A biting, whip-smart satire on the thorny subject of organized religion, the Bollywood musical “PK” enlightens and provokes through outrageous slapstick.
Bollywood star Aamir Khan plays Tipsy, an extraterrestrial whose spacecraft drops him in the middle of the desert in Mandawa, India. A mugger promptly strips him of the remote that summons his vehicle for pickup. Everyone he turns to for help advises him to seek it from God instead. So he takes up not one but all religions — including Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam and Christianity — in hopes that some god will answer his prayers and help him find a way home.
Cast against type, Khan sheds his charismatic leading-man persona to play the oblivious, childlike alien who breaks all Indian cultural protocols and hierology. How this astronaut can be so clueless and gullible does require suspension of our disbelief, just as do characters randomly breaking into song and dance. But the fact that Tipsy isn’t human allows the film carte blanche to be sacrilegious in the most harmless, inoffensive way. Genius.
Cowritten by Abhijat Joshi and director Rajkumar Hirani, “PK” also subverts Bollywood tropes. It boasts the “exotic foreign locale” of Bruges, Belgium, where we first meet our heroine, Jaggu (Anushka Sharma). But because of her Western education, she’s free to kiss her boyfriend, date a Pakistani and be a go-getting career woman — all considered taboo in the classical Bollywood context. It shouldn’t feel so bewildering that such a radical, progressive film can be so entertaining.
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.
Playing: Cinemark 18 & XD, Los Angeles; Laemmle’s Town Center 5, Encino; AMC Burbank Town Center 8; AMC Norwalk 20; AMC Covina 30.