By Ishan Marvel for Youth Ki Awaaz:
5:40 pm, 18 September 2015: A packed auditorium in a multiplex at Rohini, playing MSG 2: The Messenger. The titular character appears. Collective chant of dhan-dhansatguru, tera hi aasra rings through the auditorium, the first of many.
Electric guitar riffs present the opening credits, which show ‘Saint Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan’ (hereafter referred to as GS) splattered all over the screen under various rubrics, from direction to choreography. The letters ‘MSG’ arrive, and the audience goes wild—clapping, whistling, shouting—they reacted similarly each time the said letters appeared, or during a song, or when GS flew across the screen or did something supernatural, or if he spouted a one-liner or a mystic-humanistic cliché. All these things happened often over the course of 133 minutes.
Large crowds are present throughout to emphasize GS’s mass following. In one particular scene, there are hundreds of Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) members cleaning a courtyard, all of them cramped and sweeping in an arm’s radius around themselves. GS, needless to say, always stands out thanks to the tacky wardrobe and visual effects.
Forced theatrical voices and acting are another staple, although technically—as far as cinematography, editing, and sound are concerned—the film is decent. LCD humour is another strength, for instance, mind-numbing jokes at the expense of a dwarfed man called Chattan Singh. The audience loved it of course. The entire script and execution, along with the characters and tropes, reek of triteness. At times, one would like to think that perhaps it is all a deliberate parody.
The songs are simply excuses to show dancing women, opulent sets, scenic locales, and over-the-top vehicles, costumes, and thrones for GS. But to be fair, they are better than the ones in the first instalment. This time, at least they are in-tune. In fact, overall, MSG 2 is more tolerable than its predecessor (which I reviewed even though I couldn’t watch it beyond the interval). Maybe by MSG 50, GS may finally present a watchable film.
For now, the auditorium erupts through yet another action sequence—to try and imagine which, think ‘The Matrix’ series meets ‘Main Hoon Na’ (2004) meets ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ (2000) meets ‘Rudraksh’ (2004)—and you’ll still fall short.
A flashback reveals the central premise: how everyone hates the tiger-pelt-wearing, dark-and-dreadlocked ‘adivasis’ because they loot the villages with arrows and spears, while jumping about and shouting nonsense like the barbaric madmen they are supposed to be. They also attack army and police members, eat raw cattle-flesh, and are always drunk on mahua.
Earlier, the Delhi high court, based on the trailer, dismissed a plea seeking a ban on the film due to its depiction of adivasis. According to the bench, people are not “so naïve as to be not able to distinguish between real and fantasy,” and that the petition undermines the “average intelligence” of Indian citizens. Here is what the two boys sitting to my right said during a graphic scene showing the adivasis gorging on a carcass.
—Abey, kaccha kha gaye? (Hey, they ate it raw?)
—Haan, aise hi hote hain ye adivasi (Yeah, that’s how these tribals are).
The perennial question: real and reel (as Gajendra Chauhan tried to explain), where does one draw the line? GS in particular, doesn’t make it any easier, for he understands the game. Buy information channels and bombard the public with catchy gimmicks and propaganda. Use religion, politics and media. Let the sinister aspects like criminal charges of rape and murder be lost in the waves of misinformation and trivia. Create the hype, and eventually, as time goes on and memories fade, enough people will fall for it.
Sounds familiar? Remember 2002, do not forget it.
After a brief conflict, GS declares, “Hum adivaasiyon ko sudharenge . . . janwar se insane banayenge (We will make the tribals better…make them humans from animals).” An adivasi leader, Babru with rotten-black incisors and a dark-painted face, swears revenge. However, GS saves his toddler son from being trampled by an elephant. He grabs the pachyderm’s legs, subdues and strokes the animal, before riding it off the screen. The woman on my left clapped for an entire minute. She also knew all the lyrics and shouted herself hoarse; she was not alone.
Gradually, I became convinced of being surrounded by brainwashed cult members. In fact, during the interval, I realized that most of the people knew each other. They called out across rows, asking for instance, “Kaisi lagi? Did you like the movie?)” “Bahaut badhiya! (It’s great!)” Similar conversations occurred across urinals in the men’s room. Sample: “Yaar kal hi naukri lagi, sab pitaji (GS) ka kiya hai. (I just got a job yesterday, it’s all father’s [GS] blessing).”
Back at the adivasi village, a song begins in GS’s honour, but he stops them, “Sharm-haya aadmi ka gehna hai. Pehle aap sab kapde pehno, fir aap dance dikhana (Modesty is man’s prized possession. First you wear more clothes, then you dance).” A montage follows, showing DSS members rounding up the protesting adivasis, holding them by force and cutting their nails, bathing them with hoses, and so forth. The adivasis finally emerge in bright colourful clothes. They are transformed, and the song resumes. Babru and his wife are now fair and handsome, and have perfect teeth. ‘Sabhyata’ reigns.
Then, we meet the adivasi commander, Ajgar—who wears a cobra-hood, carries a snake-coiled staff, and beats down CGI buffaloes with a single punch. Flashbacks reveal a heart-warming tale of romance between him and his wife Chabuki: When they first met, Ajgar caught Chabuki’s whip, and so she challenged him to a “sharaab peene ka muqabla (drinking match).” After downing a couple of pitchers, love happened, as testified by a song sequence where they both suddenly emerged in jeans, jackets, and evening gowns. Perhaps it was their honeymoon.
Finally, in the climactic scene, the real villain from the “drug mafia” reveals that the whole ‘adivasi’ plot was a ploy to kill GS, since everyone knew that he would come to their rescue. He complains about how GS had killed the drug-and-prostitution trade because of his abstinence vows, and hence he must die. But of course, GS single-handedly defeats the army, surviving bullets and tank missiles.
The film ends with a grand concert where GS, in a UV-lights-studded dress, sings party dhoom-dhaam se. Among other things, the song goes, “Dance from your heart, dance on your feet;” and “saara din party machayenge,” but only till 10 pm. The audience was ecstatic, and the whistling and the clapping reached a crescendo before the lights came on. The parting shot showed a giant CGI demon with the words ‘Coming Next’.