When a film ? or at least its voluble protagonist ? questions the very existence of God, should its makers expect any divine help when it is stuck in a morass of mediocrity?
Mercifully, OMG Oh My God!, for all its flaws, has the services of the redoubtable Paresh Rawal to fall back on. The thespian pulls off a rescue act that borders on the miraculous.
As long as the accomplished Paresh Rawal, playing a wise-cracking agnostic who takes on a grotesque band of religious bigots in a bizarre legal battle to prove that God is a figment of mankind?s imagination, is on the screen, OMG passes muster, and then some more.
But even he cannot fully salvage the film?s weaker moments ? and there are many. OMG is frequently weighed down by verbose and preachy passages that, besides overstaying their welcome, are marred by unabashed overacting by some members of the supporting cast.
Govind Namdeo as a saffron-clad godman is the worst offender in this respect, with Poonam Jhawar in the guise of a buxom, gaudily attired priestess coming in a close second but certainly not for want of trying.
Co-screenwriter Umesh Shukla?s sophomore effort as a director fritters away the obvious potential ingrained in the text of the storyline. It confuses light-heartedness with laxity. As a result, the film often goes off the rails and squeaks along without much energy.
But to be fair, OMG, produced by a newfangled banner jointly owned by Akshay Kumar and Paresh Rawal, makes its point about the misuse of religion in a land of many gods and goddesses, with a certain degree of coherence and force.
Kanji Lalji Mehta (Rawal), a confirmed atheist, owns an antique shop in Mumbai?s Chor Bazaar. He exploits the susceptibilities of the devout and makes a living by selling idols of sundry deities to them.
His life is thrown out of gear when a mild earthquake strikes. His is the only shop in the area that is reduced to rubble.
The insurance company refuses his claim for compensation calling the mishap "an act of God". Angry and distraught, Kanji takes both God and his insurance firm to court, where he is confronted by a motley bunch of holy men, including a long-haired, effeminate Swami Leeladhar, played delightfully well by Mithun Chakraborty.
As Kanjibhai directs all his ire at God and His "collection agents" ? in the courtroom, he describes cash-rich temples as business establishments and their portly priests as salesmen ? Lord Krishna decides to step in and do something about the mess that has enveloped his life.
Akshay Kumar assumes a cool-dude modern avatar of Krishna Vasudev Yadav. The humanized but all-powerful mobike-borne deity springs to the non-believer?s aid with his divine "stunts" whenever the latter is in trouble.
Along the way, the Lord poses many questions and offers several solutions to Kanjibhai, whose crusade soon assumes the form of a mass movement against obscurantism. These exchanges between man and God are meant to be funny but the comic touches do not always achieve the desired level of mirth.
The long-winded disclaimer at the film?s outset ? OMG disavows any intention of hurting the sentiments of "any individual, community, sect or religion" ? softens the blow of its rational statement. The audience is left with the feeling that it is, at best, being proffered only a halfhearted spoof on faith and its self-styled guardians, not a full-blooded satire on the flip side of organized religion.
The film?s premise is courageous no doubt, but its heart and sinews are rather weak. It seems to chicken out a tad too easily in the end.
So, despite the high fun quotient inherent in the concept and the steady flow of droll one-liners from the principal players, OMG never rises to particularly great heights either as an entertainer or a social message-oriented drama.
If only the film had the nerve to go the whole hog with its healthy spirit of scepticism and fired on all cylinders, its unusual central premise would have made infinitely more sense and found its intended mark.
But what the hell, OMG, even at its worst, does not ever deteriorate into WTF, thanks to the wondrous presence of Paresh Rawal. It's certainly not a waste of time.