Movie Review: PK (2014)

PK3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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PK — filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani’s exploration of religion — is a laugh riot. Hirani points out the absurdities of religious customs without causing offense by filtering his observations through an innocent protagonist: an alien called PK (“Tipsy”).

A spaceship drops the alien (played by Aamir Khan) in the middle of a desert in Rajasthan, with no clothes and no ability to communicate. The first human PK comes into contact with steals the glowing pendant that allows PK to contact his ship and request a lift home.

PK’s best chance to recover his pendant comes when he meets a rookie TV journalist named Jaggu (Anushka Sharma) in Delhi. Six months removed from a heartbreaking end to a whirlwind romance in Belgium with a grad student named Sarfraz (Sushant Singh Rajput), Jaggu is stuck reporting dull human interest stories about depressed dogs.

Hesitant as Jaggu is to believe PK’s alleged otherworldly origins, she’s intrigued by his take on human religion. Everyone he asks for help finding his pendant tells him, “Ask God.” But which god? How is he supposed to pray in order to get an answer?

PK’s bumbling attempts to navigate varying faiths are hilarious. He gets the nickname “Tipsy” because everyone assumes he must be drunk in order to be so clueless. Seeing wine served in a Christian church, he brings two bottles to a mosque. Whenever someone pulls back a hand to slap him, PK puts stickers depicting Hindu deities on his cheeks, since no one would dare slap Ganesha or Shiva. PK calls the stickers “self-defense.”

Even though the jokes relate to religions more common in India than in the West, the movie supplies enough information for international audiences to get the jokes without needing to know anything about Jainism or Hinduism. Besides, the point of the jokes is that they could be made about any religion anywhere in the world.

From the perspective of international accessibility, PK is as good as it gets. The English subtitles are phenomenal, incorporating slang like “chillax” and “kaput.”

A terrific cast helps, too. Sharma and Rajput are completely adorable together. She strikes the perfect balance as an ambitious career woman principled enough not to exploit her vulnerable new friend. Boman Irani is great in a small role as Jaggu’s boss.

Another great supporting performance comes from Sanjay Dutt, playing a band leader who befriends PK shortly after his arrival on Earth. Like Jaggu, he’s canny but honestly fond of the befuddled extraterrestrial.

Khan is tremendous as PK. He’s earnest and not at all goofy, making the ridiculous situations PK finds himself in that much funnier. It’s especially fun to watch PK adapt to his environment. He learns which mistakes will provoke a slap, and he’s always a step ahead of the angry mob chasing him. A scene in which PK figures out how money works is side-splitting.

The story slows down in the second half as laughs give way to serious questions of exactly what the faithful get for their devotion. However, the ultimate payoff to PK’s and Jaggu’s story is beautifully done.

The universality of PK‘s subject mater, the accessible way it’s presented, the nicely incorporated song-and-dance numbers, and the fact that this is just a damned funny movie make PK a great starter Bollywood film.

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52 thoughts on “Movie Review: PK (2014)

  1. Ehinome Okojie

    Another winner from Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Rajkumar Hirani and Aamir Khan
    PK is being slammed buy US users of imdb but in India it is a festival, must say Aamir is
    most original while Salman and Shahrukh are too market conscious.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      “PK is being slammed buy US users of imdb”: Can you give an example of this, Ehinome? PK currently has an 8.9 rating on IMDb, which is really, really high.

      Reply
  2. ashokbhatia

    Well made and purposeful. Coming after ‘3 Idiots’, it had raised expectations. It does not disappoint. The alien angle reminds one of ‘Koi Mil Gaya’; the religion angle of ‘OMG’.
    It is good to see Bollywood coming up with socially relevant themes of late. If ‘Bhoothnath Returns’ touched upon politics and delivery of public services, ‘PK’ lambasts blind faith in religion in a tongue in cheek style. Good going!

    Reply
  3. Parth

    Mr Hirani takes satire on religions. ๐Ÿ˜€ now that’s a treat. can’t wait to watch it but can’t do till nextweek.

    are religions and followers steretyped in the movie??

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Not at all, Parth. The barbs are aimed at priests and religious leaders who claim to offer access to God (for a price). According to Hirani, they can make up whatever rules they want, profiting off the hopes and fears of the faithful. I hope you enjoy the movie!

      Reply
      1. Parth

        I watched it today. I liked it. first half is really good. the barbs against the “Managers” is really really good, while not maligning any religion. Particularly movie touched so many on-going issues of India like conversion, so called Love-jihad and these Gurus. tapaswi is example of all Asharams, Nirmal babas, Radhey Maas. and these issues are universal too. plus performances are great. i loved Sanjay Dutt.

        But i got problem with second half. he whole live show and calling sarfaraz (How beautiful is Shusant Singh Rajput) that too live felt kind of over the top. but this type of climax is Hirani’s Director trademark. and that Pk falling in love was also cheesy.

        else it was great. the social message with fun and always a must watch.

        Reply
        1. Kathy Post author

          Good point, Parth! What TV director would allow several minutes of dead air while waiting for someone to pick up the phone? More likely, Boman Irani’s character would’ve run down from the control booth screaming, “Go to commercial!” Still, I confess to tearing up during that scene, so who am I to question its effectiveness. ๐Ÿ™‚

          Reply
  4. Ehinome Okojie

    PK opens at 248 million rupees in India and with its high ratings on imdb and other sites it will be boycotted for its religious content will earn less money than Kick most likely.

    US users of imdb gave it abysmal scores when i put up this post, these figures to be sincere appear to be manipulated upwards well not a bad thing as Hollywood is the king of fake propaganda and Bollywood is following suit, in the areas that matter it is apparently more like a 7.3/10. 9/10 is manipulated data just like Gunday was manipulated downwards.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      I think your hunch is wrong, Ehinome. PK is doing tons of business in the U.S., and it sounds like it’s doing great in India as well. Aamir’s incredibly popular in North America.

      Reply
  5. Monica

    I was surprised to find that PK is playing here in Cincinnati! In a suburb with a high Asian population, so i can’t believe I never thought to check that theater before for Hindi movies. I will definitely be going this week, I enjoy religious humor and Anushka. Should be fun to see a Bollywood film in the theater for the first time.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Have a great time, Monica! The audience I watched it with on Friday morning was bonkers, which made me feel less conspicuous for laughing out loud.

      Reply
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  8. Nakul

    Just watched the movie today. Your review is spot on. I am a huge Aamir Khan fan. He’s one of the very few good actors in Bollywood. Dhoom 3 was disappointing, but he made it up with PK now. Love how he took a dig on various religious Superstitions but still doesn’t offend them. I hope people (especially us Indians) take a message home and broaden their minds, and stop believing the “Wrong Number” blindly. Should feed the poor and hungry instead of feeding idols.

    Reply
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  27. Yash

    Just found your site and read through some of the reviews! Thoroughly enjoyed your style and hope to use the reviews (especially the Bollywood ones available on Netflix – thanks for this very useful service) — when we get stuck with which movie to pick for the evening!

    PK was the last Hindi movie we saw in a theater (we are not very prolific movie-go’ers)! I was extremely impressed with Amir Khan’s performance and the overall handling of the subject matter by the Raj Kumar Hirani! Here’s how I covered it in my blog right after we saw it on New Year’s day!

    https://recoveringnostalgic.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/dont-go-see-this-bollywood-movie-pk/

    (It’s not a typical movie review blog site. Most of the time I write nostalgia/humor-centric vignettes)

    Best wishes

    Yash

    Reply
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