14 June:Hindus have appealed to Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) of USA for assigning upcoming Hollywood movie "The Love Guru" "NC-17" rating instead of currently held "PG-13".
Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) operate the movie ratings system and a board of parents who comprise CARA gives ratings. "NC-17" rating (which is the highest) means "no one 17 and under admitted", while "PG-13" rating means "parents strongly cautioned, some material may be inappropriate for children under 13".
Advancing the movement launched by acclaimed Hindu leader Rajan Zed; Bhavna Shinde, representing Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, in communiqués to MPAA and NATO, said, "Paramount Pictures, presenter of ‘The Love Guru’ movie, has not pre-screened it for Hindu leaders, despite various requests by Hindu leaders so that they have more information. So, from the information available about the movie, it appears to be mocking and ridiculing Hinduism, Hindu philosophy, ashram life, Hindu concepts and terminology, Gurus, etc. Cinema is a powerful medium and it can create stereotypes in the minds of some audiences, especially in the minds of younger audiences, who are passing through an impressionable phase. We do not want our next generation to be growing up with a distorted view of Hinduism and Hindus."
Rajan Zed, prominent Indo-American leader, who spearheaded this drive, has been saying since March that from the information available about the "The Love Guru" movie, it appears to be lampooning Hinduism and Hindus and using Hindu terms frivolously.
Shinde further said in the communiqué, "We appeal to you to reconsider your earlier rating decision this season and assign ‘The Love Guru’ movie the ‘NC-17’ rating (instead of the ‘PG-13’ rating previously assigned by you.) If the filmmaker wants a lower rating, they should pre-screen it for Rajan Zed, us and other Hindu leaders, edit the material objectionable (if any) to this group and re-submit the movie to you."
Meanwhile, in view of apparent lampooning by "The Love Guru" and its presenter Paramount Pictures showing utter disregard to the protests, Hindus are considering launching call for worldwide boycott of products of Paramount and its parent Viacom if no immediate acceptable solution is reached.
In a communiqué to Paramount Pictures and Viacom, Shinde said, "If this anti-Hindu stance taken by Paramount and Viacom continues, and these companies make no efforts to contact the protestors (including Rajan Zed and us) to arrive at an agreeable solution immediately, Hindus and other spiritual seekers, who hold the ‘Guru-disciple’ relationship as sacred, will be left with no other alternative, but to consider launching a worldwide boycott of Paramount and Viacom products, and not to have any dealings with Paramount and Viacom. The responsibility for this will lie with Paramount and Viacom, for not making any efforts to have an open dialogue with protestors and arrive at a mutually acceptable solution."
In view of Paramount reportedly breaking its promise to protesting Hindus regarding pre-screening "The Love Guru", clergy belonging to different religions and denominations has strongly come out in support of "Hindu brothers" and criticized Paramount. "Going back on promise is un-Christian, un-Hindu, un-Buddhist, un-Jewish, etc., besides being unethical," "Clergy’s appeal to Paramount Pictures" signed by Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu religious leaders said.
Rajan Zed has said that it was shocking to see a company like Paramount, a brand of Viacom, which is held in high esteem world over and is known for its credibility and clean business practices, apparently going back on its word to pre-screen the movie for Hindu leaders. It is like sending the message that Paramount does not care about the feelings of one billion Hindus of the world. Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with a rich philosophical thought, and it should not be taken lightly, Zed stresses.
Hindu groups are re-planning their agitation in view of this development and leaning towards further intensification and taking it to the streets.
Shinde, in another communiqué earlier to Paramount, said, "So far, the protest movement against this movie’s denigration of sacred concepts of Hinduism is increasing, with thousands of Hindus and spiritual people from around the world joining in. However, Paramount Pictures’ seeming ‘about turn’ on their promise to the Hindu community may cause the tolerant Hindu community to lose patience and we fear the protests coming to the streets against this movie… At least the producers of ‘The passion of Christ’ movie had the decency to keep their promise to the clergy by holding advanced screenings for them…We ask Paramount Pictures to promptly contact Rajan Zed to arrange the pre-screening of this movie for Hindu leaders."
The apparent breaking of the promise by Paramount has angered various other Hindu leaders also, including 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 (who have been supporting this cause espoused by Rajan Zed); who are also gravitating towards taking the protest to the streets.
Hindu groups have also contacted cinema/film related organizations worldwide urging them not to distribute/screen upcoming Hollywood movie "The Love Guru" till Paramount Pictures makes necessary changes to it, "so that it will not hurt the feelings of the worldwide spiritual and Hindu community." Hindu groups have contacted Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging intervention in the matter. Hindus have also floated an online protest signature drive, which had over 5,500 signatures today.
Meanwhile, furthering the drive pioneered by Rajan Zed, various organizations and leaders have been coming out expressing concern about the possibility of "The Love Guru" hurting the sentiments of Hindus worldwide and urging filmmakers to be more responsible when handling faith related subjects. Various Hindu, Catholic, Presbyterian, Jewish, Native American, Methodist, Buddhist, youth, film, spiritual/religious, music, yoga, civil rights, etc., leaders have already issued statements in support of this cause espoused by Rajan Zed.
A prominent Jewish Rabbi, Elizabeth W. Beyer of Nevada (USA), has called for boycott of "The Love Guru" because it "…lampoons Hinduism, mocks Ashram life and Hindu philosophy…" and asking "who laughs at religious practices".
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), is set to release on June 20 next. Viacom is a leading global entertainment content company and its family of brands includes MTV, Paramount, DreamWorks, etc. Paramount Pictures Corporation is a global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment.