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Love Guru: Un-funniest movie of the year

June 23, 2008 13:32 IST

The tagline for The Love Guru, the Mike Myers' comedy which upset some Hindus, said: His Karma Is Huge. But bad karma caught up with the $60 million film, which had an anemic opening in North America with $14 million. The film was trashed by many critics, who called it mirthless. Some even asserted that it was the un-funniest movie of the year so far.

The number one film of the week, Get Smart, also received bad reviews but the Steve Carell comedy wasn't trashed as heavily. It opened with a hearty $39 million.

The next week, The Love Guru could have a huge plunge like M Night Shyamalan's thriller The Happening, which came down by over 65 percent. The $60 million film, which grossed $110 million worldwide, could end its run with a tiny profit if it has a bumper DVD sale.

The film about a chastity belt wearing self-help American guru, who was raised in India and who returns to the US in search of fame and wealth and to replace Deepak Chopra as the number one guru, upset some Hindus, as they thought it made fun of the guru tradition. Some also objected to the vulgar name by which the older cross-eyed guru (Ben Kingsley) is called: Tuggingmypuddah.

Deepak Chopra, friend and spiritual adviser to Myers, said in an interview earlier this year that Hindu critics had a religious agenda against the film.

"They will create our publicity. They are going to help us," he said of the critics. "The more noise they make, the more popular the film will be, more people will begin to relate to Indian philosophy."

Chopra, who appears at the end of the film, knew from the start that Myers would imitate his accent.

"I'm making fun of myself in the movie," said Chopra, who has written the novel, Why Is God Laughing?, about the existential crisis in a comedian's life. The book, dedicated to Myers, is inspired by how the actor uses comedy as a therapy. "I'm making fun of Mike in my book," Chopra said. "And he is not offended. I ask the protesters: 'What kind of Hindu are you? You are so easily offended. You are not a Hindu, but an ego-maniac.'"

But movie-goers did not share Chopra's enthusiasm for the film. The word of mouth was so bad that the film went down by about 10 percent on Saturday, the second day of its release. Most films go up by about 20 percent.

Stephanie Zacharek of Salon.com knows why. 'In the past few weeks, there has been a minor flap over whether Mike Myers' The Love Guru is offensive to the Hindus,' she wrote. 'But The Love Guru is offensive to pretty much anyone with a brain. The golden touch that Myers brought to the three Austin Powers movies has worn off.'

As for Hindus being offended by the film or wanting it to be boycotted, an eminent Indian professor offered a few interesting thoughts. Vasudha Narayanan, the director of the Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions at the University of Florida, told the Chicago Tribune that the Hindu community is far from monolithic. Though she has not seen the movie when interviewed last week, she said it's unlikely that all Hindus will be offended.

'Remember, the Hindu traditions are really diverse and there are about as many opinions as there are Hindus,' she said. 'One may also find different attitudes between first and second-generation Hindus here," she said. "Most folks I know love Apu in [The Simpsons] and yet, there are a few others, who think it is outrageous to have portrayals like this. Most Hindus, however, have a good sense of humour, and there have been many vernacular movies in India, which make fun of religion and religious personnel in sly or explicit ways.'

Deepak Chopra, who says he is not a Hindu anymore, has not commented on the film's debacle. But one would not be surprised that if he points to the fact that about two million people saw the film in three days, and some of them would become curious to know more about yoga, meditation and karma.

Arthur J Pais