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Oh My God! movie review

'Oh My God!': Challenging the merchandising of religion
By Subhash K. Jha (IANS)
Sun, Sep 30, 2012 06:44:18 GMT
 

Oh My God! movie review. Starring: Paresh Rawal, Akshay Kumar, Mithun Chakraborty and Govind Namdeo. Directed by: Umesh Shukla. Rating: ***

For popular art, it is considered taboo to question religious dogma. Somewhere deep within us we all know ritualistic religiosity is a multi-crore business in our country. But who dares to raise a voice against the deplorable extravagance which is meant to please the Gods?

That amazingly skilled actor Paresh Rawal does exactly that. He raises a voice against organised religion and the merchandising of faith whereby a common man's threshold of belief in the divine power is weighed against the amount of money he rustles up to appease the Gods. The point, made with telling acerbity in OMG is that God doesn't want our money.

Then who is pocketing the billions that flow into the religious industry each year in the name of God?

Based on a long-running play, Oh My God! adapts the delicious premise of the staged event, questioning not the presence of God but the absence of sincerity in His self-appointed minions. That Paresh Rawal reprises his role of Kanjilal, the non-believer who drags 'God' to court, is a stroke of luck for this arresting adaptation. He rattles off the most iconoclastic lines in the most convincing and endearing tones rendering the figureheads of organised religions into redundant blubbering entities.

And yet-and this is the film's salient triumph -- it doesn't seem to insult or ridicule any religious belief. OMG questions the scared cows without milking those cows for effect. There is an inner strength to the ideas and beliefs put forward in this films. These provide a centrality to the plot that could easily have gotten lost in the maze of philosophical idea and religious cynicism.

The film exudes a powerful scent of sincerity. Much of it can be sourced to Paresh who brings splendid conviction and power to his lines. Mithun Chakraborty gives another brave and believable performance as a Nrityanand-like guru. The delicate feminine touch is just oh-so-delectable. Mithunda, you are a cool cat!

My problem was in watching Akshay Kumar play God. To begin with his role is sketchy in comparison with the sharp lines used for portraying Kanjilal. In the absence of an existential persuasion in his arguments 'God', Akshay Kumar resorts to homilies and half-smiles all flashed in a hazily captured image of a God who rides a Harley Davidson.

While Paresh's non-believer is infused in believability, Akshay's God fails to take off.

But the film works, because it tears into sanctimonious manifestations of the very private issue of faith and religion, challenging the God-men to a game of mental chess that leaves the religious charlatans looking helpless and defenceless.

On the minus side there is a conspicuous staginess in the verbosity that is ironically the backbone of the proceedings. A film like OMG is near-extinct in mainstream Hindi cinema. It dares to raise questions that mass-oriented cinema generally shies away from. For this display of creative daring, producer Akshay Kumar may be excused his vanity of playing God.

Interesting, thought-provoking and based on a novel premise (sue God!) Oh My God! is a delightful little creation that challenges the merchandising of religion, no offence meant to the temples of doom. Paresh is outstanding in making irreverence seem endearing. Thank God for good actors.
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