Oh My God: for ‘God’s sake’ you can’t miss this film!
Gaurav Malani, TNN | Sep 28, 2012, 11.14AM IST
Director: Umesh Shukla
Cast: Paresh Rawal, Akshay Kumar
In a country like India that is widely God-fearing, a film like OMG Oh My God, that fearlessly and unwaveringly raises fingers at the commonplace commercialization of religious customs, is certainly an audacious attempt. Oh My God shouldn’t be mistaken to be a film that endorses atheism. Rather it questions blind faith.
Kanjibhai (Paresh Rawal) makes a living out of selling idols of God but is himself a staunch disbeliever. When his shop is shattered in an earthquake, the insurance company rejects his claim on grounds that the incident was an act of God – something that isn’t covered within their policy. An outraged Kanjibhai moves the court of law asking compensation from God. Since God has no address, he summons religious leaders (headed by Mithun Chakravarthy), arguing that they represent God on earth and thereby should compensate his loss.
What seems like a preposterous petition turns into a complicated courtroom drama and subsequently Lord Krishna (Akshay Kumar) himself takes human form and comes down to earth to guide Kanjibhai in his dispute against divinity.
At the outset, Oh My God might seem like a ludicrous and fanciful fable. But this very implausibility of the plot, when presented convincingly, turns to be the film’s highlight. Kanjibhai self-contests his case, presenting such interesting arguments that the high court judge (like the viewer), who is initially disapproving of the lawsuit, acknowledges his line of reasoning and green-lights the trial. What makes Kanjibhai’s character original and interesting is the fact that his atheism isn’t triggered from some past angst with God (ala Amitabh Bachchan in Deewaar) nor by any scientific philosophies. He just loathes the blatant business, built out of blind faith, which bolsters his disbelief.
The smartness that writer-director Umesh Shukla brings to the narrative is that he never blames God for any misdoings (that would be blasphemous). Rather humans and their inherent greed are largely shown to be the bone of contention here. Thereby religious heads are brought under prosecution and, through them, their blind followers are largely targeted.
In a steadfast devout nation, this film has the nerve to openly point out how religious traditions like pouring milk on idols in temples or offering sheets of flowers in mosques or burning candles outside churches are merely moneymaking gimmicks, devised in the name of God. The film rightly points out how devotees, without a second thought, would make divine donations but hardly even consider charity for the needy.
However, despite its sensitive take on devotion and, moreover, having a protagonist who never believes in God, the film strongly approves of the Almighty and in fact makes his presence felt in human form (through Akshay’s character).It illustrates of God as someone who won’t solve your problems but surely guide you through them. And more importantly it calls for devotion that isn’t ‘God-fearing’ but ‘God-loving’. Through such individualistic ideologies, Oh My God goes beyond the cinematic boundaries of being merely an entertainment medium and has the potential to make one reconsider their pious practices and spiritual philosophies.
With the thin line on which the film treads, it’s imperative that the film have an as much sturdy climax. One fears that, after having a burly buildup, will the film live up to the expectations in the end or fall flat. But the director does save the best for the last. The film occasionally resorts to convenience when Kanjibhai finds solution to his legal battle in religious scriptures. But then, like Munnabhai found his answer in Gandhigiri, Kanjibhai finds his way out through the holy books.
Since the film is primarily argument-oriented, it heavily relies on dialogues and it’s important to point here that the lines are pensively penned, making even the improbable seem persuasive. Kanjibhai draws your attention when he says ‘Dharm insaan ko bebas banata hain ya antankwadi’ (Religion makes humans either vulnerable or terrorist). Subsequently Krishna enlightens ‘Tum kisi se uska dharm mat cheeno, phir woh tumhe apna dharm bana lenge’ (If you take away a human’s religion, they will make you their religion). Perhaps one can attribute the sensibility and thoughtfulness of the written material to the Gujarati play ‘Kanji Virrudh Kanji’ on which the film is based.
Paresh Rawal is amongst the few immensely talented character actors who can carry an entire film on their shoulders. As Kanjibhai he puts in a solid performance and has the conviction to make you contemplate. Akshay Kumar as the ever-smiling Lord Krishna who perpetually spins a keychain on his finger (symbolizing Sudarshan Chakra) is graceful in his extended special appearance. Mithun Chakravarthy as the sissy spiritual guru has few lines but more expressions. Govind Namdeo gets good scope to go theatrical. Om Puri and Nikhil Ratnaparkhi are decent in their respective roles.
It is gutsy for a matinee idol like Akshay Kumar (also the film’s producer) to make a statement against idol worship. Oh My God is a moral science lesson that doesn’t sound preachy. This is a film that not only entertains and inspires but also enlightens.
For ‘God’s sake’, you can’t afford to miss this one!
Verdict: Very Good