Mayank Shekhar | Last Modified - Sep 28, 2012, 03:12 PM IST
How does one objectively talk about religion anymore? It’s tough. Everything in God’s name has become open to hurt sentiments and global outrage. That’s way, this film as essentially a debate is a huge achievement. At least it tries to question. But then again, it’s a commercial flick, with one eye on the same over-sensitive audiences who are believers, and therefore should never be questioners, let alone be questioned themselves.
Therefore, the film takes two steps forward; and three steps backward. Paresh Rawal, an acting god among Guajarati audiences himself, plays an atheist. He doesn’t believe in God. The Almighty, in turn, supposedly destroys his shop in an earthquake. This is the opposite of a horror film, in that sense, where usually the hero doesn’t believe in ghosts, and the ghost rips him apart eventually!
I suspect the problem that Paresh’s shop-owner Kanjilal has, is not with the idea of God per se. But with rituals and superstitions and any kind of organised religion, where priests and maulvis and pundits and spiritual gurus attain immense stature, make tons of money, acting as self-appointed agents of the lord. These people, he rightly believes, transform common folk into either helpless beings, or dangerous terrorists.
Kanjilal’s shop is insured, but it turns out, the insurance company can’t protect his establishment against “acts of God” or nature, such as lightning, earthquakes or tsunamis. It’s hardly unreasonable then that Kanjilal must file a case against God for putting him in this position. Since charitable trusts and temples and churches and mosques act as intermediaries to God, it’s only fair that they should defend this case on God’s behalf. The High Court miraculously admits the case! The premise of this picture becomes phenomenally funny and profound at the same time. Thoughtful lines help.
The film is based on a popular play, Kishan Vs Kanhaiya, written by Bhaesh Mandaliya, where Paresh has already played the lead role, as he does in this movie. Sadly the film itself rarely transcends the over-the-top theatrical idioms of a staged play. The beautifully written script deserved greater depth, space and cinematic quality to be turned into an equally compelling screenplay. The only aspect that the filmmakers felt were worth adding was an “item song”!
God himself makes an appearance in the film. Like in movies such as Bruce Almighty (or Salman Khan’s God Tussi Great Ho that had copied that Hollywood flick), the creator of man here looks like a modern, western man himself – and not like perhaps the creator of other plants and animals. God lands up as the slick, stubble-chest Akshay Kumar in sports bike, who loves paying the flute, and is supposedly Lord Krishna travelling incognito. Atheist Kanjilal becomes a believer eventually. He preaches to us the Koran, Gita and Bible that have answers to all problems of the world.
We stop questioning faith suddenly. The compromise is evident. And yet, for most parts, the film pushes the envelope, and at least proposes to debate religion and its context. This is what all arts ought to do, and is too scared to now.
We should then be glad that the play got turned into a movie – even if badly shot with callous close-ups, in second-rate studio sets, and with hammy performances. A theatrical release ensures the film will be broadcast on television. That’s where it must be watched, and thought about, and hopefully discussed.