Upendra and Kichcha Sudeep make a fun acting team in this remake of the Hindi film "OMG—Oh My God!”.

Review Mukunda Murari is fine timepass but says nothing new about religion or faithScreenshot from trailer
Features Kannada Cinema Friday, October 28, 2016 - 16:32

Watching “Mukunda Murari”, you can’t help but get the feeling of déjà vu. And that’s not just because it’s a nearly scene-by-scene remake of “OMG—Oh My God!”, but also because it’s arguments pitching for spiritual love over blind religious belief don’t venture far away at all from the formula for how faith appears on the big screen.

Like the Hindi original (which in turn borrowed from a Gujarati play and an Australian film), “Mukunda Murari” tells the story of a vociferous atheist Mukunda (Upendra), who sues god after an earthquake destroys his only source of livelihood, a shop.

Since the insurance company refuses to compensate him for an act of god, he reasons, he should get compensation from god or, at least, from god’s earthly representatives or “brokers”, the religious leaders of various faiths.

Somewhere along the way, the deity Krishna himself comes down to earth, embodied as Murari (Kichcha Sudeep) to support Mukunda in his quest.  

For the record, many of the actors in the Kannada remake work as well or better than their counterparts in the original. Comparing Paresh Rawal and Upendra is not of very great help since they each bring a different sort of energy to the film. While Rawal is perhaps technically a better actor, Upendra brings much of his old star energy to his character without overplaying his hand.

Sudeep, on the other hand, is clearly more suited to the role of god than Akshay Kumar, a role that largely requires looking at the ongoing action with a benign and all-knowing air, and occasionally giving sage advice. Sudeep basks well in the diffused light he’s largely bathed in, and his deep, rich voice is more ideally suited to the generous deity he plays.

And P Ravi Shankar as Leeladhara Swamy reminds one rather clearly of a certain spiritual guru who’s done the rounds on social media for his somewhat bizarre enactment of the song, “Jiya dhadak dhadak”.  

But the main problem with “Mukunda Murari” which it carries over from “OMG” is that the film has nothing new to offer in terms of arguments for and against religion. That religious gurus exploit people’s fears of the unknown, that the money and other materials used in the course of religious worship could more usefully be spent on feeding, clothing and helping the poor – all these are arguments people have made since the beginning of organised religion.

That they’ve had little effect on people’s religious habits suggests that maybe it’s time some new arguments emerged. But at a time when religious offense is so easily taken, mainstream filmmakers are unlikely to really rock the boat too much on such subjects.

And so all we get are much worn-arguments about spirituality and humanity, with slightly updated pop culture analogies to make the same old preachy sermons.

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