OMG! Hindus don’t run riot over films


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9 Oct 2012

 
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In a country as steeped in religiosity as ours, topics like god and religion unfortunately end up being more taboo than they should be. We seal our lips and pretend that some of the most vital aspects of our life (gods, religions, and the various rituals we take part in on a daily basis) simply do not exist. Knowingly or unknowingly, we all seem to stand by an unspoken social contract — that we must not talk about god and religion. Contrast this with the extremely healthy tradition of self-criticism inherent in Hinduism and various other Indic traditions, and you come away with a picture that is truly sad — a very religious population that flinches at the very mention of religion in public.

This problem affects our urban folks more than it affects those who live in our villages. Outside of the intellectual circles whose primary occupation it is to wax eloquent about how badly India needs to be liberated from various ‘social evils’ (all of which are inevitably traced back to Hindu culture, history, and society), one finds almost no conversations happening on religion and related topics.

This is why one watched the new Paresh Rawal starrer Oh My God with much interest. Having heard the Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh the previous day using India’s many temples to make a point about public hygiene, the movie’s central theme — the role of religion in society — seemed even more timely.

Movies like OMG mark a welcome change in the Indian cinema scene. where once storytellers dared go no further than the tried and tested young love formula, now we have matters of social relevance making their way into the public consciousness through popular entertainment. Having said that, efforts such as this also do end up oversimplifying and confusing matters to a large extent.

A pleasant realisation that struck me as I watched OMG was the comfort with which a predominantly Hindu audience appreciated the movie. Cinematic presentations much less critical than this have brought about blasphemy-powered riots in various countries in recent times. In a country as largely Hindu as India, very little mention is made of this in-built spirit of self-critical humility among the people. Instead, what people of the world’s most pluralist society get are sanctimonious lectures teaching us ‘tolerance’ and ‘secularism’.

I think the very fact that a movie as potentially controversial as OMG could be conceived, get made, and be telecast all over the country to appreciative audiences, speaks volumes about how comfortable Indians are with respect to matters related to religion. India and Indians have, for ages, been in the middle of an ongoing religious discourse. A discourse that has excluded no philosophy — not even atheism, a philosophy that often finds itself at odds with religion in the West.

It is therefore a little unfortunate that in the popular mind, India’s relationship with religion is seen as being something it is not — destructive. Even the movie in question Oh My God falls prey to this very trap by portraying its central character as being on the run after he goes to court against god. The other common tendency the makers of OMG fell prey to was what fellow writer Rajeev Srinivasan took offence to in Jairam Ramesh’s comment on temples. It is amusing to see the characters make token references to Islam and Christianity in their tirade against religion, but it is only too evident that the full force of their atheist protagonist’s anger is directed at the many gods that Hindus worship and the ways in which they do so.

The idea of god, as it is understood in this country is not something beyond reproach or criticism. India’s pluralist society rests on the foundation of an age old tradition of critical self-examination. This is where all religions are respected, and all religions are criticised, all the time.

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  • http://twitter.com/prashanthkpp Prashanth K.P.

    Perhaps the *Religion of Peace & Purity* could take a lesson or two from this and begin to mature, though late.

  • Sayan Sen

    Thanks to entire NitiCentral team. You have kept the ancient Hindu tradition of “Vivada” alive. From the Rig Vedic times (“The Truth is one. The wise call It by different names”), ours is a religion based on philosophy rather based on various competing and apparently contradictory schools of philosophy. The word “religion” with its concocted image of mumbo-jumbo rituals is but a poor cousin of our “dharma” (based on code of ethics and morals).
    The original meaning of word “nastika” is “one who does not believe in Vedas” and among the 6 “astika” schools, the schools of Nyay and Samkhya are dominantly “atheist” (i.e. not believing in God but believing the Vedas to be Eternal Truths).
    Even the advaita philosophy espoused by Adi Sankara to Swami Vivekananda calls for an Impersonal God of Pure Conciousness.
    That is why we find it amusing that followers of a particular religion run riot after hearing some hearsay about some “blashemous” movies/books.
    P.S. The followers of the Prophet (who himself dominated Arabia by bloody wars and not by knowledge or spiritual power and who coined the term “jehad”) are generally too loathe to engage in serious intellectual activity of reading a book or watching a serious movie if not analyse them. It’s much easier for them to desecrate our matryr’s memorial (anti-idolatory of Islam) and molest “kafir” female police constables. In return, the brave followers are sure to go to heaven (jannat) and enjoy the company of virgin fairies (or hoors)!!

  • Sunjay

    There is a thin line in being tolerant and being spineless. I haven’t watched the said film but one thing I’ve observed is that whereas Hinduism is mocked and made fun off in “Bollywood” other religions are over glamorized. The problem with that is young Hindu children grown up felling insecure in their religion, children of other religions grow confident in their own religions. There is nothing wrong in criticizing Hinduism but it should be in done intellectual circles not in popular culture through mass media.

  • Vikram

    I agree with Mr.Sunjay’s comments. I did see the movie and found that folk Hinduism & idol-worship was run down, and suggestion was that people should practise an intellectual form of the faith – ‘jnana marg’. One could say that it preached monotheism over polytheism. No denying that some rituals and practises in Hinduism can be improved upon, but such messages can be delivered with more sensitivity. Portrayal of Hindu religious leaders in the film too was extremely negative. All in all, for the normal young person watching the film, it will leave a more negative impression of Hinduism. Of course, we had the obligatory equalization of Gita = Bible = Quran, which anyone with some knowledge of these books knows is completely untrue.

  • Malavika

    There is a lot of criticism of Hindu religion, how ever there is no criticism of ‘God’ of Abraham. These ‘critics’ of Hinduism have internalized Semitic racism and take pot shots at Hinduism. At least god of Hindus is not a misogynistic, anthropomorphic cruel ‘God’ who punishes His own creation for using the brain the ‘He’ gave.

    The problem with Hindus is that they know drawbacks of their religion but not those of Christianity/Islam. Very few Hindus know that Slavery is divinely sanctioned by Koran and also Bible. And that leaving Islamic faith(apostasy) is a crime punishable by death. And that attributes of Islamic God/Christian God # IShwar.

    It is time Hindus stop watching movies, start reading, analyzing and form opinions based on facts not Boolywood one liners.

    B.t.w what is wrong with Idol worship?

  • Sayan Sen

    I think we, Hindus will have to fight in 2 different fronts—one, externally against the Abrahamic faiths and second, internally against the superstitions and mumbo-jumbo that goes in the name of Hinduism making a mockery of our scriptures. We should not let false pride (“Aham”) in Hinduism blind us to the evil practices of our own religion. At the same time, we should not let our reformist zeal blind us to the imminent Abrahamic threat and the necessity of Hindu consolidation. This is what I understand to be Hindutva as preached by our great teachers like Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Dayananda Saraswati, B.G. Tilak, M.K. Gandhi, V.D. Savarkar et al.
    P.S. If by seeing OMG even if a single person starts thinking about God and Hinduism then Hinduism should be grateful to the director sahab. Because as our scriptures say, to start thinking about Absolute Brahman is the first step towards relaizing Brahman. So-ham (I am HE)!!

  • A

    People who talk about the so-called evils of Hinduism are mostly unaware of the cause of many such evils. A lot of people say that child marriage is an evil Hindu practice, but do not know that it is the direct result of the Islamic invasion, and the fact that the Islamic people rape children because of the example of Muhammad and Ayesha. Here’s a link on the Islamic imvasion -

    http://www.historyofjihad.org/india.html?syf=contact

  • Rajalakshmi

    I also completely agree with Sunjay’s comments. And Malavika’s.

    Many ill informed upstarts like to state (sic)” atheism also has a place in Hinduism”.

    This needs to be explained. It is Brahaspathi The Guru of Devas who purposely promoted this school of thought called atheism so that the undeserving , those lacking in Sraddha , Mumukshuthvam are drawn to it & stay put there as perennial doubters.

    God does not require any person’s ratification or belief. It is we the people who seek God. Even this earnest thirst for our Maker comes about ONLY with His/Her GRACE.

    Similarly such upstarts start questioning Rituals. They are best left ignored.

    Our movies are not the ideal place to learn about Hinduism. A.P.Nagarajan’s Thiruvulaiyaadal & Kannadasan’s impassioned compositions made me go in search of Periya Puranam. There are lots & lots of scintillating Spiritual Texts in Hinduism. These should be compulsorily read by all Hindu parents along with their children. For this knowledge of Sanskrit is an added advantage.

    Our ancient Temples have Sthala Puranams. These are extremely important.There is absolutely nothing to ridicule in Hindus worship of Icons. In our worship of Fire, Water, Earth etc. Instead of frittering away our energies in interfaith charades we must focus on study of our Hinduism. This alone can empower us.

    Indian schools, particularly convents, our curriculum all only serve to make us feel ashamed of our culture.

  • Rajalakshmi

    The power crisis in Tamil Nadu has proved to be a blessing in disguise.
    Many have taken to reading instead of watching tawdry soaps & serials.

    When there are so many untold & unheard stories on the awesome GLORY of Lord Ssiva, MahaVishnu , Hanuman why waste resources on highlighting aberrations like charlatanism ? These unheard stories are not recorded in any books. By talking to various devotees of Kaanchi Shankaracharya & similar Sages I gathered them. Trust me, none of our SAGES derived their strength by worshipping filmstars & cricketers.

    KB.Sundarambal firmly refused to sing a song composed by DMK’s Karunanidhi ridiculing Hindu God in his movie Poompuhar. He had to change those lines.
    If only Hindus know the might of their Gods would have no problems in jettisoning congress & various “secularists”.

    We encourage people who deride our Holy Ganges. Whereas Hollywood’s Brad Pitt told his peers about the breathtaking Spirituality of Holy Ganges & Varanasi.

    Read what Sarada Devi has to say about Gaya & Varanasi. Read extensively about Thrailinga Swamigal & the sanctity of all such Holy Places of our India before embarking on a pilgrimage.

  • Fagun Bhavsar

    What about protests over Deepa Mehta’s Film Water? It described the horrible practices there were prevailing pre-independence in Hinduism. The film was stopped and then re-shot entirely in Srilanka then went into category of Best foreign language film (from Canada and not from India!)

  • Rajalakshmi

    Deepa Mehtas , Aparna Sens & kamalhassnas are rotten hypocrites. Only hindus become their fav punching bag.

    Watch her Mr & Mrs Iyer please.Would the same aparna sen have the gumption to make a movie on Kasab & Mumbai blasts where those who recited verses from their religious text were left unharmed ? Or the recent mayhem in Algeria.

    Deepa Mehta’s sweeping generalizations were rightly condemned. In both Fire & Water. The tolerance of Hindus is always abused by them to malign only Hindus. To know about past I would turn to Kaanchi Paramacharya. Certainly not to deepa mehta’s clumsy mendacious distortions. After the Delhi rape shabana azmi talked big about “commodification of woman’s body”

    . What has she been doing with her anatomy in masala movies like Parvarish & art movies like Fire, Mandi…Does her ISLAM approve of that? Only within secular India they have the cake & eat it too.

    Why can’t they make a movie on Inquisition by the christians in Goa ? The way theu have usurped Hindu Temples rechristening them Santhome church , Velankanni church etc ? Why not make a movie exposing the truth Taj Mahal was NOT built by shah jehan ? And what Islamic invaders wrought in India & the holocaust of Hindus.

    How about making a movie upholding the sacredness of cows. And how for voteocracy cows get exported to bangladesh for consumption by our inimicals. A movie on the pogrom of SIKHS by congress ??

    Hindus should give up unwarranted self flagellation & crack down on such rotten film makers. Congress is not going to do it.

    The very demise of indian film industry & cricket would do us a lot of good. Have they contributed a wee bit towards peace & dignity of Hindus? Nope. Only the same rotten filmstars are embraced as role models.No other country is this besotted with filmstars & kitsch. The entire nation went into mourning over yash chopra. Now confers padmablahblah on sridevi.

    To be conferred Pamashri/Padmabhushan etc is the grossest insult.

    KUDOS to Sri.Nochur Venkatraman who was approached by some people wanting to confer some such title who matter of factly replied:-

    ” When Bhagavan has made me know I am the very Brahman what need I have for any titles”.

  • Rajalakshmi

    While on movies , the Tamil movie ‘Naduvula Konjam Pakkattha Kaanom’ is truly praiseworthy. Totally unpretentious movie sans item numbers , eve teasing raunchy songs & allied nonsense. All unknown actors. An extremely absorbing story till the end. Humorous & serious.

    And it is a true story.

    • Badari Narayanan

      Ms Rajalakshmi, your impassioned and factual replies are greatly appreciated

  • Rajalakshmi

    Thank you Sri.Badari Narayanan.

    I watched the movie OMG.I agree today’s half baked “merchants of nirvana” like art of living SSSSRS & similar clones have brought a very bad name to Hinduism.

    However I am truly bored with the EVR type of corny dialogues ridiculing our worship of Icons including SsivaLingam & breastbeating for the starving masses. When God is ALL PERVADING , how could He/She be absent in Icons & Ssivalingams ? I am appalled so called senior film makers are writing such juvenile dialogues. If this is the kind of stimuli avidly consumed by movie watchers there is not much hope.

    There is a whole body called Aagama Sasthrams that deal with Temple construction , Prana Pratishtam etc etc. Aadi Shankara Himself visited many Temples composing Hymns.

    It has become fashionable to say God has no form needs no pujas etc.
    That way stripped of all kosas do so many men & women really exist ? NOT AT ALL. YET , why hanker after clothes , jewellery , delicacies , property , power , free quotas of gas cylinders & encircling by black cat commandoes ? Why get worked up when limp effigies of politicians are burnt? Why have statues of EVR of all. Why waste precious sandalwood in cremation of politicians. Why recall the birthdays & deathdays of Nehru , Indira , Rajiv who are but ashes to ashes & dust to dust.

    I was warned by many not to take a dip in the Holy Ganges.Thank God for Sri.Kaanchi Paramacharya who says:-

    ” However polluted Holy Rivers are , they have had the sparsh of Sages & hence one should not hesitate in taking a dip”.

    Anointing of Ssivalingam with milk etc has always been derided by leftists & rationalists. For them slaughtering of cows is “rational”.
    Those leftists who want to supply milk to starving masses instead should close down all sweetmeat shops & restaurants. Divert that milk to the poor.This way make everyone poor. And chant garibi hatao.