In the 2012 OMG, Paresh Rawal plays a snarky ‘naastik (atheist)’ with such verve that poor Krishna Vasudev Yadav from Gokul is compelled to come down to the earth to teach the former the error of his ways. In so doing, the film disses caste and creed, while taking several digs at ‘paakhandis’ across all religions who prey upon the gullible: a main character talks of, gulp, Gita, Bible and Quran in the same breath. In other words, OMG, fronted by Akshay Kumar and Paresh Rawal, bravely sent up religious hypocrisies across the board, and we all laughed our heads off even as the great sceptic Kanji Lal Mehta discovered religion.
I went into OMG 2 with a great deal of trepidation. This is 2023, and a different India. With so much polarisation around us, would a film be able to look at religion, and religious figures without getting all didactic and preachy, and, yes, majoritarian? The sequel does the smart thing by side-stepping the tricky issue of diversity by tilting it towards such a startlingly progressive, liberal point-of-view that we forget, almost, the absence of other faiths. And comes up with a crackling film which questions the lack of faith ignorant adults repose (or rather, do not) in our young people as they explore the mysteries of their bodies with natural curiosity and frankness: it is not ‘gandaa kaam’ or something wrong, and it isn’t certainly isn’t anything to be ashamed of.
It also makes a smart choice of making its lead character Kanti Sharan Mudgal already a firm Shiva bhakt, and Pankaj Tripathi slips into that role with practised ease. Kanti’s belief is tested to the hilt as his adolescent son is bullied and harassed by his school-mates and let down by his teachers for having indulged in ‘vulgar acts’. The court-room, presided over by Judge Purushottam Nagar (Malhotra, hiding his smiles through the proceedings) becomes Kanti’s battle-field as he defends his son, with combative lady lawyer Kamini Maheshwari (Yami Gautam, learning her lessons well) appearing for the accused, the school principal, and assorted snake oil dispensers and charlatans.
And every time Kanti Sharan falters, Bhole Nath’s ‘doot’ aka messenger (standing in for the lord himself , but we aren’t fooled, are we?) appears in all sorts of quirky guises, as a mendicant with dreadlocks, as a colourful harlequin zooming around in a sports car, and so on: it helps, of course, that it is Shiva, the coolest, zaniest god in the Hindu pantheon. And this time around, Akshay has even more fun: yes, he is playing antaryami, the all-knowing, but with the kind of lightness he can display when he is not taking himself seriously. The Nandi bull, Bhole Nath’s official ‘vaahan’ appearing every time he does, is a very funny, apt touch. It’s been a while since I enjoyed an Akshay Kumar performance as much as this one.
And I haven’t been taken by surprise as much as I was in OMG 2, in the best way possible. It took me some time to get used to the fact that this was a film which was taking its mission – talking up the vital importance of sex education amongst school-going children, and even more importantly, taking the shame away from such discussions — so seriously that it would get into severely explanatory mode, and stick with it. It also chooses to go all out in terms of the language used, never pulling punches, and naming things as they are, even if it is somewhat on the nose: the dialogue writers have clearly had a blast, making us laugh despite a few clunky sideswipes at Macaulay’s ‘shiksha pranali’, while emphasising the goodness of ‘sanatan dharm’. The pace is uneven, though, and some parts slacken; and the use of ‘shuddh’ Hindi is clever: it helps keep things opaque when you can go over the heads of people initially before shocked-yet-gleeful understanding hits. OMG 2 also lunges for melodramatic patches and some ‘naach-gaana’, including an all-too brief ‘taandav’.
But the film never wavers in its intent, sneaking in taboo topics in its laugh-out-loud comic tone, and for that it ropes in the gods, which is a brilliant ploy: you get them on your side, you can get away with anything, even things that would ordinarily be deemed ‘ashleel’ (vulgar). For once, I didn’t mind being lectured at; in fact I enjoyed the ones that the very earnest and very determined Kanti Sharan Mudgal delivers himself of, once he hits his stride: such terms as ‘hasth maithun’, ‘ling’, ‘yoni’, ‘naisargik kriya’, all come tripping off his very deft tongue – it helps too that Tripathi is a master of delivery — all to excellent purpose.
A mainstream Hindi film taking up cudgels on behalf of the proponents of catching ‘em young? Speaking straight and true? Mentioning the wonders of the Kamasutra? Opening up syllabuses to include sex education? Yes, yes, and yes. Omg.
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Pankaj Tripathi, Pavan Malhotra, Yami Gautam, Govind Namdeo, Brijendra Kala
Director: Amit Rai