India (Hindi), 2014
153 minutes, comedy, drama, satire, science-fiction
Indian Science-FictionAn alien arrives in the Rajasthani desert in western India. The first man he meets takes his "remote control," the shiny medallion that allows him to contact his spaceship, leaving him stranded naked in the middle of the desert with nothing but an old radio. Without his remote control, without being able to communicate with the Earthlings he meets, somehow he must find a way to get back home.
In Belgium around the same time, a romance springs up between Jaggu, an Indian, and Sarfraz, a Pakistani. But when Jaggu tells her parents that she's in love with a Muslim, her father's Hindu guru attempts to break the couple up. The guru's plan works, and the heartbroken Jaggu returns to India to become a reporter in Delhi.
Delhi is where Jaggu encounters the strange P.K., a man who has a very different outlook on life that both rejuvenates and confuses her. When they discover that the guru that opposed Jaggu's marriage is the same person who has P.K.'s remote control, it's up to them to expose the truth and get P.K. home.
Watch the trailer on youtube:
An alien anthropologist
Isn't it weird how aliens generally end up landing in Kansas? Or, maybe, in London? Or Washington, D.C.? Or even South Africa? Why would aliens only end up in the "Western," English-speaking countries? What if an alien landed in India?
This movie explores exactly this scenario, in which an alien researcher appears in the desert in northwestern India. He has no knowledge of the society, and hilarity ensues. The primary cleverness of the satire in this film relies upon P.K.'s attempts to communicate and understand human society, as represented by India. Just like the classic ideal of anthropology, he knows nothing and must learn everything from the beginning in order to really understand the people.
Framing this satire as an anthropological exploration allows the filmmaker to truly explore social issues and demonstrate why they don't make sense. Although they poke fun at many different aspects of Indian society, their main focus is religion. P.K., in his naiveté, tries to find God in every way he can find. But in the end he becomes convinced that the religious leaders must be connecting to the "wrong number" - there must be a false God that is telling people to do all these crazy things.
This is most obvious in P.K.'s confrontation with the guru. Without spoiling anything, I can say that the views expressed in this movie were reassuring to me. It speaks against any kind of religious extremism, and promotes the idea that we are all God's children, no matter which God we worship.
Not for the Bollywood newcomer
While this satire is brilliant, it would probably be difficult to understand for people who don't know very much about India. Much of the humor is visual, relying on details of Indian culture for a laugh. I would recommend that people who don't know much about India to watch some other movies first, such as Dil Chahta Hai, 3 Idiots, Taare Zameen Par or Kal Ho Na Ho.
The pacing of the movie also occasionally felt very slow to me. This was especially true during the song where P.K. was falling in love with Jaggu. I was distracted that whole time worrying that the filmmakers would just abandon the Pakistani-Indian romance set up at the beginning of the movie! While that was not true, I felt that the sub-plot of P.K.'s love was rather unnecessary.
Overall, it was a very funny movie that I highly recommend.