharine emotional,  you have  only yourselves to blame.

Anyway, I’ll thank you, makers of PK, for teaching me the following things, hitherto unknown to me:

1. You can totally sail a gigantic spaceship, in bright metallic colours reminiscent of a new car, over an Indian state bang on the Pakistan border, with no camouflage but an odd-shaped, fast-moving cloud. You can then land it in broad daylight next to a railway line, on which a freight train is running, and then take off again after landing someone. All without being noticed. And then you can do it all again at least twice more. Hell, I knew India’s air defences were overhyped, but I didn’t know they were as bad as that.

2. On the outskirts of every desert village in Rajasthan, you can find people – adults – having sex in cars in daylight with their windows open and all their clothes off. Also they’ll be so busy screwing they won’t notice when you reach in through the windows and filch their clothes and money. And there are enough of them as to constitute your primary source of clothing and income.

3. You can bribe your way into a jail cell to interview a prisoner, and then bribe him out of the prison. Come to think of it, that last bit isn’t all that far fetched.

4. You can always find crowds of identically-dressed religious people to chase you through slum alleys, baying for your blood.

5. Random strangers – old men, ticket scalpers, boatmen and the like – in Belgium speak and even sing Hindi. And they also like to attend Amitabh Bachchan shows, even if they have to rip you off to do it.

6. If you’ve been ripped off along with someone of the opposite sex, the correct course of action is to fall in love with them within minutes, have sex with them, and announce them to your ultraconservative family – all without losing a moment. And if you meet the old Hindi-speaking, Bachchan-liking crook who stole literally all your money, the correct thing to do is to kiss him on the cheeks after chasing him to the verge of a heart attack.

7. If your family then gets a sleazy godman to predict the end of your relationship, of course you ought to immediately get married just to spite the lot of them – like the very next day.

8. If you’re at the registry office and your Significant Other hasn’t showed yet, but someone brings a note (unsigned and in BLOCK LETTERS) saying the writer can’t get married to you, clearly the correct course of action is to walk out and leave the country, not to, you know, call and ask him or her to explain.

9. If your girl dumped you at the altar, so to speak, you must then quit the country, and every day thereafter at the same time, call your country’s embassy to ask if she’s called. Not, you know, look for her on Fakebook or something. And the people at the embassy have nothing better to do than indulge you.

10. Bombs in trains explode with rolling balls of fire like napalm, not shockwaves and shrapnel.

11. If you are an alien from a distant world, clearly you will fall in love with a human woman. The fact that – as the encyclopaedia The Science In Science Fiction said – this is considerably less likely than sexual attraction between a woman and a lobster is irrelevant.

12. There is obviously enough money in robbing blind beggars and temple collection boxes to finance poster campaigns with multicoloured pictures asking for god’s whereabouts. And though you know perfectly well how to make money out of religion, you’d rather rob beggars, etc, rather than lay your hands on the filthy lucre the (obviously) easy way.

13. If you’re an alien from a distant world who’s a researcher on earth customs, please do not attempt to learn anything about Earthlings before landing, like what clothes are, for example. And if you manage to get back home by the skin of your teeth, the logical next step is to lead back a tourist party – all of whom are naked – rather than, you know, put them in clothes or something, even though you know enough to teach them Bhojpuri.

14. Obviously, the best solution to the problem of taking back your beloved’s voice recordings to your world is a clunky old tape recorder and a trunkload of batteries and cassettes, not, I don’t know, use a mobile phone or something. I mean, I’m not an alien, but if I had filched enough money to afford a poster campaign and new sets of clothes every day, I’d probably have enough to lay out for a midlevel mobile phone with a voice recorder. But I’m no alien.

15. And if you’re a young man in Belgium who reappears in Pakistan a year later, you’ll be wearing the same clothes, with the same hairstyle and even the same length of beard stubble. Because people totally do that.

Ah, well, I shouldn’t turn down the opportunity to learn. And at the earliest opportunity I’ll go watch OMG again and blame it for not enhancing my education in such wondrous ways.

At this point I’m about ready to go become a godman myself. Anybody willing to become my disciples?

No, I didn’t think so.

My expression was like Aamir Khan's here, really.


  1. "A film that works in its first half and falls off the cliff in its second half"

    I think that can be said about the last 5 or 6 films I've seen in a movie theater. With the big budget ones I've seen, I figure it has to be because the set-up is cool, someone gets their film green lighted, but the big Hollywood producers insist on tried and true formula ideas for the climax.

    I don't know whether that would apply here or not. It might. The people who produce these things might believe audiences insist on certain tropes.

    Anyway, I read a book about godmen in your part of the world. Lots of pot ash involved... whatever that is.

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