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God’s dhamaal

Does god exist? Can god take credit for all things good and shoulder the blame for all things bad? Should our acknowledgment of the higher being be personal or does it call for a public demonstration?

Oh My God (OMG) attempts to answer all these questions — and then some more. A direct attack on the commercialisation of worship, blind beliefs and the waste of money in the name of religion, OMG is a novel premise which, however, falls grossly short on execution.

Adapted for the big screen from the Hindi play Kishan vs Kanhaiya and its Gujarati counterpart Kanji Viruddh Kanji, which in turn owes its roots to the 2001 Australian film The Man Who Sued God, OMG has Kanjibhai Mehta (Paresh Rawal) at its centre. A staunch atheist, Kanji openly negates the existence of god, much to the discomfort of his overtly religious wife and two school-going kids.

Kanji not only refuses to acknowledge the presence of a higher being, he also milks the public’s belief in god to further his interests. So from passing off tap water as Ganga jal to purchasing idols off the streets by the dozen and duping customers into believing that they have been sourced from temples, Kanji makes it a point to rubbish religion and rituals at every step.

When an earthquake selectively razes his shop to the ground and the insurance company refuses to cover damages, blaming it on its ‘Act of god’ clause, an irate Kanji sets about doing the unthinkable — suing god for his misery! But how do you send god a legal notice and summon him to court? Kanji glides over this speed bump by legally challenging the country’s most influential godman Leeladhar (Mithun Chakraborty) to represent the god that he claims to be the chosen one of and compensate for Kanji’s losses.

With no lawyer willing to take up his case, Kanji sets about the task of presenting his own arguments at every court hearing. His family deserts him, friends turn their back on him and public sentiment turns dangerously against him, but Kanji stands his ground.

However, the going soon gets tough and Kanji begins to lose hope. It is then that god himself (Akshay Kumar as a Facebook-generation Krishna) Harleys down from heaven to help the man who doesn’t believe in Him.

OMG deserves credit for going beyond the boundaries of cinema for just entertainment and raking up some controversial questions. From idol worship to the crores spent in the name of appeasing the gods, the film makes an attempt to pull the mask off religious faces that dupe millions. It condemns the abuse of our beliefs in the hands of religious bigots and questions why we are more than willing to donate generously to places of worship, but hesitate when it comes to charity. Director Umesh Shukla plays it safe and smart by blaming the ills of religion on man, stopping short of ruffling any feathers by suggesting anything blasphemous.

However, in trying to emphasise that divine practices and religious beliefs are not beyond questioning and that our devotion should be based on the love of god rather than the fear of Him, OMG can’t save itself from going into loopy mode. While the wordplay between Rawal and Akshay keep the interest alive, the film gets preachy after a while, with the last 20 minutes getting too melodramatic. Kanji’s illness — though a necessary plot point — is stretched interminably.

But it is two 60-plus men who save the day for OMG. Rawal knows Kanji like the back of his hand, having played him a million times on stage. Even in the film, he turns in a pitch-perfect performance, investing Kanji with an Everyman flavour. As the gay godman who brooks no nonsense, Mithun is a knockout, making sure that his effeminate mannerisms never degenerate into the caricaturish. Akshay — who also doubles as producer — has limited screen time but breezes through his role. One paisa vasool moment? Prabhudheva and Sonakshi Sinha’s cool moves in the Go Govinda chartbuster.

Despite its loopholes, OMG should be lauded for trying something unusual, without giving in to the diktat of the box office. The next time you are on the verge of giving in to blind belief, remember Kanji’s golden words: Stop. Think. Question.

Oh My God (U)
Director: Umesh Shukla
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Paresh Rawal, Mithun Chakraborty, Govind Namdeo, Mahesh Manjrekar
Running time: 132 minutes