MSG review: Its messages are way better than those of many Bollywood films

To give the saint and his film MSG its due, I failed to see what was so offensive or disturbing about the film that the Censor Board refused to give it a certificate.

Rajyasree Sen February 15, 2015 09:33:52 IST
MSG review: Its messages are way better than those of many Bollywood films

I have watched MSGThe Messenger, and survived. Have I started feeling an inexplicable urge to hotfoot it to Sirsa, bang on the gates of the Dera Sacha Sauda and ask to be taken into the fold? Sadly, no. So maybe the purpose of this wonderful film has been lost on me.

But it matters not, because out of the hundreds of people who seem to be rushing to see the film, I’m sure a large percentage (going by our penchant for gurus and babas in India) will be knocking on Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singhji Insaan’s doors, asking to be let into his cult. On Friday afternoon, when we bought the tickets, all the shows from 4pm onwards (and there are around 12 shows in the day) were sold out - for the entire weekend. Either all the followers of Dera Sacha Sauda are watching the film, or the saint has indeed managed the miracle of ensuring he runs to full houses despite being ridiculed by all and sundry.

To give the saint and his film its due, I failed to see what was so offensive or disturbing about the film that the Censor Board refused to give it a certificate. Thanks to MSG, I have learnt that one must keep India clean and the film shows him undertaking a mass sweeping drive and giving a speech on how politicians mustn’t simply posture for the camera, but must actually want to keep the country clean. Narendra Modi and his political party will not be too pleased by the very obvious dig at him.

The films shows that drinking and drugs are bad and lead to men ill-treating women, wasting their money and beating up their wives, and they should instead have more healthy “nasha” like Singh’s rock concerts. (Which I, of course, feel may make you hit the bottle, but what do I know?) He also encourages the acceptance of the “third gender” as he calls them – eunuchs. And shows that there should be no stigma around them donating blood.

MSG review Its messages are way better than those of many Bollywood films

A screenshot from the film.

MSG professes that sex workers should be rehabilitated and men should marry them. Hell, he even invents a new sport called GuliStick, which is a hybrid of cricket and gulli danda and says that India’s indigenous sports should be encouraged. All these are far more worthy messages than most films spread. Of course, where Singh shows that he is no different than any other baba is when he has one homosexual character in the film – who dresses oddly, is effeminate and ridiculous.

So what irked the Censor Board? According to an India Today report, the Censor Board refused to give the film a certificate for the following reasons.

First, “there was an apprehension that the film will evoke protests from Sikh organisations. The Ministry of Home Affairs said the tension between the Dera followers and Sikhs remain a flash point. An advisory as such has been sent to states that ‘various Sikh organisations and individuals are opposing the movie on the ground that its release would disturb the communal harmony and law and order’.”

In fact, the film has no mention of Sikhism other than for one lone shot of a kripan – which is used to kill one of the baddies – and a sardar (who is blurred) in one shot that shows people from different faiths. The reason why the Shiromani Akali Dal and other Sikh organisations are allegedly upset with Dera Sacha Sauda is because Singh “appeared in an attire similar to that of Guru Gobind Singh in 2007”. Hey, they should see his outfits in this film. They’d be really upset then. There is not a moment in this film when he isn’t dressed as a cross between Shakti Kapoor and Govinda of the early Nineties, with a touch of Barbara Cartland and Zandra Rhodes thrown in for good measure.

The only protests this film can evoke are from people who have been rendered blind by the miasma of colours in each of Singh’s outfits and their utter absurdity. This is the first time I have seen a man, not acting in a pantomime, wear a fitted, matching crochet quarter-sleeved shirt with capris. It is also the first time I have seen a man who has thick hair on his biceps, curled into tight tendrils.

Second, the Censor Board felt that “the film was glorifying the Dera chief as a ‘messenger of God’, even as Ram Rahim faces cases such as mass castration”. Now I’m no fan of godmen or proselytisers or a man who has had charges of murder slapped against him (even though the charges against him have been cleared) and has supposedly mass castrated 400 of his followers. But based on this logic, neither the Munnabhai series nor Ek Tha Tiger nor Dabangg should have been released, going by the fact that both stars are more than glorified in the film and we all know what cases are filed against Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan.

According to the Board, the film “promotes obscurantism” with “MSG showing Gurmeet Ram Rahim as a miracle worker and this is when he is not even playing fictional character but rather himself”. Here, I must agree with the Censor Board. Singh shows himself playing himself, telling people that if they drink a liquid he has blessed they will be cured of alcoholism, blindness and the final stages of cancer. He is a miracle worker who would put Jesus and Baba Ramdev to shame. But in Ramdev’s favour, he’s the only one who can cure homosexuality and ensure you give birth to male progeny as well. I do think Singh may be able to cure a squint, though.

In a country like ours, where even the most educated of people believe in gurujis and babas to plan their lives, it may not be the best idea to have a film propagating the myths being spouted by Singh. But a warning claiming “Stupid People Be warned” should suffice. Although, I must say, I loved the Matrix-like effect with which he changed the direction of bullets or when he made his followers chant so that the good vibes from their chanting would render poisonous gas useless. If M Night Shyamalan can, so can Saint Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singhji Insaan.

Finally, “the Censor Board denied MSG a certificate saying it looked like a lengthy ad for the godman rather than a feature film”. They aren’t wrong in that, but so is every Salman Khan film where he simply plays the same character over and over again. No one seems to ban those.

This film is laughable at best, and ridiculous at worst. No harm being done here, other than to our finer sensibilities. To me, a film like MSG – The Messenger is far less damaging to the moral and aesthetic fibre of India than Humshakals or Grand Masti. Far ​worse to see Aftab Shivdasani ring an alarm bell with his erection or Saif Ali Khan dry hump a co-actor while pretending to be a dog in heat. The only thing in their favour is that they’re easier on the eye and better dressed than the saintly one. Although Singh wins out, owing to the complimentary curly coir carpet covering his body, an aesthetic virtue only he has.

And if the average small town moviegoer or multiplex elite are going to take someone like Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singhji Insaan seriously, they deserve all the fraud and disappointment that comes their way.

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