Last week I announced the start of an Indian movie club here at my blog. The first selection was a movie called OMG: Oh My God, which is available on Netflix streaming.
Beware that there will be spoilers!
First of all, I learned that this movie was based on a play called Kanji Virudh Kanji, later adapted to Hindi as “Kishan V/s Kanhaiya” I haven’t seen the play, but it seemed to me that the movie did a great job and I can’t imagine a better medium for this story!
As an American, it was really interesting to get a peek into a world where Hinduism and Hindu philosophy is in the air. Notice that when Mehta’s wife is upset, she goes straight for the home altar to light incense. There’s a Krishna and Radha temple right outside his house. Time is shown through various Hindu festivals from Krishna Janmashtami to Ganesh Chathurti to Diwali.
It was most interesting to me to see the insurance office where Mehta can assume the insurance agent believes that God is present in all of us. “I didn’t hit you, it was God! God is going to shoot you!”
That’s not a basic assumption in the fabric of life in America! Now, Mehta is wrong about what it means that God is within each of us, but one can see where he extrapolated the idea from.
I was watching this movie with my best friend, who is an atheist. He wasn’t too sure at first about the way that this atheist character was being portrayed, but in the end I felt like Mehta went from being unlikeable to being one of the most likable people in the movie. He really grew on me! I mean, at first it is pretty despicable the way he makes a mockery of people’s faith for profit. I think as the movie progresses, he becomes more thoughtful and empathetic to other people. He has people who depend on him to tell their stories and get justice for them and he rises to that occasion.
He made some truly excellent points, like that God is found everywhere and not just in temples and that feeding the poor is a form of worshiping God.
This movie really highlighted the friendship relationship that one can have with God. Krishna himself shows up (and I LOVE that Krishna is his friend, there to help him, after one of the swamis told him that God would never manifest for a sinner like him). Krishna doesn’t need Mehta’s worship, He needs Mehta’s friendship. When Mehta tries to bow, Krishna grabs him in a hug.
There are a lot of fake God-men out there and the movie really made me cringe seeing how rotten the swamis were. But there was one good swami represented. One man who refused to keep going along with the schemes. There are good men (and women) of God, but they aren’t always the loudest or most charismatic.
(One can’t help but speculate and wonder about who each of those caricatures of fake swamis were supposed to represent! Are they real people or just representations of general types you find taking advantage of people? With the particular mannerisms and dress so distinct, I suspect that they have real life inspirations, though I don’t know who they are! If so, it might have been going a bit too far. If anyone knows, please tell me!)
Mehta is right that religion is in many cases a business.
A favorite moment for me is when Mehta is able to provide proof in writing that God caused the earthquake. Brilliant use of holy books! And seeing him quote the Gita after that one swami loses his temper…that was epic!
I liked that the Muslim lawyer didn’t see a contradiction between believing in God and helping Mehta sue Him.
Krishna makes an excellent observation that when you take people’s religion away, they turn you into their religion. I think most of us do need something to believe in and someone “higher” than ourselves to ask help from. One of the swamis says at the end, “These are not God-loving people. These are God-fearing people.” I hope that I am a God-loving person. That is definitely my goal.
I wouldn’t say that the temples have no place. But even when worshiping God in the form of idol, it is good to remember to also worship and serve God in the form of fellow human beings.
And the rituals and chants that Mehta decries do have a purpose. Not the one that they are often put to! We don’t chant because we are begging God for something. We chant to clarify our minds, to align our hearts, or to refocus our attention.
I think it’s kind of funny that people in the movie start asking the priests what the rituals mean and the priests are panicking “Oh, they’ve been listening to [Mehta]!” It reminded me of the conversation I spoke about this week.
There was a lot of fear among Mehta’s friends and family that he was angering God and that God would then get angry at those who were nice to him and so they mostly abandoned Mehta. What becomes clear in the movie is that God is not that sensitive. He doesn’t mind Mehta questioning Him or not being sure He exists. Those doubts don’t hurt God. The friends and family could have gained more of God’s favor by continuing to be loving and kind to Mehta no matter his struggles. It is not Godly to distance one’s self.
The movie generated a lot of controversy over the depictions of prominent Hindu gods and Indian spiritual traditions. Jalandhar State Mahila Congress Vice President Nimisha Mehta lodged a complaint against the lead actors, Paresh Rawal and Akshay Kumar, and the producers of the film, for hurting religious sentiments of Hindus. The notice asked them to delete objectionable scenes and dialogues. Akshay Kumar was given police protection, after this incident. -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oh_My_God_(2012_film)
I guess those people missed the point. I can’t help thinking it’s weird that Rawal’s character in the movie was being chased by angry mobs and needed protection and then Kumar is in the same situation in real life!
One reviewer who is also a monk wrote that “when we start labeling reasonable arguments as blasphemy, we start slipping toward fanaticism.” I completely agree! (Follow the link to find a whole book dedicated to questions and answers brought up in this movie! It’s really excellent)
So tell me what you thought!
- Did you like the movie?
- Not like it?
- Were you offended?
- Who did you most sympathize with?
- What did you think of the depiction of Lord Krishna?
The selection for next week’s discussion is My Name is Khan.
I heard great things about this movie when it came out, but I didn’t see it. It is the story of a Muslim man with Asperger’s who marries a Hindu single mother and their life is happy until 9/11 tears them apart, bringing their religious differences to the forefront and Khan sets out to prove that his name and his religion does not make him a terrorist.
Here’s the preview:
This one is not available on Netflix streaming, but can be rented on Amazon for a small fee.