Imagine a world famous actor and one of the top directors coming together to make a movie about Humanism. Imagine that this was to be a movie about what it’s like to BE a Humanist in a highly religious society. Now imagine that this isn't some independent movie, but a major studio release that is highly anticipated and breaks box office records all over the world playing to ... sold out audiences – all over the world.
Fantasy? No. It just happened. The movie is called PK and it’s showing in America at AMC Theaters through Jan 1st 2015. Its first weekend gross put it in the top 10 movies in America that weekend. Its Indian box office take makes it if not the highest grossing first weekend film, near the top. A lot of people are seeing this movie, and talking about it, including major politicians.
This Indian movie stars Aamir Khan, a Humanist who just happens to be one of the 3 Khans of Bollywood. It is directed by Rajkumar Hirani, a Humanistic Hindu and the beloved director of 3 Idiots, and it’s produced by Vinod Chopra, part of the Chopra clan, whose name is synonymous with fabulous movies.
Before the movie starts – they have a disclaimer – it is not our intent to offend anyone’s religion. The only thing missing from that disclaimer was the “but ….” Complaints have been filed in India that it is offensive to – well - pretty much every single religious group in India. Check out the #pk hastag and #wesupportpk to get a sense of what the discussion is like.
I saw this movie in Tampa with a nearly sold out crowd on a Sunday afternoon. The crowd wasn't even that big for the last Shahrukh Khan release. Afterwards, everyone was milling about discussing it – what I heard – was people thought the message was hugely important and that it was about time someone said what they all knew – about religion and about how much of a scam it is.
So - what is this movie about exactly? Well, the trailer isn't very helpful. All you are supposed to know going in is that a very handsome but slightly odd guy is going to end up naked in the desert on some train tracks holding nothing but a boombox. What's become clear is that they kept the plot secret on purpose. If word had gotten out about this movie before it was released, it probably wouldn't have been released. (make sure to turn on cc - subtitles - and yes - it is shown with subtitles in the cinema).
This movie is made by and for Humanists. The social critique is SO pointed that I was shocked. I have never seen Humanism presented this directly before in a film. And even the side plots are oozing humanism. From the very first moment – it is directly and pointedly and unabashedly presenting a Humanist world view. What was even more mind blowing for me was listening to the audience’s applause during the direct critiques about religion. They were all for it! Keep in mind, their applause was not for the critique of religion itself, but for the humanist alternative to religious practice that was being articulated.
What is perhaps most shocking to a westerner is the fact, this movie isn't a drama. It’s a crowd pleasing comedy. One of the funniest sequences is when Aamir is heading to a mosque with two bottles of wine. It’s also heartbreaking and stunning and mostly mind-blowing!
If you have free time this weekend – check out the schedule and get thee to an AMC Theater to see this movie before its too late. Then let me know what you think by commenting below.