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No one, even Rajkumar Hirani himself, will place the man in the pantheon of Bollywood’s greatest directors. It is difficult to say who will make the cut, but one can safely assume that Hirani will not.
But then, again, Hirani’s movies never fail to touch a cord; they work well with Indian audience in the same way that vada works with paav. They win awards, you seldom get tickets unless you go via BookMyShow, and you can take both the dudes and your girlfriend to them.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, this is not a PK review. This is an effort to understand the man. PK had its high points, but once you have seen OMG — Oh My God! you will be almost expecting every turn in the movie. The only twist in the movie is rather predictable, and the clichés are, well, clichéd.
Of course, some things clicked. Some of the one-liners and satirical plot points are contemporary, but it would be unfair to give Hirani credit for that. It is akin to Rajiv Gandhi’s Bofors strategies: they were certainly not part of Indian military strategies, but they ended up being helpful at the turn of the millennium.
But then, the movie is magical. This is not the Aamir Khan magic that keeps you glued to your television sets at ten in the morning on Sundays; neither is this the Anushka Sharma oomph that had made Band Baaja Baaraat work. This is different.
This is the genius of Hirani. As I mentioned, Hirani will never come remotely close to be the pantheon of Bollywood’s greatest. But take a minute to consider the Who’s Who of Bollywood: consider Bimal Roy and Raj Kapoor; Guru Dutt and Yash Chopra; Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Ramesh Sippy; Shyam Benegal and Anurag Kashyap; and more.
Visualise them, sitting, with sombre faces, making small talk, waiting for some coveted award. Hirani does not belong there. But he will gatecrash. He will gatecrash and embarrass Yash Chopra on those chiffon saris and Raj Kapoor on waterfalls, or Guru Dutt on his antipathy towards straight eyebrows.
Worse, he may end up giving a completely unexpected jaadu ki jhappi to, say, Bimal Roy, scandalising the entire table.
He is that cheeky, Hirani. You will not be awed by him. His characters turn up from random nooks and corners of your life, preach inanely, laugh and leave you in splits, and disappear, just like that.
Munna had Circuit. Phunsukh Wangdu and PK are lonely. Munna was simple. Wangdu made things simple. PK is perhaps too simple. Neither is real. Yet all of them are. They will catch you unawares if you confuse yourself and will end up simplifying your lives.
That is the risk you run if you get too close to a Hirani movie: you end up questioning yourself. That is what the man can do to you. He has probably overdone things a bit with PK, but he will turn things around. Wait for the next one.
Till then, enjoy your comfort zone.