This post is the unedited copy of the film review published at Dawn.com on 14th October 2012.
Kanji Bhai is Taking God to Court – and He Has Good Reason To! Cue Drum-Roll!
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
Look at the snap-shot from Oh My God’s poster. Kanji Bhai’s expression says a lot, doesn’t it.
Man sues god, god helps man in OMG – Oh My God, a divine comedy scoffing at the capitalistic nature of religious propaganda starring Paresh Rawal – and to an extent Akshay Kumar, as a Vardenchi Chopper-riding avatar of Krishna.
While Akshay’s human avatar does play god as an action hero (his Bollywood movie star-like introduction has him scaling down a building like Nicolas Cage’s Ghost Rider – albeit in a cheaply composited sequence), it is his closely cordoned inclusion that substantiates – and lest I forget, commercializes – a screenplay threatening to meta-morph into its own worst enemy: a two-hour, one-sided preach-off.
Working from the Gujarati play Kanji Virudh Kanji (itself an adaptation of the Australian movie The Man Who Sued God, starring Billy Connolly), the screenplay by Bhavesh Mandalia and director Umesh Shukla, pits Kanji Bhai Mehta (Paresh Rawal, brilliantly Paresh Rawal-y), a middle-class Hindu atheist, against, well, everything un-religious about religions.
His atheism couldn’t be a better fit, because the divide fine-tunes his already sharp basic instinct – a knack for common sense; and that, of course, leads to keen business opportunities. Kanji Bhai runs a profitable enterprise selling god’s figurines in Chor Bazaar Mumbai, and he’s pretty good at what he does (in an early scene, we see Kanji Bhai hoodwinking a wealthy customer from Rajasthan, by playing up to our intransigent sentimentality).
However, his lack of faith in God, and an early open challenge, invites an earth quake that levels only his shop in the bazaar. He then decides to sue god, or his local representatives – the pundits and the guru’s – after his insurance company renegades on his policy, labeling his case an "Act of God".
Kanji Bhai’s shrewd sense of reality is as alarming as the filmmaker’s belief on the sanctity and susceptibility of today’s (or for that matter any day’s) religious conviction. As far as OMG goes, sectarian differences are a trifling debate. Shukla, who heavy-hands Hinduism, shuttles through most of OMG’s arguments like a fiery, tree-loving environmentalist hostile to a major corporation; religious puffery is – as the film ceaselessly reminds us – a big, booming business. Its mean turn-over comes with an unnecessary wastage of food and misguided sentiment. After all, as he tells the court, this is one line of work that virtually has no room for recession.
In one scene, Kanji bhai tells the court that he was eventually convinced by a pundit that if he wants to win his case, he would have to woo bagwan by presenting milk to a temple. When he got there, he saw that the milk was being washed down from the statue, all the way to the gutter, whereas just near the gutter, a man lay wasted on malnutrition.
The chieftains of the trade (actually, sharp-eyed caricatures of what I presume are real-world sages) are played by Mithun Chakravorthy, a meetha-looking self-appointed guru, the food-demon pundit played by Govind Namdev and Poonam Jhawer as a vixen devi.
While Kanji bhai’s story is based on well-honed observations, angry one-sided retorts, and uncluttered storytelling (some of it, too obvious for its own good), his message is stimulating. Akshay’s (un-hammy) appearance not only makes OMG a box-office friendly commodity, it also creates a sense of balance. Without a god’s physical presence, the film, as fun as it is, would just be a long dressing-down match. And as Kanji bhai learns, having god on your side has benefits.
Released by Grazing Goat Pictures and Viacom 18, the film is rated ‘U’. OMG – Oh My God features an aptly placed score by Himesh Reshammiya, and an early dance number by Prabhu Deva and Sonakshi Sinha going "Go-Go-Go Govinda!"
The published version is at: http://dawn.com/2012/10/14/movie-review-oh-my-god/
And it looks like this: