[Image source: http://www.santabanta.com/wallpapers/pk/]
The film has already broken all sorts of records at the box office, only behind Dhoom 3 perhaps, and has garnered more attention than it probably ever expected to- religious controversies and orders of banning the movie will get audience to the theatres faster than you can say PK. Rajkumar Hirani, after tackling the need for love and kindness in Munnabhai MBBS, and the Importance of Going After What Really Interests You in 3 Idiots has taken on a big issue this time: religion.
PK is an alien, abandoned on Earth by his mothership, where a smart-ass Rajasthani steals his only point of contact with his planet- PK’s blue coloured locket, which looks a lot like the Heart of the Ocean locket in Titanic. A complete stranger to the peculiar human culture, unsocialised by human behaviour, and not even born into any of the human languages, PK is a tabula rasa at its best. He quickly learns a Hindi version of Bhojpuri and seeks to understand this strangely complex world full of ‘dancing cars’, soon bumping into Jaggu, an annoyingly perky television reporter, recently returned after finishing a television production course in Belgium. He encounters the diversity of religions and mannerisms and is obviously confused, being told that only God can help him, but then there are so many Gods, and all of them quite ineffective.
Jaggu had fallen in love with the Pakistani Sarfaraz in Belgium, and sought to excitedly tell her parents about him over videochat. Didn’t she know all Indian parents were against a Pakistani groom? Appalled, her father quickly makes her videochat with his favourite godman Tapasviji, who immediately told her that since he is Muslim, he will use her body, refuse to marry her, and leave her in the worst possible condition: an Indian girl, not a virgin, and whose boyfriend refuses to marry her. Jaggu reacts in a manner which was deemed extremely logical by her: no, she says, I will disprove what Tapasviji said- I will disprove it by making Sarfaraz marry me tomorrow ITSELF! Will you marry me tomorrow, Jaggu asks him in a fiery tone, and Sarfaraz, taken aback as one would obviously be, utters a scared affirmation, and as always, the solution to everything becomes marriage. At the church however, Jaggu receives a note which says that marriage is a marriage of families, and hence he is not okay to marry in this manner, and asks Jaggu to not contact him ever again, and so Tapasviji’s prediction proves true, and heartbroken, Jaggu returns to India where even her parents won’t accept her, despoiled as she is.
If one were to think of PK as a clever satire on religion, the movie tends to lose a little bit of its ridiculousness- the alien form of PK becomes a vehicle, and a reflector, to expose the oddities and absurdities that religion has come to take in India. The setup may not be very realistic, but it does the job- we are forced to think why we believe in a lot of shams that operate in the name of religion. We are made to acknowledge that God is personal, and faith is more than a money making business. PK utters simple truths that we have always known, yet chose to suppress at the back of our minds, and in that lies the movie’s redemption, which otherwise functions on a completely erroneous premise.
In the big show-off between Tapasviji and PK on Jaggu’s talk show, the discussion starts with Tapasviji asking what is so bad in religion if it gives people a little bit of hope- and ends with a full-fledged discussion of Jaggu’s affair with Sarfaraz on national television. As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, Tapasviji uses his prediction of Sarfaraz’s betrayal as a defence of his powers, and consequently, a defence of the type of religion he propagates. As the whole country waits in bated breath, the entire production team attempts to contact Sarfaraz right there and then, as PK reveals that Sarfaraz, in fact, might not have betrayed Jaggu. Turned out that there was a huge misunderstanding and that the note in the church was meant for someone else, and that Sarfaraz was completely willing to marry Jaggu.
As I sat watching this ludicrous unfolding of events, I couldn’t help but wonder if nobody in the movie team found this stupid.
Tapasviji said that Sarfaraz is a Muslim and hence will betray Jaggu after using her body, and Jaggu decides to prove him wrong by asking him to marry her the very next day. Let me emphasize this- she asked Sarfaraz to prove his love by committing the rest of his life to her, because she wanted to prove a godman in India wrong, and also reassure herself that their love is true and pure. This point could have been reluctantly digested had it not been raised later in Jaggu’s talk show- if its true that Sarfaraz was willing to marry Jaggu, then PK’s questioning of religion receives a validation. On the other hand, if Sarfaraz was not that obedient a person, PK’s debates on the frauds relating to religion would be rendered lull and inadequate.
PK might have a good message at its core, but its way of sending the message across is fallacious on so many levels. It reinforces many stereotypes that people across the globe have been trying to battle for years, that a relationship necessitates marriage, that if someone refuses to marry you after having sex with you, you have been betrayed and abandoned. It posits a girl as someone who has been ‘exploited’ and ‘duped into’ a relationship by false promises of lifelong support.
Do you love me, Jaggu asks Sarfaraz to which he obviously says yes. Then marry me, she asks of him, and with a one day notice at that. What if Sarfaraz thought himself too young for marriage? What if Sarfaraz thought it too early in the relationship for marriage? What if Sarfaraz had mixed views about marriage, and just wasn’t sure yet? What if Sarfaraz thought that the best way to prove your love for someone is not immediate marriage? What if Sarfaraz wanted to consult his family before getting married like that? He didn’t have a quarrel with his family, unlike Jaggu- why was he needed to hurry into it!
As I mentioned, this ‘test of love’ preposterousness could have been overlooked had it not been used to validate PK’s concerns regarding religion- because Sarfaraz was not a bad, betraying boy who did not refuse to meet Jaggu’s marriage demands, Tapasviji was a liar and therefore, PK’s thoughts about religion were accepted and praised, by the audience of the talk show, and the audience of the real life. Bringing Sarfaraz in the debate between Tapasviji and PK messes up the politics of the movie- if it had turned out that Sarfaraz had refused to marry Jaggu as a result of a personal choice, would that make PK’s ideas about religious broad-mindedness and your faith being unique and personal, and not a site for exploitation, any less authentic?
The problem is not that Jaggu asks Sarfaraz to marry her, hell at even a day’s notice, whatever floats their boat.
The problem is that his misconstrued refusal is shown to us as ‘betrayal’, as guys being guys, and even more unpleasantly so, as ‘Muslims being Muslims’.
The problem is that it reinstates the idea that sex, unless it leads to marriage, is essentially meaningless.
The problem is that a matter as important as tolerance required in religion is reduced to the personal squabble of a couple.
The real problem is that instead of PK being condemned for its botched up gender politics and narrow mindedness on the issue of marriage, it is being banned for questioning religion and its tolerance.