Thursday, December 6, 2012

An atheist befriends God - OMG Oh My God.

It's good to see a remake be upfront about its origins: OMG Oh My God, a comedy that's a lot cleverer than its goofy name, is based on a Gujarati play, that in return is based on an Australian movie, and this is all told in the opening credits. I've not seen neither the original movie, or the play, but I was pleasantly surprised by this film - for all the goofiness of the premise, the film ends up in a pretty thoughtful, thought-provoking place.

Paresh Rawal does an excellent job portraying the staunch atheist Kanji Lalji Mehta, who sees the superstitions of the religious as a way to make more money off the idols and other religious items he sells. When an insurance company refuses to pay him as his shop was ruined by "an act of God" (natural disaster), he goes to the extreme of suing "God" - or in this case, all the religious organizations that claim to represent God. 

The idea of a man suing God was ripe for a remake in a country as religiously diverse as India, especially as religious skepticism doesn't seem to yet be completely accepted in the mainstream. (India's leading skeptic, Sanal Edamaruku, is currently in Europe due to exposing a miracle as anything but.) As a completely non-religious person who's grown up in a secularized country with Lutheran Christian cultural roots, I have my own biases going into this film, naturally. I am not one that would be offended of whoever might be offended by this movie, and indeed, it's not a film that sets out to offend, as much as to teach. 

Kanji Lalji Mehta quickly makes a friend "with many names" (played by Akshay Kumar), obviously a human form of the god Krishna. When the film so openly states the belief that there is, in fact, a God - or multiple gods and goddesses, Krishna implies in one piece of dialogue - I'm kind of stunned that religious individuals would take offence. On the other, this is precisely the kind of behaviour religious organisations engage in that the film rails against: the corruption, the greed and the self-interest that have nothing to do with the teachings of any religion. 

It's not an entirely original message, but it's one that certainly needs to be put out there more often. It's in the Munnabhai camp of comedies; warms the heart but doesn't necessarily make you roar with laughter, and with plenty of philosophy sprinkled on top. It's no wonder audiences took to it so much.

As for myself, I wasn't perhaps as in love with it, because I was already converted, but I certainly enjoyed watching. Hopefully it begins a dialogue about religion as personal faith as opposed to a way for organisations to gain power and wealth, and about shedding those superstitions that might end up being more harmful in the long run.

And now if you'll excuse me, I've got an Akshay Kumar shrine to build...

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