Bollywood isn’t generally known for producing “high-concept” movies: films whose plots can be boiled down to a single, easy-to-understand sentence. The fertility comedy Vicky Donor comes close, as do horror films like Raaz 3, but the standard Bollywood tale-of-two-halves formula doesn’t usually lend itself to such simplicity.
OMG Oh My God is different. Here’s the plot: a disgruntled merchant sues God for damaging his shop. Simple, catchy, and easy to understand. That narrowness of focus allows OMG to tell an amusing story that’s accessible to everyone.
Kanji (Paresh Rawal) is a cynical shopkeeper who overcharges gullible devotees for the chintzy religious statues he sells in his shop. Kanji interrupts a religious festival, angering Siddeshwar Maharaj (Govind Namdeo), a short-tempered holy man who calls upon God to punish Kanji. An earthquake strikes, leaving everything in town untouched except for Kanji’s shop.
When the insurance company won’t pay for the damages to Kanji’s decimated shop under the “Acts of God” clause in his contract, Kanji sues God for compensation. If the divine being won’t show up in court himself, Kanji is happy to recoup his money from the temples his wife has donated to over the years. The religious establishment fights back, and Kanji gets help from an unlikely source: God himself, in the form of a handsome guy named Krishna (Akshay Kumar).
This sounds like the kind of film Jim Carrey might have starred in fifteen years ago (the courtroom setting brings Liar Liar to mind). That’s not a knock on OMG, but a compliment. The film has a concept that would be easy to make in any country, featuring representatives from any religions.
OMG moves along at a good clip and features a lot of strong performances. There are a couple of dance numbers, but they don’t slow down proceedings. Paresh Rawal is the perfect choice for Kanji. In Rawal’s hands, Kanji comes across as cynical and practical, but not mean. Kumar adds lightness and optimism to compliment Kanji’s realism.
If there’s any flaw to OMG, it’s that it gives away the conclusion in a director’s note that precedes the film. In an effort to thwart complaints from religious groups, the note states that the film is about a “non-believer who becomes a believer.” It’s the predictable conclusion to the film, but I didn’t appreciate the spoiler.
The circumstances of Kanji’s conversion are unsatisfying. If everyone experienced the kind of miracle Kanji does — with God on hand to claim responsibility — there would be no atheists. In fact, prior to his conversion, Kanji lays out a pretty good case for a world with no God.
The note at the beginning is ultimately unnecessary, as there seems to be little in the film that could be construed as disrespectful toward any religion. OMG takes shots at the idea of religion-for-profit and the lavish lifestyles of some church leaders. It’s akin to criticizing the wealthy televangelists of the 1980s. Corrupt religious hierarchy is the target, not those practicing the religion.
Kanji uses his public forum to suggest a more virtuous path for worship. Money spent on tithing would be better given as charity. The greatest expression of faith, he believes, is in the way we care for our fellow humans, seeing the essence of the divine in all people. There’s nothing offensive about a plea for a more compassionate world.