Rajan Zed, prominent Hindu leader, has given a worldwide boycott call for Hollywood movie "The Love Guru" by Hindus and other religious people because it lampoons Hinduism and Hindu concepts and uses Hindu terms frivolously.
After seeing the film, which was released in USA and Canada on Friday, Zed said that "The Love Guru" was even much more denigrating than they earlier perceived from the information gathered from trailers, website and other sources. Urging other people of faith (besides Hindus) also to boycott the movie, Zed said, "Today it is Hinduism, tomorrow Hollywood might attempt to denigrate another religion/denomination."
The antics of Guru Pitka of "The Love Guru" are a mockery of the esteemed institution of guru, who is a highly revered spiritual teacher/master/preceptor in Hinduism and who helps remove the ignorance of the seeker and who leads one from darkness to light. The guru-sishya (teacher-disciple) relationship lies at the heart of traditional Hinduism. Guru is often allied with the divine. Guru bestows spiritual knowledge totally free from selfish objectives, Zed stressed.
On the other hand, guru in "The Love Guru" instigates a bar fight, repeatedly narrates penis jokes, mocks yoga (one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy), wears female jewelry, mocks the concept of third eye, makes disciples drink tea passed through his nose, orders alligator soup, induces elephant copulation in front of the crowd, introduces himself as "His Holiness", lives in a lavish ashram staffed with scantily clad maids, and whose goal in life seems to appear on Oprah Winfrey show, Zed said.
When did Hindu gurus become available "for hire"? When and who started rating them? When did shishyas (disciples) start joining ashram for the sole purpose to make girls like them? Which Hindu ashram organises fights of disciples with mops soaked in guru's urine? Which guru urinates in the midst of disciples? Rajan Zed asked.
This is pure and blatant ridiculing and Paramount and its parent Viacom should immediately issue a general public apology for denigration of Hinduism and Hindu concepts, utter disregard of the protesters, backtracking on promise to pre-screen the movie for Rajan Zed and other Hindu leaders, making no efforts to have an open civilized dialogue with protesters to arrive at an mutually acceptable solution, Zed said.
A prominent Jewish Rabbi, Elizabeth W. Beyer of Nevada, has already called for boycott of "The Love Guru" because it "…lampoons Hinduism, mocks Ashram life and Hindu philosophy…"
Hindus are for free speech as much as anybody else if not more. But faith is something sacred and attempts at belittling it hurt the devotees. Filmmakers should be more sensitive while handling faith related subjects, as cinema is a very powerful medium, Zed argued.
Of course a small movie, which will be forgotten in few months, would not destroy the great tradition of Hinduism which has been around longer than any other established religion and has faced lot of onslaughts and came out stronger. But Hinduism is often misunderstood and wrongly portrayed outside India. Movies like this bring more confusion and create stereotypes in the minds of audience, many of whom may not have had any other exposure to its tenets, Zed stressed.
Humor is a part and parcel of Hindu society and our folk festivals, plays, stories, etc., are full of parody, satire, mimicry, buffoonery, etc. We are strong enough to take jokes. But there are certain convictions in every tradition, which are venerable and not meant to be mocked at, Zed argued.
People associated with the film claim that it has nothing to do with Hinduism and portrays "completely made up system of teachings". But terms such as guru, ashram, yoga, karma, etc., --all clearly point to Hinduism. Some people who have vested interest in the movie are unsuccessfully trying to defend this apparent mockery and in the process creating more confusion, Zed said.
The broader aim of worldwide boycott against this movie is to protect the interests of various minorities and ethnicities of the world and save them from future ridicule. Everyone is a minority in some place and in some sense in this world and deserves to be respected. As fellow humans, is it not everybody's duty to stand for the rights of minorities and speak for them when attempts are made at ridiculing them? Somebody has to make sacrifices so that others can live honorably, Rajan Zed stressed.
He said that what would have been a small public relations exercise blew out of proportion because of stubbornness of Paramount or incompetence of their public relations team or something else in their minds that we do not know. Backtracking on the promise of pre-screening for Hindu leaders by Paramount was described by the diverse clergy as "un-Christian, un-Hindu, un-Buddhist, un-Jewish, etc., besides being unethical."
Our doors are still open for Paramount/Viacom for dialogue, Zed said.
Rajan Zed further said that comedy should make everybody smile and should not come at the expense of ridiculing others' faith and spreading misinformation. Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion followers and a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken lightly. No faith, larger or smaller, should be ridiculed at.
"The Love Guru" (88 minutes), a comedy starring Mike Myers (of Austin Powers fame), opened today nationwide and will be released in different parts of the world in the near future. Viacom's family of brands includes MTV, Paramount, DreamWorks, etc. Paramount Pictures Corporation is a global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment.