Tag Archives: High Concept

Movie Review: OMG Oh My God (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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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.

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Movie Review: Vicky Donor (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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Vicky Donor is a reminder to Bollywood that a clever story is more important than star power when it comes to making a good movie.

Anupama Chopra recently wrote in the Hindustan Times about a new wave of “high concept” movies coming out of India. The term refers to a movie based on a simple premise but with an interesting or ironic twist, the film equivalent of a catchy pop song. The accessibility of the story sells itself, which is a new development in star-obsessed Bollywood.

Ayushmann Khurrana and Yami Gautam — newcomers to the Hindi film industry — helm Vicky Donor, a romantic comedy about a professional sperm donor. Khurrana is Vicky, a 25-year-old slacker who lives with his mother and grandmother above his mom’s beauty salon.

Only reluctantly does Vicky agree to become a donor. He caves under the relentless pressure of Dr. Chaddha (Annu Kapoor), the owner of a fertility clinic with marginal success rates. Chaddha — who claims to have a sixth sense for these things — sees in handsome, athletic Vicky a potential supplier of high quality genetic material. He explains that his upper-middle class clientele will pay big bucks in hopes of raising the next David Beckham or Aishwarya Rai.

When Vicky finally hands over a sample to Chaddha, Vicky’s little swimmers are given the highest marks for quality. Soon, Vicky is making regular donations and reaping the financial rewards while trying to woo a lovely banker named Ashima (Gautam). When Ashima confesses a secret about her romantic past, Vicky balks at the chance to tell her what he really does for a living. This creates big problems later on.

The subject matter naturally lends itself to jokes, but Khurrana and Gautam play their characters with complete sincerity. They’re nice young people who go through a relatively normal courtship, despite Vicky’s secret occupation.

As far as Vicky and Ashima know, the biggest obstacle they face as a couple is their families’ prejudices. Vicky’s Punjabi family distrusts Ashima’s Bengali family, and vice versa. For international audiences unfamiliar with Indian regional biases, there’s more than enough exposition to explain the hostility. That the film does so in a funny way is a bonus.

The movie is ultimately stolen by Kapoor as Dr. Chaddha, whose relentless pursuit of Vicky’s gametes is hilarious. Chaddha is a man obsessed with his work, from the toy sperm hanging from his rearview mirror to his t-shirt depicting a field of swimming sperm alongside the words: “Do it!”

Kapoor certainly delivers the laughs, but he makes the doctor more than just comic relief. Chaddha genuinely cares for Vicky, and he tries to fill a void in fatherless Vicky’s life. It’s touching the way Vicky’s low points distress Chaddha, who treats Vicky as more than just a stud.

There’s one insensitive moment near the end of the film that stands out as a negative in an otherwise good-natured script. Ashima affectionately refers to a cute East Asian child as “that little ching chong.” While I don’t think any malice was intended, the term is still offensive.

Overall, however, Vicky Donor is a surprisingly sweet and innocent film about an adult topic. It’s worth checking out.

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