After The Love Guru, billed as the biggest Hollywood comedy this summer, raised the hackles of Indians for allegedly belittling Hinduism, Paramount Pictures has agreed to screen the film for Hindu leaders once it is completed.
The film is by Mike Myers of Austin Powers fame, and has a cameo by New Age guru Deepak Chopra. It revolves around an American raised in an Indian ashram who returns home as a saffron-robed, hirsute, self-help guru named Pitka with a knack for solving celebrities' romantic problems.
"It appeared to be lampooning Hinduism and Hindus and using Hindu terms frivolously," Rajan Zed, the Nevada-based president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, said after watching the film's trailer.
Zed, who delivered the first Hindu opening prayer in the US Senate in Washington last year, demanded Paramount pre-screen the film for Hindu representatives. He cited the precedent of Mel Gibson getting the controversial "The Passion of Jesus Christ" cleared from Jews and Christians in 2004.
Paramount's publicist Jessica Rovins, in a message Sunday, agreed to screen the film for Zed and other Hindu leaders in the US. But she defended it as a "satire created in the same spirit as Austin Powers (a series of comedies revolving around the madcap character created by Myers). It was not being made to offend anybody, she added.
Myers, the co-producer, co-writer and lead actor of The Love Guru, has received flak earlier too for offending Hindu sensibilities. In a 1999 photo spread in the reputed Hollywood journal Vanity Fair, the Canadian comic appeared as a Hindu demigod with a long red tongue, surrounded by Kali-like nude women.
Myers said at the time that he was only lampooning the likes of Michael Jackson flocking to Indian gurus. But the rage among NRIs in the US forced the magazine to publish an apology from the photographer.
The often irreverent and sometimes derogatory depiction of Hinduism in western popular culture has been a sore point with NRIs for many years.