In Chennai the press shows are dominated by Tamil films for obvious reasons. The Hindi ones are watched by the press mostly along with the audience. So there I was on another Friday waiting outside the screen that was to show Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s MSG: The Messenger to find out what all the fuss was about. On the way up, I noticed a bunch of young lads wearing MSG T-shirts with Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s face splashed in front. At first I brushed it away as some over enthusiastic kids all set to watch a movie that everyone hopes will be in the lines of Jaani Dushman et al in terms of entertainment value. What are a few T-shirts? Our city is after all known for elevating pop culture with some T. Rajendar silhouettes. Outside the screen there was a bigger group and even a couple of families. Now thanks to all the censor board controversies and the trailer viewership, I understand there was curiosity – the reports say the film has got great opening – but this on a first day first show in Chennai? And then two men wearing those T-shirts approached me and asked me if I have already purchased my ticket. Upon receiving an answer in the affirmative they asked whether I have friends and family who’ll be interested in watching the movie. They informed me they are from Haryana. To keep the conversation going, I said there isn’t enough time for them to get here for the show. They said that’s not an issue. They have free tickets to give away for this show, the next one at 5 PM, the later shows and shows tomorrow too. So I asked them will they be around here till tomorrow. They said yes. And moved on to another non-believer not in uniform. I never would have imagined Dera Sacha Sauda and Chennai in the same sentence.
So the message is clear as to what MSG is all about. You may have seen how fan clubs operate in the south but they have nothing on this. It’s a 3 hour ad campaign for a spiritual leader once accused of sexual exploitation of women and murdering a journalist. He campaigns for the social causes he supports, his apparent ability to cure cancer and restore sight to the blind, fight issues like drug abuse and reform and show the right path to sex workers (marriage!).
As for everything else in the film, it’s so bad that it’s all really really bad. Nothing more. Nothing less.
(An edited version of this was published in The New Indian Express)