Saint Guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh may have become the butt of all jokes on social media ever since the release of his film, MSG: The Messenger of God , but a casual conversation across the table is enough for anyone to realise that he is the outcome of the political climate we live in. He shouldn’t be brushed aside as a joker.
Through his meticulously constructed cartoonish image — on and off the screen — the godman agrees that he wants to project and spread specific ‘messages’. Speaking to the guru at a hotel in Mumbai, where he promoted his sequel, MSG-2 The Messenger , he was clear about his intention. He believes that the best way to influence the minds of the youth is through spirituality and that this message will reach them effectively through Bollywood. “The modern youth don’t like documentaries. They like their Bollywood masala. When we make a movie against the drug mafia, but with the usual singing and dancing, they go home with the message,” he says.
So, Singh’s first movie had him take on the drug mafia. The sequel is about how he and his followers have helped ‘civilise’ the adivasis (tribals) through meditation and mantras. “This is a film about what we have done with the adivasis in the jungle. They were eating meat and drinking their own wine every day. We built a school for them and changed their way of life. We won them over with love and spirituality,” says the guru.
But beneath all these right intentions of reforming the youth, is a rather problematic core: Guruji wants to promote the Vedas as a spiritual and moral guide, equates the consumption of non-vegetarian food with the consumption of drugs, and underlines the superiority of ‘Indian spiritual and intellectual culture’ compared to the West. “I want to show the youth that consuming drugs, non-vegetarian food, and a lack of spirituality will not result in a good life. The four Vedas are our strength. What the scientists in the West have found out about now, the Vedas have contained for thousands of years,” he says, and insists he doesn’t ‘discriminate’ amongst his followers.
Like his first film, MSG-2The Messenger is all about himself. Not only has he been credited under every possible category, even in promotional featurettes, he is seen performing audacious stunts with endorsements from the crew. Fans play an important role in creating his curious image off the screen. If he is a boring rock star and a godman rolled into one, the admirers blur the line between fan boys and devotees. After getting a ringside view to all this megalomania, I decided to ask him if he is simply trying to expand his religious empire to rest of the India. “I have 5.5 million followers and I own 700 acres of land in Haryana. I am an ‘Agriculture Scientist’. I don’t take money from people for treatment,” he said, before adding, “But yes, we are trying to set up shop in Chennai and other places.”