It would be too simple and too simplistic to garner critical praises for Rajkumar Hirani’s P.K. Instead, let us garnish some ingredients that every director must stew in order to boil the perfect broth of cinematic entertainment:
The Socialized Salt
A single story can miss the goal, but a social story will never escape the collective net. P.K. hand picks its issues from the ground realities of religious hypocrisy, blind faith, communal conflicts and ritualistic practices, only to make it more palatable than the newspaper headlines on your breakfast table. Not that the Godhra riots and the Mumbai bomb blasts have not taught us our lessons but 24X7 news channels, reams of editorial columns and hundreds of tweets seem lacking and wanting when it comes to Hirani’s perspective on the fundamental conception of religion- a perspective, which comes, both literally and figuratively, out of space. Hirani goes back to the basics of religious anthropology- which establishes the genesis of religion in the primal human emotion of fear. It would take an alien to show us how religion has increasingly alienated us from the idea of God.
The Spice of Language
This is the filmmaker’s secret ingredient- to raise a theoretical and philosophical question that seldom orbits the planet of popular Bollywood- the spice called language and its relevance in and to human civilization. It is this spice that tickles the brain the most and raises hair raising questions- Does language really enable us to make meaning? Is language a trustworthy form of communication? Does language have an arbitrary source of formation? Are civilizations that have eliminated language more evolved than ours? The actor does not tend to the didactic but when P.K. (Aamir Khan) dishes out the varying contextual uses of the ubiquitous word Acha, you know he has provoked the intellect of its audience.
The Starry Meat
Speaking of Khan, we might as well add the meaty cast composition of stars like Sanjay Dutt, Anoushka Sharma, Boman Irani and Sushant Singh Rajput and star dazzle the spectators. When the actors within the frame are good looking and when the characters within the mis-en-scen wear their garb impeccably, you know that the silver screen is sure to shine through the hearts of the viewers. The cinematography captures still close-up moments like when Jaggu (Anousha Sharma) weeps at the memory of Sarfaraz (Sushant Singh Rajput) or the soft, subtle movements when Jaggu and P.K. dance on the roof or when Jaggu and Sarfaraz serenade to the Begian backdrop in a boat. These saturated coloured moments imprint its life on the memory of the audience beyond the darkness of the theatre.
The Screenful of Tadka
A screenplay needs the right twang arriving at the right time in just the right proportion. The screenplay employs all its elements so as to either repeat it, sustain it or complete it. Jaggu’s fascination for poetry and her father’s whistling becomes the repetitive motif for her sensitive self, P.K.’s quest for the remote and Sarfaraz’s betrayal becomes the elements of sustenance in the plot and the minor character of the thief and Bhairon Singh (Sanjay Dutt) complete the narrative detour taken earlier with their emergence in the penultimate scene before the climax. A good cinematic chef is the one who selectively picks his ingredients and once added, ensures it dissolves with the rest for the frames should hold its unique tone, shade and flavor till the very end.
The Music Masala
That every successful and signature chef special requires the music masala is a well-established parable now. But, it truly takes a masterchef to dwell into the local, authentic accent and pronunciation of each of its character and then lend lyrics to their idiosyncratic personas. Waste of Time and Tharki Chokro are blazing emblems of excellence. Furthermore, to make the musical masala an inter-related side dish rather than a superficial dollop of desert is a mark of the master craftsman. Nanga Punga Dost resonate the protagonist’s identity and relationship with the humans while Bhagwan Hain Kahaan Re Tu capture the anguished resignation of the character’s hope. Thus, with P.K., music is the cinematic narrative set in notes and not stirred out of leftover scraps of a lyricist’s notes.
…And that’s how you brew P.K.- the Perfect Kurry from the Cult of Courage!