Hey uncle! UNCLE! Are you man enough?
PK is the highest-grossing Indian film of all time, and ranks as the 70th highest grossing film of 2014 worldwide.
For a westerner (me?) this film is not only exotic for the usual reasons: Its excessive length (2h 33min), the intermission, and the musical numbers that with regular intervals endeavours to soften up us viewers to its subject with dancing and unrestrained gaiety: It comprises a voice that is surprisingly feminine, compared to western blockbusters that are not outspokenly chick flicks. PK is India’s greatest blockbuster movie of all time, and at the same time a complete sellout to the female (or male gay/ overly romantic) audience. An unfamiliar combination that we seldom encounter in western cinema. Let me mention Gone With the Wind (Victor Fleming, George Cukor 1939), Titanic (James Cameron 1997), Shrek (Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson 2001) and Fantasy Movies (Peter Jackson *love*) in general as exceptions but don´t come dragging with 300 (Zack Snyder 2006) with all its drawn –out action sequences: In PK you get all the naked men but no swords or entertaining violence. The hordes pouring out of PK`s UFO is thoroughly friendly and innocent, and it´s so strange, and I definitely cannot picture any western male director dreaming up any image like that.
Maybe wasn’t it so easy as to draw an approximate line through the Middle East where it lies, sandy and rocky on the Google Maps, and say: This here, left of here, is the world where women no longer is the second sex? Anyways! Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan is (also) brought up in a culture where the female voice isn’t the one people usually listen the most to. Nevertheless he uses his influence to fight his country’s variation of Repressive culture in an exemplary charming way in his talk show Satyamev Jayate. Again, at the same time, in the behind the scenes – material of PK you can read, as in watch, his understandable second thoughts about being commanded around by Hirani`s firm female assistant director.
Playing PK, the alien who seems drunk (drunk: peekay: PK), would be potentially humiliating for any male actor, not only Indian ones, with their supposedly greater identification with a macho man identity. I think Khan is brave to take on this role. One can argue that he is so cute he could do anything without loosing credibility, but really, during the whole running time of PK, he has this more than odd (translated to Indian, I suspect: Hilarious) expression, or rather, grimace, glued to his face.
I get a feeling similar to when I watch mainstream directors punish their antagonists at the end of a movie: Not only are the badass caught and killed off, writers and directors see too that they also get humiliated first. Watching this I sense that the actual actors behind these villains maybe aren’t so altogether happy with what´s happening to their formerly so dark and powerful character, and to themselves, and I get this horrible, but also vaguely exiting feeling. When I was just a child, I watched my first (fictional) love, evil Lt. John Merrick, I mean Gabriel Byrne, hanged upside down in a rope in Norwegian movie Shipwreck (Nils Gaup 1990). Since then I have seen all too many dark dreamlike characters hanged, tickled and I don`t know what, screaming in fear before their own evil machinations blow them up. And the actors, they do not wear the screaming at all, and I doubt they enjoy it so very much. I don’t enjoy it neither. I would rather have madly laughing psychopaths take over the world than having nice actors humiliated like this!
At the same time, for me, this humiliation, and the ambivalence it awakens is truly fascinating, because these moments reveals something genuine and personal in the people onscreen. It reminds me of, when you watch amateur theatre, and the lack of professionality exposes the vulnerability in an actor. You catch a glimpse of the reality behind the role, and it evokes a feeling of closeness, of intimacy, that is pure and sensitive, not drawn and harsh like professionality eventually becomes in the end.
Anyway, Aamir Khan shows that he is willing to pay some of his masculine honour (I know, I put dangerous words together!) to support religious freedom, included the freedom not to be religious. To speak up for this is probably rather relevant and important where he is from, even if it´s not so here in Heathen Pine Forest where I live. Moreover, it’s more impressing than it would have been had a pine forest – dweller payed the same chunk of masculinity. As we do hear a lot of these days that some Indian men are severely attached to their pride.
Laagan was my first experience with Bollywood film, and it made a deep impression on me, at a point where I lived in a grey metropole and was particularly responsive to the setting in the draught and in the monsoon: The movie really talked to my need to become closer to the nature again, and it made me yearn to be more indian. I guess it was something in my blood that remembered the moors of Thule where some of my ancestors lived. Actually, this fun and beautiful movie will probably make any urban dweller, cool native ancestry or not, long to live as a really good looking farmer, dance in the rain with Aamir and be completely given over to the forces of nature. I still love this movie and play cricket.
Avoid: Om Shanti Om (Farah Khan 2007)
-Let´s learn Indian men how to not take no for an answer! This movie demonstrates the particular Bollywood attempt to keep the masses entertained and mindless.