Remember the day when your high school biology teacher opened the chapter on reproduction? They would passively assert that it is a mere procedure to procreate, and the students would try their best to control their giggles. “Who finds it funny?” asks the teacher, and the class bursts into a chain of laughs. Well, this is easily the tradition of sex education in many privileged Indian schools. I am sure the lesser ones might entirely skip the chapter or may camouflage it with plant and animal references to avoid awkwardness. Filmmaker Amit Rai analyzes the lack of formal sex education in his second directorial, OMG 2 – the spiritual sequel to the 2012 film OMG – Oh My God!
Amit Rai’s film takes us to the devout family of a Kanti Sharan Mudgal (Pankaj Tripathi) who resides in a pilgrim town in India. An ardent follower of Lord Shiva, he runs a local shop while trying to give his children the best possible education. OMG 2 wastes no time in establishing its premise. Kanti Sharan’s son Vivek gets rusticated from the school and is the prey of massive online trolling when the news of him masturbating in school breaks out as a viral video. What was wrong with Vivek’s act? Were the rustication and social ostracization warranted? Didn’t Vivek possess autonomy over his own body? The film opens with Kanti Sharan bringing home a fake tiger skin satchel left behind by a customer. It doesn’t take extra intelligence to guess that the rather funky-looking bag would become a minor catalyst in the plot.
As any small-towner would, Kanti Sharan takes his sweet time adjusting to the shocking new scenario. He is in disbelief upon learning that his son, who is barely 15, played with himself. On a side note, this made me wonder if the man himself ever practiced it. What were his devices to combat sexual arousal? For some reason, OMG 2 does not dissect this personal stance but is up for a more detailed discussion on the need for formal sex education in schools.
The interesting – or rather a dicey – side here is the presence of a divine entity in Rai’s film. Akshay Kumar appears as a messenger to Lord Shiva, Kanti Sharan’s beloved god. Unlike the first film in the franchise where an atheist fought against various religious establishments with Lord Krishna (Kumar, again) helping him, OMG 2 is not one that requires divine intervention by default. Come to think of it, Rai’s film might as well have been the third edition of the Jolly LLB franchise. Yet, the writers use Kumar’s limited screen time by placing him as a guiding force to Kanti Sharan. While it may not be the cleverest device in the screenplay, Akshay Kumar (who looks every bit of the part) rocks the dreadlocks and makes the character great fun.
OMG 2 mildly suffers from the way Kanti Sharan’s chief opponent is designed. Kamini Maheshwari is among the city’s top lawyers and is fighting the case against Kanti Sharan. For once, for a highly educated woman, I wondered if she ever felt the need to have a chapter on sex education in school syllabuses. Perhaps she is attempting to merely fight a case that involves family but Kamini’s greyness does not come off as evidently as the film wants to. The characterization is puzzling as to we do not know whether the woman is downright insensitive or is an empathetic soul behind the professional facade. To give Yami Gautam Dhar due credit, she tries her best to overcome the character’s ambiguities but the part comes with intricate deficiencies that are beyond her ken to cover up. I was also reminded of a very similar character that she essayed in the 2018 film Batti Gul Meter Chalu.
That said, the strongest arrow in Amit Rai’s rack is his razor-sharp screenplay itself. The writing, for most of OMG 2, is so aware of its objectives that it delivers the riveting message with confidence and wit. The lines – with an extra glazing of pure Hindi words – are hilarious. They leave us as amused as the presiding judge (Pavan Malhotra, towering and effective) who gets constant translations from his perky assistant. That’s not all, the screenplay also duly addresses many aspects of local living through the kachori-eaters in the c
ourtroom, the snake oil seller, the doctor (Brijendra Kala, a delight), the prostitute et al. The mentions of sex in ancient Hindu scriptures and the sculptures at Ajanta and Khajuraho too have been assertively put together as does the film’s criticism of the British curriculum. However, the writing does slow down a little into the pre-climax. The hospitalization and a rather chaotic staging of the finale slacken the pace. Even the moment of realization for Pujari (Govind Namdev) is a little too sudden and broad-stroked.
Pankaj Tripathi who is at the fulcrum of the plot is stellar in a part that fits him like a glove. The actor’s adept body language and the casual shiver in the voice match steps with his notable proficiency in the Hindi language – a major mandate to have pulled off the part. Debutant Aarush Varma makes a strong impression as Vivek – the victim in the controversy. Geeta Agrawal, who plays Kanti Sharan’s wife, is fantastic whereas veteran Arun Govil does not get much scope.
With the ethos of the previous edition firmly in place, OMG 2 emerges from a very responsible space. While the censor cuts might have tampered with the filmmaker’s vision to some extent, it cannot be denied how powerful is the core material in educating (and entertaining) its target audience. Although the superstar actor appears only in brief intervals, Akshay Kumar justifies his presence in Amit Rai’s film who, in turn, gifts the actor his best screen outing in years.
Rating: ★★★ 1/2