Saturday, December 20, 2014

PK: Simplicity is not a simple thing

PK has been released just for a day and most people are out - intoxicated, as if "Pee Ke" aya hua hai. But like any other creation of art, a movie too can't be expected to touch everyone in the same way. Though mostly people are awed by the simple depiction of complex things, a very minuscule section of audience has found it, "even worse than a high school production", "just like OMG", "having a pathetic climax", "over hyped", "preachy", etc. Well, as I just mentioned any piece of art, and a good one that too, is expected to evoke extreme reactions, like Hyder did in the recent past. So there's nothing to debate about. 

PK is indeed worse than a high school drama which has more twists and turns and perhaps a better story. Yes, it neither has a good climax and I do accept that some good porns may have better climax. And yes, it's preachy, anything said against the convention sounds preachy. After all who wants to pay money to attend moral science classes when Astha and other channels offer everything free on air? And, yes, it's perhaps nothing more than OMG packaged and marketed in a better and suave way. So no debates on these points. Period. 

PK just reminded me of a few lines from Tagore, few of his songs, which have always inspired me. held me from breaking down, checked me from being insensitive, grounded me, handled me, saddled me tight for a bumpy journey, yoked me hard to the work-horse of my life, which just make me feel happy.

The first one is this line: Sahoj kotha bolte amay bolo je  / Sahoj kotha jay na bola sahoje. You ask me to say simple things? But simple things can't be said so simply!!

I'll just give one example how one very basic and fundamental but very complex phenomenon about the evolution of a language is depicted in the movie. PK, having learned a fully developed language (Bhojpuri in this case) in just six hours (in perhaps a pure theoretical way), finds the use of the same word in various unrelated and seemingly opposite situations very hilarious. He refers to the Hindi word "Achchha", which can be used in anger, tension, contemplation and suspicion. Most of the modern Indo-Aryan languages has this word, and use it almost in similar ways. It comes from the Sanskrit astu, meaning, let it be, be it so, or just a reality or mere existence (coming from asti, which is akin to Latin est, Old English ist and the present "is" in modern English). But how a word which etymologically means "is" expanded to express exclamation (Achchha!! Mamata didi has said she loves Modi!!) , interrogation (Achchha? How much did you say Mamata didi has sold her paintings for?) and anger (Achchha, Mamata didi has again blocked all roads in Calcutta,grrrrrrrrrrr) is indeed how languages have evolved over the years, and something which actually evokes surprise, when looked at logically. 

To elaborate more on this phenomenon, let me plagiarize Aurobindo's thoughts.

In the early days of human civilization whenever man wished to have words for abstract things, like strength, power etc., his readiest method was to apply simplistic ideas of physical actions.  Many words for strength across all languages had originally this idea of a force or injury because that was what it meant to the early humans to secure their existence and prove their strength and superiority in this world. The same is true for the Indo-European (IE) languages (Latin, Greek, German, English, Farsi, Sanskrit and all North Indian languages including Hindi/Urdu)

Let's consider all the related Sanskrit (Skt.) roots damsh, dams, daksh. The various words which evolved from these roots have quite diverse meanings. 

daksha, from the root daksh, means dexterous, intelligent, strong etc. in Skt., akin to Latin dexter, Greek doxaall meaning strong.

damsa and dasra, from the root dams, mean wonderful deeds in Skt., coming from the original IE dans meaning to teach.

dasha, from the same root dams and damsh, means state or condition of life in Skt., akin to Latin decet, Greek decto, all coming from the original IE dek meaning respect, gain.

Another meaning of daksh is to hurt and that of dams and damsh is to bite, akin to Greek dakno.

Similarly the root kri in Skt. means to do, but also means to hurt. The Skt. kratu means resolution, power and is akin to Greek kratos meaning strong. It comes from the original IE root kert from which also come the Skt. kartati and Greek korno, meaning to cut.

So it can be seen that the original and nascent word for cutting, biting, hurting etc. evolves gradually to mean strength, power, resolution, respect etc. It also means to teach or to direct (original IE dans and Skt. dish). 

In all these major languages, the simple physical meaning of the words gradually gets complicated, profound, philosophical meanings. 

That's what has happened everywhere in all civilizations, culture, religion. So what we see now, in religion, culture, music, art, fashion, is a very convoluted and complex understanding of some very basic and simple concepts. Most problems in our society would be solved if we onion-peeled the complex layers and saw only the nascent simple thing. 

Is there a better and more simplistic way to explain such a complex thing than it was done in PK. And you say it preaching? The nakedness or the mismatched dress of PK are so simple symbols of the simplicity which forms the core of the film. Have you noted that PK came naked, but went dressed and when he returned to the Earth, RK (Ranbir) was naked, but PK was still dressed. That says all about the central idea of the film. Once you lose the simplicity it's so hard to get it back.

Then there's this Tagore song which I like very much. The concluding lines are:

Tomay niye khelechhilem khelar gharete,
Khelar putul bhenge gechhe pralay jharete.
Thak tobe shei kebal khela,
Hok na ekhan praner mela -
Tarer bina bhanglo, hriday-binay gahi re...

There were times we were engrossed in play
Till all toys were pitilessly dashed by a tempest.
We have had enough of playfulness-
It is time for one soul to meet another.
My severed lute-strings have lost their function,

But my heart shall emulate the melody...

When PK says that there's no language in his planet and that everyone directly communicates with each others mind, it's as if Tagore's words are being paraphrased, "we've had enough of playfulness; it's time for one soul to meet another..." 

Just imagine a world where everything is truth by construction. You directly read what's there in someone's mind and don't need to articulate your thoughts through sounds and gestures, which are always different, thus divisive, as is in today's world. A no-language-world is as Utopian as a single-language-world, but still, if we fantasized on something why not something that's correct by construction?

Now let me touch base little bit on some of the things which could have been better. The climax was actually very bad and overtly dramatic. But then when so much money is involved, the makers  had to play safe to some extent. Having said that, I should also say this, that many legendary movies or novels didn't have any story or climax. What was the climax in Pather Panchali. Isn't the story of Romeo-Juliet a single line? What's special about the story of Life is Beautiful? And Meghaduta? Happy New Year or Chennai Express had such strong story lines, but then that's also unacceptable to many. So it's not the story that matters. It's the way the characters get you involved with them, make you believe in them, feel happy and sad with them, that matters to the audience. 

Was it preachy? Every movie preaches because the bad always loses. How many movies have you seen where the villain is made to win? So let us not talk about whether any movie is preachy or not.

PK is a fantasy movie, showing on your face what you are and what you could have been too. 

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