Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Love Guru: Paramount Stoking Bogus Controversy?

Is Paramount Pictures cooking up a "controversy" as part of its efforts to publicize The Love Guru, the latest Mike Myers comedy vehicle?

Below is the release I received recently from someone by the name of "Rajanz." There's a return email, but no web site or telephone contact information.

Lots of suspicious things about it, including the fact that it closes with this line: "Paramount Pictures Corporation is a global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment."

If it's a fake, then I'd call it rather amusing. If it's the real deal, then I'd have to say: "Lighten up!"

The film, by the way, opens June 20. Cast also includes Ben Kingsley, Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake, Jessica Simpson, and Verne "Mini-Me" Troyer. Rookie filmmaker Marco Schnabel, who worked as a crew member under the direction of Jay Roach on the first two "Austin Powers" films and as a second unit director on Goldmember, is making his directorial debut with The Love Guru.

Here's the full text of the press release:

Resentment against movie “The Love Guru” spreading rapidly

Censure of the upcoming Hollywood movie “The Love Guru” over the signals of its denigrating Hindu traditions is broadening quickly among both Hindu and non-Hindu circles.

Supporting the movement spearheaded by prominent Hindu and Indo-American leader Rajan Zed, various Hindu and non-Hindu organizations and leaders have been coming out expressing concern about the possibility of the film hurting the sentiments of Hindus worldwide and urging filmmakers to be more responsible when handling faith related subjects. Zed has been saying that from the information available about the movie, it appears to be lampooning Hinduism and Hindus and using Hindu terms frivolously.

Swami Pooja Saraswati, a well respected spiritual leader, in a declaration, said, “I watched the trailer for the movie ‘Love Guru’ and was shocked that any respectable movie producer would so blatantly ridicule a great world religion, a culture, spiritual path and sincere way of life, portraying it as farce.”

“Hopefully, Paramount Pictures would agree to make changes suggested by Rajan Zed and other Hindu leaders, during the prescreening of this insulting film before millions of Hindus, yogis and people of high spiritual consciousness around the world feel hurt, offended and outraged,” she added.

Reverend John J. Auer, Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Reno, in a statement, said, “…with reference to the film ‘The Love Guru,’ I respectfully request the creators and producers and their investors to grant the Hindu community a respectful way to respond and make any suggested amendments to the film…”

“Neither Mr. Zed nor I has any interest in censorship…However, it is crucial that every faith tradition be given the chance to be heard in response to any portrayal in popular culture of elements of that tradition that might be easily misrepresented and/or misunderstood,” Rev. Auer added.

Hindu Jana Jagruti Samiti and Sanatan Sanstha, through their spokesperson Bhavna Shinde, in a release today, demanded removal of the trailer and making changes to the movie “The Love Guru”, so that it will not hurt the feelings of the many spiritual seekers and the religious sentiments of devout Hindus worldwide.

Shinde further said that if the trailer is an indicator of the content of the movie, then we feel that this movie is not only likely to hurt sentiments of seekers from various paths of spiritual practice, but will also contribute to the misunderstanding about the sacred concept of the ‘Guru’. We are registering this protest, in support of Rajan Zed’s protest against the denigration indicated in the movie ‘The Love Guru’, she added.

Alison Pratte, a yoga leader, has stated, “I was surprised to find myself offended after watching the trailer ‘The Love Guru’…the depiction of the main character in the movie seems more than a harmless spoof. It is loaded with an ignorant stereotype of a culture and religion that is already misunderstood and stigmatized…This movie ‘The Love Guru’ will only cause more ignorance and bring shame to a beautiful tradition that has existed for thousands of years.”

Andrea Forman, Founder of Shanti Shanti, only Sanskrit rock band in the world, in a statement, said, “…it should be noted that the portrayal of a Guru depicted in this movie, is entertaining, but not an accurate portrayal of the austere and revered spiritual guides that are so dear to the practice and continuation of Hindu and Buddhist teachings.”

Father Charles T. Durante, a Catholic priest well respected in northern Nevada for his various community outreach efforts; Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich, a well known Jewish leader in parts of California and Nevada; Right Reverend Gene Savoy Jr., Head Bishop of International Community of Christ; Reverend William Bartlett, a well known Buddhist priest and Interfaith Chaplain; Lonnie L. Feemster, civil rights activist and Religious Affairs Chair of Reno-Sparks National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Vidya Chaitanya, Director of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Los Angeles; Paradheya Das of Sri Krishna Vedic Cultural Association in Sacramento (California); Jawahar L. Khurana, Chairperson of Hindu Alliance of India; Rakesh Nagpal, General Secretary of Shri Ramayan Pracharini Sabha; Lila D. Sharma, President of India Heritage Panel; and Dharam Loonaa, Executive Director of the Universal Society of Hinduism; have already issued statements in support of this cause espoused by Zed.

Paramount Pictures, through its Senior Vice President National Publicity, Jessica Rovins, has earlier stated, “It is our full intention to screen the film for Rajan Zed and other Hindu leaders in the U.S. once we have a finished print."

It may be recalled here that advance screenings of Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie “The Passion of the Christ” were held for clergy and others.

“The Love Guru”; a comedy starring Mike Myers (of Austin Powers fame, who is also the co-writer and co-producer), Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake, Ben Kingsley; and directed by Marco Schnabel; is set to release on June 20 next. In it Myers, an American, raised in an ashram in India, moves back to US as Guru Pitka to seek fame and fortune in the world of self-help and spirituality.

Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion followers. Moksha (liberation) is the ultimate goal of Hinduism.

Paramount Pictures Corporation is a global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment.


I sent an email to Rajanz, asking who he was and if he had a web site or telephone contact information. He described himself as "Rajan Zed, Hindu and Indo-American leader."

And in his second email he wrote the following:

"I read the groundbreaking first Hindu prayers in United States Senate in Washington DC and various state legislatures. I am very active in interfaith dialog. I am president of Universal Society of Hinduism. I am one of the panelists for “On Faith”, an interactive conversation on religion produced jointly by Newsweek and I do not have a website."

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