Thursday, January 8, 2015

PK: When a drunk makes you sober and challenges religious bigots

PK: When a drunk makes you sober and challenges religious bigots

 Thakur Ranjit Singh

PK movie seems to have ruffled quite a few dhotis and beards of religious some fraud Godmen who have been thriving on ignorance and religion of fear in their subjects and devotees. Despite all protests and objections saying that this movie degrades Hinduism, nobody could produce a coherent argument in defense of that. Even the Delhi High Court dismissed a petition seeking a ban on it, through lack of evidence. There have been no facts to defend this claim.  As a Hindu, I do not find anything offensive, and similar view comes from educated and religiously-enlightened Hindus in my Indo-Fijian Diaspora.
PK-the Alien who, through his questions is considered a drunk (pee kay) who makes us sober, and make us look at some of our religious rituals with another perspective. He exposed religious Godmen who thrive of human nature of fear of the unknown.
When I started watching this movie, I was reminded of my visit with my father to a so-called Mandir of Pujari Ram Sewak in Balevuto, Ba, Fiji, some 10km in interior of Ba town. That was some 45 years ago and I was a DAV, Ba, form 3 student, with an eye- strain or pain in the eye. My father, being a religious and righteous person, was also a believer in Mandir and the ability of pujaris and so-called priests to solve human problems. Priest, ojha or pujari are modern day witch doctors or Godmen, who pretend they have shadow of Gods /Goddesses and possess extraordinary powers to heal. When my turn came, the “possessed” Pujari told me that I had received a love-letter from a girl in my class, and that letter has “karal” or spell-binding bhabhut or ashes that was causing me the pain.  (I wondered if she loved me, why she would cause me pain.) Seeing my father having so much faith, I found myself in a dilemma, hence lied for his faith, that what was said by the pujari was the truth. I never then had any girlfriend or received any letters, and when I did she was from a different class and religion. And I was given some rituals which had no bearing to my eye-pain, same sort of fraud that the movie PK has been trying to portray to people. Hence I got enlightened over four decades ago and have since been fighting against these sort of fraud and religious bigotry depicted in PK.
What riled many Hindus is when PK questions why so much milk is wasted when so many of God's subjects are going hungry. He questions why cannot that milk be used to feed the hungry. Isn't that what the right God would want?
The synopsis of Raj Kumar Hirani’s and Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s PK is that an alien research team lands on a Rajasthan desert to study humans. (I named the producers to show the decision-makers of the film are non-Muslims.).  Amir Khan lands stark naked, as those aliens remain unclothed. His tracking remote, that helps him send signals back to his spaceship, gets stolen, and that kicks off the rough trip of this alien. He has to find the remote to contact his spaceship and till then survive on earth on his own. He is unaware of our ways, manners or language, and meets with Sanjay Dutt who becomes his dear friend and assists him with life here. He learns the language and manners from a prostitute, whose hand he holds for some six hours to transfer and “copy” all human knowledge to him. Thus he learns Bhojpuri language and steals from “rocking cars” in remote places where couple are having sex. He comes to Delhi in search of the remote, and then begins the tumultuous and lightening pace of the story in an unknown city. Like a baby child, this alien (named PK, which means a drunk in Hindi “Pee Key aya hai”) asks questions that despite their innocence hold a valuable and deep meaning. He teams up with beautiful Jagat “Jaggu”Janani (Anushka Sharma) on this journey and PK challenges some of the oldest rituals of religion that are ruling life of people on earth. In search of his remote, PK stumbles on to the hypocrisy and deceit in organised religion. He then sets about exposing a Hindu “Godman”, a term for a particularly charismatic guru who may claim to have paranormal powers, and ability to speak to God (We have Indian palm readers and astrologers, promoted by Indian media in Auckland. In Fiji this is an old joke where some witchdoctors speak to God, using shank or conch-shell.)

The good side of human being is shown through Sanjay Dutt who becomes PK's friend and assists him to settle on earth, and helps him search for his missing remote control.
The underlying theme is that there are two types of Gods: one that created all of us, and the other that we have created individually that creates so much confusion for this being from one outer planet. PK is told that a Hindu woman wearing white is a widow while he gets ear-bashing for passing condolences to a white-dressed Christian bride, for the death of her husband. He is told Christian widows wear black, and hence expressing sorrow to Muslim ladies in black burka, gets almost bashed by the husband(Lucky 4 wives, and how many children?) He is chucked out of Church for taking coconut, essence and prasad and breaking it on the altar. He is told Christian God loves wine, and gets abused for taking wine to a Mosque.  This confusion reigns in PKs mind when he meets a person dressed as Lord Shiv in a toilet and confronts him to seek for his remote, he chases him through town to the ashram of the Godman where he sees his remote, which the Godman uses to fool people to speak to God. He claims it is from Kailash but in fact had been sold to him by the thief for 40,000 rupees. PK uses his skills to expose the fraud and dishonesty of the Godman, reveals that he is ringing the “wrong number”, and not getting to the proper God, and helps Jaggu find her Pakistani lover, who she had lost through misinformation from the Godman.

Protests from Hindu fundamentalists groups like Bajrang Dal are unfounded and insults a hitherto peaceful religion. This is especially when there is no shred of evidence or fact to show that the movie PK degrades Hinduism or defames Hindu culture and religious practices in any way. Even Delhi High Court found no case to ban the movie or any other reason to censure it.
Religion of fear is well depicted when, outside an exam hall PK picks up a stone, puts a sindoor (vermillion) tikka on it and throws some coins in front. You have long queue of people coming to worship and donate. This is equivalent to what my school head teacher, Master Dharam Dutt Sharma, a liberated and educated Brahmin, told the class half a century ago: if a dog shits and it is in form of a snake or when a mushroom germinates from under a floor in shape of a snake, people will run with milk, flowers and prasad to pray to it. We have had cases in Fiji, with one Hanuman with a tail, a cow with three eyes and unusual phenomenon of nature which is used as religious rituals and money, offering of prasad and flowers come into the play. Somebody makes money in this madness.
A naked alien tasted the first experience of India by being looted: that is the impression many visitors get, especially Indo-Fijians visiting temples, where the commercialization of religion becomes evident.
There is nothing in the movie that degrades Hinduism or any other religion. Some object to Shankar in a toilet. So, if any actor dresses like Shankar (as we used to do in Ram Lila), where would you expect him to piss and go for a smoke break? In a kitchen or a toilet, or does he need to go to Kailash for that? And how about putting milk on stone while so many are starving? What is wrong with that reasoning? That has been previously debated on social media and seen as ungodly by educated people. People have started making comparison to Islam and why it has been spared. Amir Khan is the worker, the actor in the film, the decision-makers on the story or scene are not his –they are non-Muslims. And anyway, the producers and directors may have been expedient to avoid death and danger, as there is no other religion as democratic, accepting and accommodating as Hinduism, where unlike other religions, we are told that change is inevitable. Gita had warned Hindus about bad and unholy practices becoming part of religious rituals. My final answer to that is the not-so-famous dialogue of film “Deewaar”: Doosro ke jurm ginaane se apne kum nahin hote – by talking about crimes, bad deeds and sins of others, yours do not become any lesser.

PK spends nights in jails by deliberately breaching laws. His friend , Jaggu, who gets  knowledge of his powers, helps PK, who returns the favor by getting her lost love, an understanding of her father, and exposure of the fraud Godman..
Despite all protests and objections saying that this movie degrades Hinduism, nobody could produce a coherent argument in defence of that. Even the Delhi High Court dismissed a petition seeking a ban on it on the ground that it defames Hindu culture and religious practices. There have been generalised talk and a great deal of hot air, but no facts. As a Hindu, I do not find anything offensive, and similar view comes from educated and religiously-enlightened Hindus in Indo-Fijian Diaspora.  If anything, the movie PK, after OMG and Singham Returns, warns us against being gullible and teaches to reason out things without blindly committing stupidity by being with the crowd of sheep. We should stop nonsensical practices under the guise of being culturally-correct, conforming and unquestionably following action of forbears who were themselves in darkness, influenced by religious bigots who thrived without the type of boldness coming out of PK.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is an Auckland-based Indo-Fijian, tracing his roots to Karouli, Rajasthan, India. He runs FIJI PUNDIT blog site which says things that other media tend to shove under the carpet. It has been a front-runner in raising social, religious, cultural and political issues in Fiji and India that affect our people. He may be unpopular with orthodox religious persons and organisations, which find his views outrageous, as they have found PK]

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