Dir. Umesh Shukla
It takes a certain amount of guts to make a movie that critiques religion in India. After all, in some parts of the country it is not hard for political leaders to get a movie banned or incite a mob to trash theaters in the name of religious piety. OMG – Oh My God! did not escape controversy, though it aims its satirical arrows at organized religion and the frauds who get rich exploiting the faith of the masses. There is nothing impious about OMG, in which a dapper modern avatar of Krishna (Akshay Kumar) patiently educates Kanji (Paresh Rawal), the cynical, areligious owner of a shop that peddles religious idols to the believing. Krishna teaches Kanji to look to the Gita to guide his choices in life. What could be controversial in that?
What gets OMG in trouble is the picture it paints of the people who claim to represent God on Earth – religious leaders, especially the ones who get rich off takings from the pious. In OMG's hilarious first half – this is one of those movies whose setup is better than its payoff – Kanji loses his shop to an earthquake. Frustrated by an insurance policy that exempts “acts of God,” Kanji decides that the only way to recover what he has lost is to take legal action against the deity himself. Answering the lawsuit is an alliance of three religious leaders of questionable ethics, morality, and piety. These – not religion itself, and not God – are the real targets of OMG's satire.
The leader of this band of religious charlatans, Leeladhar Swamy, is rendered by Mithun Chakraborty in a weird, mincing, scene-chewing performance. His mannerisms are so affected that I can't help thinking he is lambasting someone in particular – and not knowing who that might be, I don't find the joke as comprehensible or as funny as I otherwise might.
But it doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment of the movie, which is very cute. Paresh Rawal is wide-eyed, blustery, and hilarious. The first half hour is particularly delightful. Kanji's comtempt for - and manipulation of - the religious piety of others is very funny. (And punctuated by a Prabhu Deva number!) Akshay Kumar is a weirdly smarmy Krishna, but the film also makes sure that he hews to his mythological roots. This Krishna is the butter-eating, flute-playing prankster of religious tradition. He playfully teases Kanji after buying back his repossessed home. And on the eve of Kanji's biggest battle, Krishna offers him the teachings of the Gita, just as Krishna delivered the Gita's wisdom to Arjun on the eve of his own great battle. This clever Krishna drives his man on a motorcycle rather than a chariot, but he is grounded in the Krishna of the Mahabharata. It is to OMG's credit that Krishna has this substance, and is not merely an excuse for Akshay Kumar to dress in a snappy suit and look smug. And Krishna's message is a sweet one: Love God, and each other, and don't be distracted by relics or rituals or human beings who claim to have God on speed-dial. In such a charming and funny package, that's a message that is easy to get behind.