Akshay’s high octane shootUmesh Shukla’s ‘OMG Oh My God’ makes very pertinent points about commercialization of religion, religious symbolism and the farce that “devout” godmen manage to pull off. The intention was good but was that enough to make a good film?
Actors, sometimes, can annoy us with their omnipresence. At one time, Paresh Rawal was everywhere, and because our mainstream cinema does not offer a character actor too many notes to hit — it’s either the well-intentioned friend of Baghban, or the shrill comedian trying to outshout everyone else in a Priyadarshan comedy — we began to tire of him. Cutting down his assignments has done the actor a world of good. He is in rip-roaring form as Kanji Bhai in Umesh Shukla’s Oh My God. Kanji Bhai is a cheerfully unscrupulous wheeler-dealer, whose shop in Chor Bazaar specialises in religious memorabilia, ranging from Draupadi’s sari to bottles of Gangajal whose contents come from the tap. (Kanji Bhai is an equal-opportunity hoodwinker. He also peddles musical memorabilia, like “Micheal” Jackson’s suit.) His philosophy is simple (and this is what endears him to us): If you’re stupid enough to pay staggering sums of money for a statue that supposedly revealed itself in the earth of Brindavan, then you deserve to leave with a lighter wallet. Ethical? Probably not. But Kanji Bhai is no different from the makers of fairness creams who position themselves as bestowers of boons to dark-skinned flocks. Everything, really, comes down to faith.
Paresh Rawal as Kanji Lalji Mehta does complete justice to his role as the desperate middle-class antique shop owner who will do anything to get compensation, even if it means taking on God. But we wonder did we really need Akshay playing God? Anupama Chopra says:
Akshay plays God, which would have worked well if the film didn’t have to build him up so much. He is introduced with an elaborate action sequence, featuring tacky special effects, in which he rescues Kanji from religious fanatics. This God comes to earth on a snazzy motorcycle and wears, among other things, a long purple jacket. His face is always bathed in a strange, diffused light. And there are scores of frames of him just smiling benevolently or looking wisely into the distance.
The light-hearted comedy sometimes gets too verbose and preachy. Rajeev Masand writes in his review:
Despite its unusual, catchy premise, Oh My God!, co-written and directed by first-timer Umesh Shukla (who directed the Hindi version of the play that also starred Rawal in the lead), never exploits its full potential. While the film makes a solid case against blind faith, the excesses of religious rituals, and the self-appointed “collection agents” of God, it never sticks its neck out far enough, choosing instead to go with a cop-out ending, as if afraid to be too provocative. What’s more the film can’t shake off its stage-play feel, and suffers from some embarrassingly hammy acting from supporting players like Govind Namdeo, who plays an easily angered godman who’s at the end of his patience.
Despite the flaws, this film is worth a watch because like Masand says, “In a sea of dumb Bollywood comedies (many starring Akshay Kumar himself), this one at least starts off a debate.”