Hindu Leader Rajan Zed

Special to Earthpages.org

On the protest of Hindu groups, Beliefnet, the largest spiritual website, has agreed to post an article explaining their viewpoint about the upcoming Hollywood movie “The Love Guru” alongside promotional material of movie, which Hindus say lampoons their religion.

Advancing the movement launched by acclaimed Hindu leader Rajan Zed, Hindu groups had earlier asked Beliefnet to stop promoting “The Love Guru”, which they say “hurts the Hindu and spiritual community”.

Michael Kress, Managing Editor of Beliefnet, in a communiqué to Bhavna Shinde, who represents Hindu Janjagruti Samiti and Sanatan Society for Scientific Spirituality, said, “We hope that by featuring this opinion alongside others, our readers can be better informed about the issues you are raising and decide for themselves what to believe and how to act in this case.” 

Shinde in a communiqué to Beliefnet had earlier said, “…we are appalled that a well-respected spiritual website like Beliefnet is openly promoting this movie that hurts the Hindu and spiritual community, contradicting Beliefnet’s published mission statement…”

“Protesting the denigrating content of ‘The Love Guru’ and Beliefnet’s promoting it”, Shinde further said, “…we urge Beliefnet to stop promoting ‘The Love Guru’ movie, till Paramount has made necessary changes to the movie, so that it will not hurt the feelings of the worldwide spiritual and Hindu community. This will also ensure continued respect from the Hindu and spiritual for Beliefnet as a truly spiritual website, in accordance with its mission statement.” 

Beliefnet lists its mission as ” to help people like you find, and walk, a spiritual path that will bring comfort, hope, clarity, strength, and happiness”. “Our only agenda is to help you meet your spiritual goals”, its website says.

Talking about the Beliefnet and Paramount partnership on ‘The Love Guru’ movie, the Beliefnet website said, “The features on this page were created as part of a collaboration between Beliefnet and Paramount Pictures. Beliefnet editors and Paramount officials jointly determined the design and content of this page,” and also states, “Beliefnet and Paramount explore the movie ‘The Love Guru'”. It also includes trailer of the movie. “Ask the Love Guru a Question” was at number four on the Most Emailed Articles list of Beliefnet website.

Launched in 1999, Beliefnet is part of the Fox Entertainment Group, which is a division of News Corporation. Steven Waldman is the President and Editor-in-Chief. Stated to be the largest online community for spirituality and inspiration, Beliefnet claims about three million unique visitors each month and a daily email newsletter readership of nearly 11 million subscribers. It has partnership with Time magazine, ABC News, etc.

Meanwhile, Hindu groups supporting Zed’s concerns about the movie have also been approaching film distributors associations, exhibitors groups, regulatory bodies, government ministries, theater owners, etc., in various parts of the world urging them not to distribute/screen “The Love Guru” till its presenter Paramount Pictures makes necessary changes to it.

In these communiqués, these groups said, “…stop distributing or screening the movie till Paramount has made necessary changes to the movie, so that it will not hurt the feelings of the worldwide spiritual and Hindu community.” 

“…If the trailer is an indicator of the content of the movie…then we feel that this movie is most likely to hurt the sentiments of seekers from various spiritual paths…it will hurt the religious sentiments of millions of Hindus worldwide, who hold the ‘Guru-disciple’ relationship as sacred…we are supporting Rajan Zed’s protest against the denigration…Poking fun is one thing, but if it creates a sense of belittling other’s faith, then it is wrong,” communiqués stressed.

Meanwhile, furthering the drive pioneered by Indo-American leader 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. 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. 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.

G. Kendrick Macdowell, Vice President of the National Association of Theatre Owners, largest exhibition trade organization in the world, replying to above-mentioned request of halting distribution/screening of the movie wrote, “I am sympathetic to your concern as I have been to the ashrams in India and know a little bit about the guru-disciple relationship. I have not seen the trailer or the movie, but I can guess that it satirizes ‘gurus on the make’. I doubt I would find it funny. Nevertheless, we are not in a position to take action you recommend …we are a trade association, and we cannot interfere with the decisions of our members regarding what movies or trailers to play…”

Ilona Cheshire, Press Officer of prestigious British Film Institute (BFI), wrote in her reply, “Please rest assured that the BFI will not be screening this title nor will be involved with a possible release of it.” J.L. Green, Chief Assistant (Policy) to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), replying the communiqué, said, “The BBFC is sympathetic to your concerns…”

Primitivo Rodriguez-Gordillo, President of Spain based Sociedad de Empresarios de Cine de España (SECIES), informed that the letter sent by Hindu groups was distributed among their members and “we hope their act conveniently”.

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”.

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.