Film: Ram Lakhan
Year of release: 1989
Director: Subhash Ghai
Writer: Anwar Khan
Producer: Ashok Ghai
Cast: Raakhee, Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Dimple Kapadia, Madhuri Dixit, Amrish Puri, Paresh Rawal, Anupam Kher, Gulshan Grover, Saeed Jaffrey, Satish Kaushik
As a society, we need to reach a consensus on whether it is okay to take a dig at religious sentiments for entertainment sales. If it is acceptable, then does the permission include all religions? If not, why haven’t we shamed Bollywood filmmakers for ‘Ram Lakhan’?
The problem starts with the title of the film itself. Writer Anwar Khan takes the liberty to name his main eponymous characters after the two most widely worshipped siblings in Hinduism – Lord Ram and his brother Lakshman.
Lakhan is a greedy cop looking for a quick way to become a millionaire. Since childhood, he has lusted after Radha, the daughter of Deodhar Shastri. Lakhan plays distasteful pranks on janeu-dhaari brahman Shastri even though the man helped the boy’s family during difficult times.
Anyone who read the Ramayan would squirm at this character named after a loyal and brave warrior.
Meanwhile, Shastri is a parody of the regular Brahman/Baniya character. He is a classic Bollywood stereotype of a greedy, mean, religious buffoon. Khan and Ghai tell their audience that violating such folks’ beliefs and practices is encouraged. E.g., Shastri is averse to meat and eggs, so Lakhan cracks a couple of eggs in his shop to embarrass him.
All this while Shastri is chanting Hanuman Chalisa and Jai Shri Ram. Why such vitriolic hate towards Hindu devotees and their way of life, Khan saheb?
Vegetarianism has long been a butt of jokes in Urduwood https://t.co/eWsf4aDqf8— Gems of Bollywood बॉलीवुड के रत्न (@GemsOfBollywood) August 27, 2022
If you do not see the problem with this scene, then re-imagine the scene in a movie named Junaid Jameel where Jameel is bringing pork to the maulvi’s house. Yes, now you see it.
And since the makers decided to carry out their religious propaganda, why would they miss portraying Hindu boys as lusty brats and young girls as maids waiting to elope? Lakhan has been interested in Radha since they were kids. He comes up with different tricks to hoodwink her father. Radha is more than happy to follow his instructions and fool her father.
Message – young Hindu girls are waiting to discard their parents and walk into the sunset with the right man, even if he is an unemployed idler.
Radha dreams of marrying this man, who kisses her unexpectedly while she chants ‘Om’ with her eyes closed. This unconsented kiss is his idea of showing her ‘swarg’. Why leave a chance to molest a Hindu woman when she is praying?
Subhash Ghai loves Om 🕉️— Gems of Bollywood बॉलीवुड के रत्न (@GemsOfBollywood) December 17, 2020
In 1980, he made Karz where he plagiarized Lord Shorty's Om Shanti Om to give it a cheap and buffoonery flavor with Rishi Kapoor.
In Ram Lakhan, Om ॐ inspires @AnilKapoor to smooch a praying Madhuri Dixit. pic.twitter.com/suHxCFWx0x
This is not the first time Ghai demeaned the use of ‘Om’. Remember Karz (1980) when he blatantly copied Lord Shorty’s Om Shanti Om for a disco number?
This film doesn’t miss Bollywood’s favourite Hindu-hating tricks either – admonishing Bhagwaan and tilakdhaari patriarch as a villain.
Ghai brothers released this movie in the year when Kashmiri Hindu Pandits were facing Islamist genocide in the valley. In such times, they came up with a film that further promotes the toxic narrative that Hindus can be harassed and condemned for no other reason except that they follow their faith.