This is #CriticalMargin, where Ishita Sengupta gets contemplative over new Hindi films and shows. Today: OMG 2.
AMIT RAI’s OMG 2 has a direction problem. This is not because several scenes in the film unfold with an unhingedness that makes the presence of a director on set seem impossible. This is also not because the story unravels in a city whose name is never mentioned (the number plates on cars mention Madhya Pradesh while everywhere else it is just Pradesh) and depicted as if it only has space for temples, ghats and a huge school. Both of these are true. But what really contributes to the outing’s problem with direction is the way it goes about to arrive at something. The route is so unnecessary, insensitive and frankly dangerous that it makes all conversations about the destination futile.
Broadly speaking, OMG 2 is a social drama that means to highlight the importance of sex education and its introduction in schools. Now, think of the hundred ways in which one could tell such a story. Here’s an idea: a child faces sexual abuse at home or school and this opens up the need to be taught the meaning of good and bad touch. Here’s another: a leaked video of an adolescent girl pleasuring herself in a school washroom goes viral and the humiliation that follows serves as the premise for the film to dive deep into the universality of desire after a certain age and the need to talk about it. Here’s how Rai goes about this instead: a leaked video of a young boy masturbating in the school washroom goes viral leading to his rustication, which further triggers his father to initiate a court case in favour of introducing sex education in school.
If this sounds too random, let’s take three steps back. Vivek is an adolescent who goes to an upscale school. His father, Kanti Sharan Mudgal (Pankaj Tripathi) is a devout Hindu who runs a shop that sells religious miniatures and trips. Kanti’s forehead is always imprinted with the holy ash. One fine day he is informed that his son is in the hospital. On reaching his son’s bedside, a doctor (the wonderful Brijendra Kala) tells Kanti that Vivek had consumed one too many Viagra pills.
If this sounds even more random, let’s take two additional steps back. In the fancy school Vivek was enrolled in, he was bullied by a set of boys and told that his penis is too small (I can’t believe I am typing this). The dejected young lad, aided by his best friend, goes about asking his teachers and browsing the internet to confirm if it really is the case. With no help in sight, he proceeds to take a scale and measure his organ (I still can’t believe I am typing this, but here we are) and is convinced he has a problem. Thus, with his friend again, he takes the help of the dubious oils, visits a doctor who has a strange switchboard to ascertain penis potency, and finally arrives at a medical shop to buy Viagra, hoping that masurbating will enhance his size (I…can’t). The video of this attempt goes viral leading to shame and embarrassment.
Before getting into the intricacies of the bizarre plot, one ought to pause and reflect on the poor craft the film displays while showcasing this stretch. When Vivek’s bestfriend narrates this to Kanti, everything about the sequence — his sad voice, Vivek’s sad face, the film’s incapability of treating this with the observation it requires — makes it seem no better than the many dubbed TVCs we have spent years laughing at.
If this indeed is the starting point, any other sensible venture would have gone forth and detailed the need to extricate shame and feelings of self worth from such insecurity. But this is an Akshay Kumar film — shorthand for a male saviour narrative. The actor features here as the literal messenger of the Hindu god Shiva and depicts godliness by wearing a smug grin and having cows follow him around. His presence ensures that he has to be crucial in the proceedings of things. One conversation with Kanti later, he transforms the man into a Hindu liberal who spews Kama Sutra for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The film follows suit and quickly devolves into a courtroom drama where Kanti holds himself and the school guilty for not teaching his son better.
The intent of OMG 2 is not too hard to understand. At a time when the Hindu religion has come to be identified with regressive mandates, Rai seeks to step in and remind how progressive it has been since time immemorial. Fair enough. But it is absolutely nonsensical and honestly menacing the lack of clarity the film possesses in portraying the matters at hand. It fails to distinguish between legitimising conversations about masturbation, masturbating in school or even masturbating in public, which is unpleasant for how deep the act is steeped in making women uncomfortable. For Rai, one is all and all is one.
As an extension, the arguments in the courtroom jump from one wall to another. Anything goes. Kanti decides to fight the case himself and all it takes is a daily encounter with the Kumar character (who specialises in talking in riddles) to structure his arguments before the session. Across the film’s bloated runtime, the critical consequences of adopting such a broad stance strikes not a single person. OMG 2 is so blind in this regard that it presents a female opposition lawyer (Kamini Maheshwari; essayed by Yami Gautam), depicts her as an antagonist and refrains from including even one scene where she recognises or acknowledges the fallacy of such an argument with respect to her gender. Instead she is lent the annoying energy of a Twitter bot whose sole purpose is cutting to conversations to remind others about the vulgarity of anything sexual.
It gets embarrassing after a point. Akshay Kumar’s throat turning blue because he has consumed poison on someone’s behalf, Akshay Kumar turning up in a white tuxedo in a hospital because he can, Akshay Kumar singing Gadar’s song (it was redubbed later which is a common problem across the film) as a sly wink to the fact that both the films are releasing on the same date. The sole pleasure in watching OMG 2 is seeing Pavan Malhotra sitting as the judge, losing himself in Kanti’s chaste Hindi and secretly laughing at the circus ahead of him.
Hindi films do not have the best reputation of being tactful while dealing with sensitive topics. Social dramas have become a template-driven exercise to exalt male characters. In that sense OMG 2 is a reiteration but it also sets a new benchmark of being callous by propagating something potentially risky in the name of religious progressiveness. So far-removed is it from what it even wants to say that there is an incredible thoughtless scene where a little girl — hearing Kanti just talk about good and bad touch — realises she is being abused by a family member. The dishonesty of the moment renders everything it says a farce. OMG 2 is broadly and specifically about men. It is an accurate depiction about a male director’s confidence in assuming that all that there is to sex (and) education is a man’s penis.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of OTTplay. The author is solely responsible for any claims arising out of the content of this column.)