Paresh Rawal starrer Oh My God (2012) had drawn a lot of praise. Based on his own Gujarati play, this movie attacks on the exploitation of people’s religious sentiments by the high profile ‘contractors of religion’ spread in all the nooks and corners of India. Starting with the question whether God exists or not, it ends with the emergence of faith in God in the heart of the protagonist. I liked this movie very much just like its other admirers but found weaknesses also in the script and its treatment. Anyway, this movie reminded me of a four decades old Hindi movie which was made on the same theme albeit its script was entirely different from that of OMG. It’s Yehi Hai Zindagi (1977).Yehi Hai Zindagi (this only is life) is the story of Anand (Sanjeev Kumar) who is an atheist but the husband of a religious lady – Gaayatri (Seema Deo). He has two sons – Madhu (Romesh Sharma) and Govind (Aadil) and a daughter – Kamla (Tamanna). In the given situation of his life, he is able to afford only a very modest lower middle class living for himself and his family. His disbelief in God regularly leads to his arguments with his wife. One day he decides to grow in the line of business and takes money out of the sacred money accumulated and kept for religious purposes only by by his religious wife, i.e., Gaayatri. Gaayatri prohibits him from taking God’s money but he does not listen and promises to return this ‘loan’ taken from God in due course of time. With the help of that money, he keeps on going forward in the line of business and progresses by leaps and bounds due to his hard work and dedication towards his mission (to become rich). And finally, the day comes when he is no longer a modestly living ordinary person and has become very rich now. Meantime his elder son gets married to the daughter (Neeta Mehta) of his business partner (Utpal Dutt) and apparently everything seems to be perfectly placed in his life. However gradually he is able to see that the landscape of his life is not as greenish as he perceives it. There are many wrong things which have been out of his knowledge. Since the day he had taken ‘God’s money’ as a ‘loan’ for his business endeavours, Lord Krishna (Vikram Gokhle) has been visiting him quite regularly (visible to him only and to none else). Lord Krishna does not try to force him to believe in the power of God but keeps on reminding him that money isn’t everything in the world and he should take proper care of his own life as well as his family also simultaneously with his business work. Anand learns this lesson after losing a lot in his life including his peace of mind and then he bows before the Supreme Power.The script of this movie is entirely different from that of OMG but the basic theme is more or less the same. However I keep this movie a notch above OMG because the it raises the question which I have raised on several occasions in my own life since the very childhood – What’s more important – having faith in God and worshipping Him or having faith in ethics and following them ? What’s the use of being religious when you do all kinds of immoral things throughout the day after bowing your head before His photo or idol in the morning and repeating the same before sleeping at night ? And if the Almighty cares more for the unethical people who believe in Him and blow the trumpet of His name instead of the truthful and the honest who may not be believing and adoring Him that much, then does He really deserve the devotion of the mortal beings, i.e., us. Mahatma Gandhi asserted – Satya Hee Eeshwar Hai (Truth only is God) and I firmly believe in that only. The hero of Yehi Hai Zindagi is an atheist and does not believe in God or His power but he is a truthful person who just gets lost in the race of making money, ignoring his life as well as his family members and finally suffers due to that. That does not degrade him as a human-being. As a man of truth and honesty, he deserves respect and the grace of the Lord. In my view, the truthful and truly benevolent ones only are the His real devotees.In OMG, whatever the protagonist asserts in the court and outside the court is quite true and all of his arguments are valid but he is not shown in the movie to make an honest living. He tells lies to his customers and always tries to exploit their devotion and religious beliefs to own monetary advantage. Hence in my view, he cannot blame the Almighty for everything that happened to him when he himself was not honest in his dealings. He files a suit against God in the court because the insurance company refuses to pay him the insured sum due to the loss being through an act of God but it is also shown that despite being an experienced businessman, he had not bothered to read the terms and conditions of the policy before taking it. Then who’s fault is it – God’s or his own ?Yehi Hai Zindagi is a damn interesting movie which keeps the viewer engrossed from the very first scene to the very last scene. In a religious country like India, the filmmaker cannot afford to show the triumph of disbelief in God in the end whether it’s the maker of Yehi Hai Zindagi in 1977 or the maker of Oh My God in 2012. Finally, they are compelled to show that the protagonist starts believing in God else the religious-minded audience of India will reject their product (which nobody wants because God or no God, the cost involved in making the movie needs to be recovered). All the events and twists in the story are interesting and a genuine sympathy emerges for the protagonist in the heart of the viewer even when the viewer is religious-minded.
The way Paresh Rawal is an outstanding actor, the same way Late Sanjeev Kumar was an extra-ordinary actor who was never considered a big star in Bollywood but always commanded enormous respect as an actor. The story revolves around him (and Lord Krishna) only and all others are in supporting roles. Sanjeev Kumar has carried the entire movie on his stout shoulders from the very first shot to the very last shot and he was also nominated for the Filmfare Award for Best Actor for his performance in this movie. He had played a similar kind of role in Jyoti (1969) also whose story was similar to this movie. (I had seen that forgotten movie also on Doordarshan). Vikram Gokhle as Lord Krishna has also performed wonderfully and the on-screen chemistry of these two is no less than that of Paresh Rawal and Akshay Kumar in OMG. The complete supporting cast has done justice to the assigned roles.
Director K.S. Sethumadhavan has handled the story very well and presented a damn interesting movie whose producer is renowned filmmaker and Dada Saheb Phalke Award winner – Late B. Nagi Reddy. It may be a remake of some South-Indian movie but the facts in this regard are not known to me. The momentum of the narrative is never slackened at any place in the movie and the grip on the audience remains tight throughout. Cinematographer, art-director and editor have done their parts well and the complete movie renders a realistic feeling. Background score is okay but the music composed by Rajesh Roshan with the lyrics of Anand Bakshi is almost forgettable.Since Oh My God had earned a lot of success and critical acclaim when it was released, I suggest the viewers who liked it, to watch Yehi Hai Zindagi also and contrast these two movies. I put my question again – what’s more important – faith in Him or faith in ethics and noble values of life ?
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