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PK row: Don’t blame charlatans, blame blind faith


Active member
This is an old article. I saw this movie again. It still amazes me.

All right thinking people – and there is no ideological angle to that – would agree that PK the Alien has dialled the right number in identifying godmen as mere mortal (and mercenary) managers. Nor are the film’s detractors wrong when they say that it mostly targets such charlatans from the Hindu religion. Given that most Indians are Hindu, it is logical that most charlatan godmen would also be so-called Hindus.

The real culprit, however, is blind faith, not faith. And the usual suspects are not the only ones who we can happily sneer at for their apparent obscurantism. The fact is that the legions of godmen, soothsayers and fake astrologers would not be successful if people do not want to believe.

And in that sphere, as in most others, celebrity endorsements often help them to rake in the rest of the mugs to perpetuate their game. Film stars, industrialists, sportspersons and of course, politicians are all prime motivators. The revelation that Jawaharlal Nehru –the champion of the “scientific temper” – asked his daughter Indira to get a “proper” horoscope made of his elder grandson Rajiv does not mitigate the impropriety (if any) of Smriti Irani’s visit to an astrologer late last year, that created such a kerfuffle.

Nor indeed does the information that he sent his own particulars to an astrology magazine, probably for analysis. What it does indicate indicate, of course, is that politicians of all hues have always set great store by what the stars foretell. With the new year dawning, who among us has not glanced (sometimes surreptitiously) at the forecasts for 2015? That forecasts are not accurate or candid is also apparent, otherwise Nehru would surely have had an inkling of the tragic end in store for his daughter and both grandsons. Ambiguity ensures continued patronage.

But before skewering politicians for this vice as well, we should consider how many of us are above that very human frailty called Superstition, a first cousin of Belief and Faith. I draw the line at godmen, but for me even gazing into the future has always seemed meaningless if it cannot be changed. If it can be changed, how can it be predicted?

But like many, I am not above schoolgirl superstitions. Wariness about black cats, walking under a ladder, single cuckoo birds are teenage beliefs that linger in middle age. Caution about starting anything in the months of Chaitra and Paush are the legacy of my mother-in-law. The urge to hang a black mask on our newly renovated house is a consequence of living too long in North India.

None of them, however, are potentially harmful. The bottom line is how much the person is willing to be led by astrologers, godmen and superstition, as the number of times soothsayers have gone wrong rivals the “success rate” of opinion pollsters. And much like poll pundits, they survive by loudly proclaiming their prowess post-facto, hoping no one will bother to cross check the accuracy of their predictions. Godmen survive by much the same means, counting on gullibility.

That is not to say, though, that every “man of god” (or woman) is a fake these days of Kalyug. Enlightened human beings like Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Sri Aurobindo have had their detractors, but their spiritual purity stood the test of time and scepticism. Maybe there are a preponderance of ersatz men of god and astrology is a boom industry precisely because there is no quality control or gold standard, so to speak.

People are too willing to imbue fellow humans with divine qualities these days because they have become incapable of metaphorically separating the wheat from the chaff. We want fast remedies and cure alls, we want instant salvation, we want someone to tell us Aal is Wael. And if someone puts on a convincing act, they draw in millions – of people as well as money.

The easy way out is to blame godmen, astrologers (and even pollsters, perhaps) for the ills of blind faith. PK as an alien can be forgiven thinking that godmen are the villains of the piece. But we as inhabitants of this planet should know ourselves better and figure out who is really to blame. The remedy lies within. Maybe a sequel will see PK arriving at the same conclusion.

PK (transl. Tipsy); is a 2014 Indian satire comedy-drama film directed by Rajkumar Hirani and written by Hirani and Abhijat Joshi. It was jointly produced by Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra under the banners Rajkumar Hirani Films and Vinod Chopra Films respectively. The film follows an alien who comes to Earth on a research mission but loses his remote to a thief, who later sells it to a godman. He befriends a television journalist and in his quest to retrieve the remote, questions religious dogmas and superstitions. The film stars Aamir Khan in the titular role with Anushka Sharma, Sushant Singh Rajput, Sanjay Dutt, Boman Irani and Saurabh Shukla in pivotal roles.

The film centres on a humanoid alien who is stranded on Earth, the planet he was supposed to study. In his journey, he experiences many aspects of humanity, including religions, customs, languages, attire, practices and beliefs.

It is worth watching with English Subtitles.


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