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There’s always someone ready with a jerky knee whenever a film touches religion and The Love Guru is making jerks ahead of its release. Andrew L. Urban looks at the jerks.

The Love Guru opens in the US mid June 2008, then in Australia in early July, but awareness of the film has probably been lifted by the noise from “acclaimed Hindu leader Rajan Zed” His words. Rajan Zed has sent me (and an undisclosed multitude of others, no doubt) half a dozen lengthy emails since late April, trying to whip up a storm of protest against The Love Guru, a Mike Myers comedy from Paramount.

In the film, Pitka is an American raised by gurus in an ashram in India who returns to the US to set up a highly commercialised self-help business, riding around town on a motorised carpet with a cell phone glued to his ear as he mouths slogans dipped in oriental wisdom.

Rajan Zed is a Hindu chaplain from Reno who was invited to read prayers to the Nevada Assembly and the Nevada Senate, as well as the United States Senate. He also read the historic first Hindu prayers in the State Senates of California, New Mexico, Colorado, and Washington. Clearly, he’s not a nutter. But he’s badly misguided in seeking to impose religious censorship on filmmakers; it is always counterproductive and it reflects badly on the faith being defended as being too weak to withstand (in this case comedic) assault.

But Zed is unaware of this; he has even found a Rabbi willing to help his lobbying. He writes in one of his emails: “A prominent Jewish Rabbi [is there any other kind of Rabbi?] has called for boycott of upcoming movie The Love Guru because it ‘lampoons Hinduism, mocks Ashram life and Hindu philosophy’ and asking ‘who laughs at religious practices’.” Well, the Monty Python gang, for starters, and their millions of fans for seconders.

Zed quotes Rabbi Elizabeth W. Beyer of Nevada, saying, “The Love Guru lampoons Hinduism, mocks Ashram life and Hindu philosophy. While ‘Guru Pitka’ [the central character in the film] states that he endorses no particular religion, the movie clearly portrays him as a guru - religious leader of Hindus. It is unfortunate that the comedy jabs at a culture of which many Americans are not familiar. It leaves viewers with a distorted, sexually flagrant parody…In the case of this movie, we owe it to our Hindu friends to speak out against this misleading sham. Gross distortions of another culture do not lead to improved relations, tolerance and understanding. They lead towards disrespect. Please join me in a boycott of this movie.”

"it is not meant to be taken seriously on any level"

Zed and his friendly Rabbi should know that if a movie is clearly intended to be ridiculous of itself, it is not meant to be taken seriously on any level. Not being able to make this differentiation is a sign of profound immaturity and irrelevance.

Indian American Manu Narayan, who also stars in the film, has dismissed Zed’s reaction as “a tempest in a teapot created by a self-promoting Hindu leader who does not represent South Asians in the US and whose only frame of reference is a short trailer. I'm proud of this movie and enjoyed creating the character of Rajneesh,” said Narayan, who plays an Indian born apprentice of Guru Pitka, the lead character played by Myers, of Austin Powers fame.

Zed’s alerts have reached Australia (other than my own email IN box). Vamsi Krishna of the Australian chapter of Sanatan Sanstha, has apparently written to the Attorney General asking him to “…please intervene in this issue and to kindly use your good office to put a ban on this movie from being released in Australia…” It’s beside the point, really, but neither Zed nor the Rabbi nor anyone else on his bandwagon have seen the film before clamouring for its banning or boycotting.

They can rest easy, though; Hinduism is the world’s oldest religion. It is resilient and with a billion followers, it can easily and elegantly handle Mike Myers without the help of Rajan Zed & Co.

Published June 5, 2008

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Mike Myers as The Love Guru

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