Om Shanthi Om - subtle messages by Shahrukh Khan

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The media hype surrounding Om Shanthi Om and Sawariya was unprecedented in the annals of Bollywood. While I am yet to watch Sawariya I found OSO to say more than what the story line of a typical entertainer does. This article gives you the subtle messages that Shahrukh Khan has given through the movie and how the title ‘Om Shanti Om’ is a misnomer.

The movie gives three messages. One, Khan complains about his name Om Prakash Makhija with emphasis on Makhija, how it had prevented him from becoming an actor (indirectly taking a dig at the Sindhi community). Two, he asks why is it that every hero has the name Kapoor, Khanna and Kumar and wondered whether he should change his name to Om Kapoor. Three, he makes fun of his seniors.

What Khan is saying that all the K surnames esp. Kapoor were popular with the stars of 1960-1970’s, suggesting that being a Punjabi was a pre requisite to becoming a star then. Most people are unaware that Jeetendra and Rajesh Khanna are Kapoors besides Prithivraj Kapoor’s family. As if to drive home the point he is reborn as a big star with the name Om Kapoor.

Let us evaluate the portrayal of Manoj Kumar. After Khan and his friend entered the premier on Kumar’s ticket, we saw the gateman first refusing to recognize Manoj Kumar and two beating him up thereafter. With popular hits like Upkaar/Purab aur Paschim amongst others and the image of a patriotic Indian it is unbelievable that anyone could treat Kumar like that. Media reports indicate that Kumar is very upset with this portrayal and wondered whether Dilip Kumar would be shown in a similar manner. The point Kumar missed is that Dilip Kumar is Yusuf Khan by birth and not some Kumar! If Khan is indeed serious about the recent apology to Kumar he should issue an appropriate disclaimer at the beginning of the movie.

As the movie progresses Khan subtly suggest that now Khan and not Kapoor should be a perquisite to becoming a star. He drives home the point by introducing the director of his movie as some ‘Khan’ and the villain played by model Shahnawz Ali.

Next let us look at the title Om Shanti Om. The words Om and Shanthi have a profound meaning in India. “Om is one of the most chanted sound symbols in India. It has a profound effect on the body and mind of the one who chants and also on the surroundings. Most mantras and Vedic prayers start with Om. All auspicious actions begin with Om. It is even used as a greeting – Om, Hari Om etc. It is repeated as a mantra or meditated upon. 

Om is the universal name of the Lord. It is made up of the letters A (phonetically as in “around”), U (phonetically as in “put”) and M (phonetically as in “mum”). The sound emerging from the vocal chords starts from the base of the throat as “A” With the coming together of the lips, “U” is formed and when the lips are closed, all sound ends in “M”.  The formless, attribute less lord (Brahman) is represented by the silence between two Om chants. 

It is said that the Lord stared creating the world after chanting Om and atha. Hence its sound is considered to create an auspicious beginning for any task that we undertake. It fills the mind with peace, makes it focussed and replete with subtle sound.

Thus Om symbolizes everything – the means and the goal of life, the world and the Truth behind it, the material and the Sacred, all forms and the Formless.

Shaanti, meaning “peace”, is a natural state of being. Disturbances are created either by others or us. For example, peace already exists in a place until someone makes noise. Therefore, peace underlies all our agitations. Where there is peace, there is happiness. Therefore, every one without exception desires peace in his/her life. However, peace within or without seems very hard to attain because it is covered by our own agitations.  To invoke peace, we chant prayers. By chanting prayers, troubles end and peace is experienced internally, irrespective of the external disturbances. All such prayers end by chanting shaanti thrice”. In Indian Culture Why Do We by By Swamini Vimalananda, Radhika Krishnakumar

In the movie the name Om is assumed by a junior artiste while Shanti is the name of the heroine. Their roles have no relevance to their names which have a profound meaning for over 80% of India’s population. Worse still the movie title ‘Om Shanthi Om’ becomes part of a remix song.

Critics might argue why no one protested when the movie ‘Om Jai Jagdish’ was made by Anupam Kher. There the character Om stood for truth, resilience, someone who stuck to his principles inspite of all odds, symbolically closer to the word ‘Om’. In OSO the character Om does not possess these traits. The aim is to become a hero at any cost! When read in conjunction with other messages referred to above, the manner of presentation is objectionable.

You are an entertainer Mr Khan! Please stick to that without taking digs at your seniors. Farah Khan is an excellent choreographer. Alas! OSO is a poor imitation of Do Anjane (1977) and Karz (1980).