PK, OMG and atheism in Indian movies
Yesterday I watched the long awaited PK where Aamir Khan plays an alien searching for god at various places and taking on the managers for god – the so called godmen in the process. The movie is preachy in parts and goes on to question nonsensical rituals and stupidities of religion – something which was handled much more sharply and bluntly in Oh My God (OMG) starring Paresh Rawal. Although in OMG they did end up showing there was after all a god – and no other but the Hindu god Krishna! (Which is understandable as the movie as a commercial venture has to make money in a Hindu majority country)
Both OMG and PK make a case against following conmen posing as godmen, and they appealed the audiences to reconsider absurd practices and wasteful excesses of religion. Both the movies have had godmen as antagonists and ended with the message of following the real god instead of the god created by these godmen. And therein lies the problem. Both the movies have shied away from prodding the viewers to question the very idea of god itself. While OMG actually ended up showing there is in fact a god and making a believer out of an atheist, PK resisted the urge of a finding a magical solution in the form of a god – so that is definitely a plus.
Now I hope somebody makes a truly atheistic movie where the very idea of an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient creator/s is questioned and debated. It will be difficult to make such a movie in a country where even a fart can hurt somebody’s religious sentiments and send people to jail but I hope someone will take the bold step and do the unthinkable.
Atheism is seldom represented in Indian movies. I don’t know about movies in other Indian languages but Hindi movies have never really touched upon the subject. A couple of movies in the 80s like Deewar and Nastik showed the protagonist not believing in god but it was more like the hero was angry with god and wasn’t on talking terms to him but eventually turned around by the end of the movie. That isn’t atheism. You can’t be angry with something you don’t believe exists.
Paresh Rawal’s character in OMG was an atheist in true sense. He made compelling arguments and so to make him a believer god appeared in front of him. I wonder why god chose to appear as Krishna and not Jesus or Ra or Odin or Juju of the mountain or the FSM. May be he chose to appear as a Hindu god because Kanji (Paresh Rawal’s character) was from a Hindu background. So may be if the protagonist had been ex-Christian he would come as Jesus or Buddha if he were a Buddhist. Not sure what would they show if he had been a Muslim. (You can’t show Mohammad on screen unless you want the theaters burned down!)
Aamir’s alien in PK is not an atheist. He is a simpleton who hears about god and takes it on face value. He actually is pretty dumb for a member of a species who communicate telepathically and are capable of inter-galactic travel. Any evolved intelligent life form should be capable of logic and reasoning and should be able to see through the mirage that is religion and belief in god.
Bollywood has indulged in pandering to supernatural themes of gods, magic, reincarnation, destiny and spirits since its inception. First Indian movie was based on mythology. Movie after movie has reaffirmed the existence of supernatural. The industry has no dearth of atheists – and the film industry is the most secular faction of Indian society but it has never dared to question the core idea of god. OMG and PK can be treated as attempts to eventually get there. I hope we get there soon.