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Love Guru: Moronic humour
Aseem Chhabra | June 20, 2008 12:41 IST
For the past few months, our e-mail boxes have been bombarded with messages from a self-styled Hindu religious leader, Rajan Zed, who has launched a one person crusade against the mighty power of a Hollywood studio. Zed's grievance is against Paramount and its new film, The Love Guru. He believes that the film is offensive to all Hindus. And Zed has tried all the tactics in the book -- from politely writing to Paramount's executives that they should show him the film before its release, to calling out for a ban of the film, approaching censor boards in various countries and now calling for a boycott of all products produced by Viacom -- the studio's parent company.
In all of this, Paramount has mostly ignored Zed, generally believing that his bark is louder than his bite. And the studios are perhaps right there. How can Zed speak on behalf of all Hindus -- even though he claims to have collected about 5,500 signatures against the film? And is banning a film -- which Zed has yet to see -- the answer to his concerns?
Earlier this week, I attended a press screening of The Love Guru, confounded by these thoughts. And here is the verdict.
The nearly one billion Hindus around the world can rest easy. The Love Guru will do no harm to the religion and its ancient traditions. Hinduism will stand tall long after The Love Guru disappears from our memory.
There is nothing offensive about The Love Guru. Well, perhaps the only thing offensive is that the film is flat, with moronic juvenile jokes, and it does no justice to its lead actor Mike Myers' reputation of a terrific entertainer.
Myers, the genius behind the wild and wacky concepts of Wayne's World and the Austin Powers movies, first came up with the idea of Guru Pitka or The Love Guru, as he was seeking spiritual solace following the death of his father in early 1990s. Being a comedian and inspired by the teachings of Deepak Chopra and Gary Zukav, Myers developed an irreverent character Guru Pitka. He then tested the character at a series of New York City comedy appearances where Guru Pitka would give whimsical non-denominational advice to the audience.
All that was fine. Then, Myers took the character to another level -- hoping to launch the Guru Pitka franchise, just as he had done with Austin Powers. And that is where the problem started. Myers produced The Love Guru, co-wrote the script with Graham Gordy and naturally, played the starring role in the film. No harm in that also but The Love Guru is packed with naughty jokes that pre-teens, especially boys, may enjoy. But the same demographic -- if that is Myers' target audience, given that the film has earned a PG-13 certificate in the US -- may get bored watching a contrived story, which is often not funny.
Here is the basic premise: Pitka is an American, who grew up in India, in a fishing village called Harenmahkeester. His best friend Chopra and he were trained under the guidance of Guru Tugginmypudda (played by a cross-eyed and a not-at-all funny Sir Ben Kingsley). Pitka and Chopra are now grown up and living in Los Angeles. But Chopra is guru number one and Pitka -- a caricature of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, wants to take that spot and also appear on Oprah Winfrey's show.
And so Pitka decides to play the love guru -- uniting a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey player Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco) with his estranged wife Prudence (Meagan Good). Incidentally, Prudence has run off with an LA Kings' goalie Jacques 'Le Coq' Grande (a lot funnier Justin Timberlake [Images]), who reportedly has a longest penis in the world! Oh, and there is this plan to have the Toronto team (Myers is a huge fan of the Maple Leafs) win the Stanley Cup -- for the first time since 1967!
The Love Guru is packed with cameo appearances -- including Jessica Simpson [Images], Val Kilmer, Mariska Haggerty (whose name is also the mantra of Guru Pitka and his disciples), Kanye West, Deepak Chopra, Timberlake and Stephen Colbert. Verne Troyer (Mini Me in Austin Powers) is the coach of the Maple Leafs and an uninteresting Jessica Alba is the team's owner.
Desi New York-based actor Manu Narayan (Broadway's Bombay Dreams) has a substantial role playing Pitka's likeable sidekick Rajneesh, which should be a good boast for his career. South Asians may also be amused by a couple of Bollywood dance items in the film, including a play on Oh Mere Mitwa from the 1970 film Geet.
One final note about Kingsley. This year, the Oscar-winning actor will appear in at least four other films -- Elgey (with Penelope Cruz [Images]), Transsiberian (with Woody Harrelson), War Inc (with John Cusack) and The Wackness -- one of the best indie films to come out of the Sundance Film Festival. At 65, he is a very busy actor. But what possessed a man and an actor of Kingsley's stature to take on the role in The Love Guru? How important can money be, when a film will make you look like a complete embarrassment? I am still grappling with that question.
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