The Hidden Genius of MSG


The Hidden Genius of MSG

Illustration: Juergen Dsouza/ Arré

To say that my heart wasn’t in my mouth at the thought of watching Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan’s MSG the Warrior: Lion Heart would be like saying Donald Trump respects women. But like any intrepid millennial, I looked up the film’s ratings. While Rotten Tomatoes is probably still collating reviews (I wouldn’t hold my breath, RT, most publications have decided to sit this one out), IMDb had rated the movie 9.7. Lion Heart was right up there among the highest rated movies on the Internet Movie Database, so who was I to be sceptical?

Lion Heart, for those not in the know, is exquisitely shot, directed, and edited by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan, who has also composed the music and sung its songs. He has also written the film although the plot is perhaps the least important part of the narrative here.

But if you must know, the film is about an alien invasion, the lot of whom have apparently just seen Star Wars and landed on Earth with tube lights instead of lightsabres. Our hero Sher Dil, head of the Indian Lion Investigation Agency gets whiff of it and sets out to destroy them. But first he tells his friends the story of an invasion hundreds of years ago when another dude who looks just like him and was, incidentally, also called Sher Dil, saved the Earth.

But canny plot aside, the universe that MSG creates is what’s most fascinating about the film. For starters, it’s a deep insight into the way social structures are organised today – and will continue to be in the foreseeable future.

Under the veneer of overdone costumes, over-produced set pieces, and under-written dialogue is an Orwellian thought bubble. From the outset, the film leaves no stone unturned in its unequivocal message. In that near-totalitarian world there are only two camps: Those who think Sher Dil is the greatest human being to have ever set foot on earth, and those who are wrong. Show of hands from everyone reminded of our new-age Twitter Bhakti movement. Just yesterday, our esteemed Finance Ministry warned its employees of disciplinary action if they criticised the government or its policies.

He has distilled the Indian experience of 2016, blown it up on the big screen, and has bared our predicament for all to see.

Criticism in Lion Heart’s world is dealt with effectively and swiftly, pretty much the way our public justice system works these days. Just ask Om Puri, who recently got in the crosshairs of our media jury.

Lion Heart establishes the godly credentials of MSG, a deeply religious society, and the monocle through which everyone views a particular community. Sher Dil, the moral compass of the planet, tries to make a particular set of people see sense by telling them that we should respect cows and stay off beef. Astonishingly, all these dudes have Islamic names. Because, as we already know, there is never a pleasant end for those for who eat beef – or do not.

It’s not just Muslims. Lion Heart makes a nuanced point on Dalit politics too when he appeals to brothers to keep their sisters in control by threatening them with being married off to “kala-kalootas”. And after he’s done showing his followers the right path and finished parting the seas, he comes home to his wife like a good husband, and lets her massage his feet.

While Gurmeetji might be the gift that keeps on giving in the field of irony and post-irony, he might inadvertently be saying something much more important. In his umm… distinctive style of filmmaking he is telling us that in our universe, whether we like it or not, there is a world order. If you follow it, life will be wonderful and foot massages will be aplenty. If you don’t, then well, you’re a beef-eater.

And herein lies Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan’s genius.

We, self-stylised intellectuals, Snapchatters and Vine-drinkers have written him off – simultaneously as a pretentious upstart in the film world and a sharp businessman, who has consolidated his very large base of followers and attracted many more into the fold. But what Gurmeetji has done is unparalleled: He has distilled the Indian experience of 2016, blown it up on the big screen, and has bared our predicament for all to see. He has held up a mirror to us.

You may burst an artery at the joke opportunities that this man and his hairy upper arms present you with. But in the end, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan is the only one laughing.

The joke really is on us.