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July 26, 1999
Ferment Grows Over Gita Quote In Eyes Wide Shut
A P Kamath in New York
Meanwhile, adding to the debate among the members of the South Asian Journalists Association writer Salil Tripathi wonders what is worse -- an orgy or a war that took thousands of lives? And Mahadevan Shezian complains that Hindus are perceived as meek and the world knows they will not complain, so anything goes.
The orgy scene at the beginning of the movie has the recitation of the verse from the Bhagvad Gita: "Parithranaya Saadhunam Vinashaya cha dushkrithaam Dharmasamsthabanarthaya Sambhavami yuge yuge..."
Hindu activists believe Warner Bros could be persuaded to remove the recitation from the movie. They remember how protests by thousands of Hindus and by the American Hindu Anti-Defamation Coalition forced Sony Music to withdraw Aerosmith's Nine Lives CD two years ago. The CD jacket took off on a traditional Hindu depiction of Lord Krishna subduing the serpent Kalia in that Krishna is shown with a cat's face with breasts.
Some of the SAJA postings are found below.
From journalist Salil Tripathi in Singapore:
Instead of a Sanskrit shloka, would a Greek or Roman couplet have sufficed ( Veni vidi vici which could be seen as crudely appropriate!!) or would that also be objectionable?
What's more obscene, the orgy in the film based on the novel, Dream Story, or the devastating war that killed thousands in prehistoric times, after Krishna told Arjuna it was cool to start shooting, to regain an empire lost while gambling in a game of dice, when the losers did nothing when a woman they married was being disrobed?
Why is the shloka being objected to? Is it because sexual orgies are alien to Hindu culture? In which case what do the motifs at Konarak's Sun Temple, or Khajuraho, or Vatsyayana's Kama Sutra signify?
Just curious about the way those of you who feel offended think?
Saurang Jang responded to Tripathi:
I haven't seen the movie and maybe the usage was not offensive, but what about groups such as Aerosmith that mutilated the famous image of Krishna astride Kalinag? Not only was the mutilation extremely vulgar (it showed him as having a woman's breasts and a cat's head), but it used a very familiar image that is dear to worshippers of Krishna.
Swapna Venugopal, a journalist, wrote:
"I have to say I was quite upset watching the "orgy scene '' with verses from the Gita in the background.(and I would say it lasted at least a minute). It was in very poor taste, to say the least. Once again, Hinduism to the rescue of westerners trying to portray something exotic.
John Laxmi responds to Swapna Venugopal:
Swapna, what exactly offended you? Is it just the juxtaposition of a religious verse with sex that offended you?
I thought the EWS movie was about the main (doctor) character's struggle with conflicting emotions of fidelity versus temptations. Then, isn't it possible that the film-maker's use of the Gita piece was understandable (if not appropriate) because the Gita verse was purportedly rendered in the context of Arjuna's struggle with conflicting emotions of duty versus violence?
I am not trying to defend the movie, but I find it odd that journalists (who would like full license in their profession) would fault an artist's choice of music, background or whatever.
It's understandable if the Gita verse in an orgy scene offends a few people. But, somehow, it doesn't seem fitting to protest and campaign against a work of art or against the artist. Art is not politics. Art is what flows out of the artist, who should have complete license to give her / his art whatever form or sound she / he chooses.
Perception is reality. Hindus are perceived as meek and the world knows they will not complain, so anything goes. Had Hindus been bombing World Trade Centers (I am saying this only to contrast, and I do not advocate harming any civilian target), these idiots wouldn't have taken such liberties with Bhagavath Geetha.
Nice guys always finish last.
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