Friday 16 October 2015

PK -The Box office champ that 'nobody' has seen + A Report from Adrienne McKibbins

Aamir Khan in the Box office champ PK
Do we need film critics, blogs, reviews and the rest of the paraphernalia of the first step in movie consumption. The highest grossing foreign-language film of the year  in Australia is titled PK  and I suspect you have never heard of it, let alone been to see it. It was made in Bombay by the Hindi-language film-making apparatus that alone and unaided regularly produces several mega-hits for the domestic market. Its stars are the most famous people in India. 

In Australia the film opened simultaneously with the Indian release on 19 December 2014. It went on at 36 screens and took $1,190,142 in its first week and ended at number 7 in the overall box office. It did so unaccompanied by any reviews in the mainstream media. In its second week it took $603,931 and dropped to number twelve. By the time it had finished its run it had grossed over $2.2 million. That earned it the prize for highest grossing foreign language film recently presented at the Australian International Movie Convention.

This is the second year in a row that a Hindi film made by the Bollywood machine has won this prize. In 2014 it was a franchise picture Dhoom3 that got the gong. Previously the winners were so-called art house hits The Intouchables, The Women on the Sixth Floor, Coco Avant Chanel  and two parts of the Swedish versions of the Stig Larsson Girl Who  trilogy. You have to wonder whether those days are over now that the Indians would seem to have worked out some smart methods of tracking down the diaspora. One part of the trick is to release close to a hundred films a year day and date with the opening in India. Anyone who logs on the web versions of the Indian press for instance would of course have reviews, comments and articles near to hand.

One interesting feature of the local market is that the money at the box office has to be raked in quickly. Within a couple of weeks of any film’s release, the same diaspora has access to bootleg copies sold for as little as a couple of dollars.

So just what is PK. Adrienne McKibbins, the foremost scholar of Hindi movies in Australia has provided some notes about the film. P. K. is a comedy of ideas about a stranger in the city, who asks questions that no one has asked before. They are innocent, child-like questions, but they bring about catastrophic answers. People who are set in their ways for generations, are forced to reappraise their world when they see it from PK's innocent eyes. In the process PK makes loyal friends and powerful foes. Mends broken lives and angers the establishment. P. K.'s childlike curiosity transforms into a spiritual odyssey for him and millions of others. The film is an ambitious and uniquely original exploration of complex philosophies. It is also a simple and humane tale of love, laughter and letting-go. Finally, it is a moving saga about a friendship between strangers from worlds apart.

Raj Kumar Hirani has an enviable record as a film director. He has never had a flop film. The four features he has worked on as Director, writer, and editor have all been blockbusters at the Indian box office and done extremely well overseas.

PK was released worldwide on December 19th 2014, became the highest grossing Indian film ever,  and the first Indian film to gross over 100 million US. Hirani's films always arrive with considerable expectation, more so with each film as his reputation grows. This coupled with the fact that his last two films have starred Aamir Khan, whose films are also eagerly anticipated, almost ensured that PK would be a sure fire hit even before it reached the screens.

The lead up to the film's release garnered some controversy (read additional publicity and word of mouth) when a promotional poster for the film was released featuring a naked Aamir Khan, except for a well placed cassette recorder. At the time the poster came out little to nothing was known of the films content or story. Subsequently the poster image was explained when the film was screened.

While it could be said that Hirani's film are always enjoyable and "feel good" they all deliver a message or a commentary on some aspect of Indian society. 3 Idiots (also starring Aamir Khan released at the end of 2009) was a critical observation of the education system.   Hirani was quoted as saying PK is a satire on Hindu Gods and their "Godmen".
The film was described by reviewers as satirical science fiction comedy film.  Aamir plays a humanoid type alien who lands on earth in Rajasthan, and is left stranded when the remote control of his space ship is stolen.  Our alien is befriended by a young woman (Anushka Sharma) who has not recovered from her wedding be called off because she wanted to marry a Pakistani Muslim. The film follows our friendly alien's adventures on earth as learns about humans their foibles and tries to understand the complexities of religions and how they are  practised

The film had a very wide release on some 6000 screens, 5200 of them in India. It was released on 35 screens in Australia. After its initial release the film was released in China in May this year on some 4,500 screens.There have been rumours of both a sequel and a Tamil & Telegu version of the film being made.In recent years with Indian films getting wider and wider releases both in India and worldwide, the money they are making has increased substantially, however the figures released on recent blockbuster Indian films never seem to take into consideration ticket prices, number of screens, or differences in deals for satellite rights (which can be enormous in India).

PK is available in a two disk DVD edition with notes (in English) and a disk of extras including "Making of the film". Search the net.

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