Umesh Shukla’s OMG—Oh My God! has been through a weird journey. When it was released all the way back in 2012, it was lapped up by the audience and hailed by critics for celebrating religion while heavily critiquing those who commodify it and use it to manipulate the common folk and earn tons of money. Eventually, as the real-life counterparts of those villains gained prominence, the film was seen as a mockery of religion and religious practices. But one re-watch will dispel any notion of the movie’s ill will regarding religion. Instead, it wants religious people to reclaim their religion from the hands of God-men and gatekeepers of the divine. OMG 2 is no different. However, it has already been labeled as an attack on “sanatan dharma” and whatnot. So, before coming to any kind of conclusion, I’d suggest giving it a watch because the film deserves your attention.
Amit Rai’s OMG 2 follows Kanti Sharan Mudgal, a devout follower of Lord Shiva who works at a shop for religious items near a temple and often helps the Pujari with his daily prayers. That’s why Kanti gets to live with his family at one of his houses, and his son, Vivek, gets to study at the Savoday International School. Talking about family, Kanti is married to Indumati, and in addition to his son, Kanti has a daughter, Damayanti, who apparently doesn’t study at an “elite” school like Vivek does. Yes, that’s an example of classic Indian sexism. Anyway, Vivek is mocked by his classmates regarding the size of his reproductive organ and his inability to woo his dance partner in the salsa class. This causes him to spiral out and consume copious amounts of Viagra or something like Viagra. He gets hospitalized, thereby exposing Vivek’s insecurities to his friend, the doctor, and Kanti. Fearing the worst, Kanti asks the rest not to reveal this information. However, a leaked video of Vivek masturbating in the school bathroom gets leaked, and the entire Mudgal family is ordered to skip town. That’s when the messenger of Lord Shiva appears and advises Kanti to fight for Vivek because it’s the lack of sex education that has caused the kid to take such a step, and the school should be held responsible.
Amit Rai’s writing in OMG 2 is not subtle or nuanced. It’s as heavy and impactful as a sledgehammer, and that’s alright because, to be honest, there’s no room for subtlety or nuance anymore when it comes to talking about reproduction and/or religion. Statistically speaking, as a society, we have gone past the point where such subjects can be merely hinted at. Sexual crimes and religious bigotry are at an all-time high, and that’s a fact. Hence, Rai makes it abundantly clear that he’s going to let his characters talk in a manner that is understandable to everyone. Alright, so what is he talking about? Well, he wants sex education to be a part of the school curriculum all over the globe. He knows that if a kid knows about reproduction, reproductive organs, menstruation, masturbation, the concepts of good and bad touch, consent, etc., from a very young age, they’ll become a respectful citizen of this country. He hopes that with proper education, they can get rid of so many insecurities that usually arise from the need to be masculine and use that energy towards being progressive, modern, inclusive, and successful in life.
Yes, OMG 2 unfolds through the eyes of a devout Shiva follower, i.e., Kanti, which is quite different from the atheist protagonist of OMG. But that’s not an issue because, through his transformative arc, Rai shows that religion has been and can be progressive in nature. It is regressing because people in politics, administrative positions, the judiciary, religious institutions, and our society are using religion to turn this country into a puritanical nation. Rai, through Kanti, cites various Hindu religious texts where sexual intercourse has been discussed pretty openly. India is highly populated, which means that people are partaking in intercourse irrespective of their religious beliefs. However, when it comes to talking about every aspect of it in an educational way, it is treated as something taboo. Men and boys like Vivek suffer because of it, but women, in general, bear the brunt of it. So, Rai wants people to stop hiding behind religious “purity” or crying that their religious sentiments have been hurt whenever topics about gender, reproduction, etc. are brought up. It’s not only regression in religion but also in religious people, which in turn is pushing every generation into the kind of darkness that is created by bigotry and prejudice.
It is really ironic that the CBFC has come down hard on OMG 2 because of its subject matter, thereby tampering with its visuals and audio and eventually proving the film’s point that India’s majority community is too busy being pious instead of learning from its religion. That’s a roundabout way of saying that it’s hard to judge what is happening on the screen when you know that someone who hasn’t made the film has meddled with it. I want to say that the censorship doesn’t really hamper the film’s themes and messages, but I can’t wholeheartedly do that unless I see the uncensored cut or the cut of the film before the CBFC suggested any changes to it. I will say, though, that the film is constantly engaging. There’s not a single moment where it gets boring, as the conversation-heavy sequences are shot by Amalendu Chaudhary and edited by Suvir Nath in an entertaining fashion. The use of silence is also pretty exquisite. The songs are a little generic, but “Har Har Mahadev” sounds like an instant hit. The imagery around the “messenger” of Lord Shiva is cool and memorable. The film is not as intersectional as its predecessor and lets its characters take pride in their upper caste status through their costume design without really questioning it. I mean, when the film is ready to question everything that comes under the definition of Hinduism, why give casteism a pass when it plays a huge role in sexual violence?
Coming to the performances, Pankaj Tripathi is undoubtedly the driving force in the film. I have to be honest; even though the talented actor has excelled in shows like Sacred Games, Mirzapur, and Criminal Justice, his work in feature films hasn’t been good. His last six films are proof of that. It’s a good thing that he’s getting a lot of screen time. But the abundance of opportunity doesn’t always mean that he’s utilizing his acting chops properly. As Kanti, Pankaj Tripathi gives a performance that you have seen before. It’s serviceable. He doesn’t elevate the text; he lets it do the heavy lifting. Therefore, even if you don’t consider the portrayal of Kanti as one of Pankaj’s best performances, you’ll remember it as a step in the right direction for him as an actor. Akshay Kumar isn’t the highlight, which is purposeful. He is on the sidelines giving hilariously vague directions to Kanti, and it works. Yami Gautam Dhar is menacing. She has these over-the-shoulder shots, which make her look like a shark approaching her prey. Aarush Varma is the show-stealer. The maturity with which he handles such a complex topic and a complicated character is worthy of applause. Arun Govil’s casting is very ironic, and the same can be said about Pavan Malhotra, especially after his last film. Geeta Agrawal Sharma and Anvesha Vij are great. Brijendra Kala and Shreedhar Dubey knock it out of the park despite their limited screen time. As for the rest of the supporting cast, everyone is amazing. There are no complaints regarding this department.
In conclusion, OMG 2 is a film that is concerned about the present and future of India’s majority community. Without directly addressing it, the film is aware that the country is regressing in the name of religion while allowing sexism, violence, and bigotry to run amok, which is destroying institutions like schools and courts instead of strengthening them. Because if people become educated and the law acts in a progressive manner, then there won’t be any room for emotional arson. And if there’s no emotional arson, people will live peacefully and independently. They’ll learn to question the things that need to be questioned instead of walking around with a false sense of pride in their religious identity. They won’t partake in majoritarianism. They’ll believe in individuality and unity. Since this doesn’t benefit the powers that be, we keep getting our daily dose of venom, misinformation, and discrimination. So, if you don’t want to become a puppet, interpret the religious text you believe in because it is evidently way more progressive and open-minded than the people who are interpreting it for you. Anyway, that’s just my opinion about OMG 2. The film is available in theaters. Watch it for yourself, form your own opinion, and share it with us if you feel like it.