Phir Hera Pheri (2006)

FilmPhir Hera Pheri

Year of release2006

DirectorNeeraj Vora

ProducerFiroz A. Nadiadwala

Lead ActorsAkshay Kumar, Sunil Shetty, Paresh Rawal

Within 5 minutes of Neeraj Vora-directed “Phir Hera Pheri”, Baburao Ganpatrao Apte (played by BJP MP Paresh Rawal) is seen praying to a landline telephone placed at the centre of a pooja sthal. He chants – Om Telephone aaye Namaha…Paisa aaye namaha, rupya aaye namaha. By now, you know how this movie looks at Hinduism.

Then Raju (Akshay Kumar) enters wearing shoes, plops himself on the nearest couch and shoves his footwear almost over the pooja sthal and his friend’s face. When Baburao scolds him for wearing shoes inside the house (not mandir), Raju asks him to rise above his “cheap thinking”.

 ( – First 20 seconds)

Throughout the movie, Raju shames Baburao for his various habits and practices. There is a scene shortly after the above-mentioned one where he compares the Baburao to a beggar because the man is following a morning bathing ritual, next to a swimming pool. Janeu-wearing Baburao is a caricature of any practising Hindu yet uninfluenced by modern lifestyle practices.

Here is a dark and disturbing fact associated with Baburao Apte. The surname Apte is common among Brahmins of coastal Maharashtra (especially around Kalyan). However, the Marathi accent that Baburao uses is native to Southern Maharashtra (areas like Kolhapur, Satara, and Sangli), where the Brahmin population dwindled significantly after the 1948 massacre. This genocide hardly has any documentary evidence left.

So far, we don’t have any evidence confirming whether this characterisation by Neeraj Vora and Nadiadwala emerged from foolish ignorance or deliberately vicious mockery of the mournful carnage.

It isn’t the only time that ‘Padma Shri’ Paresh Rawal participated in a blatantly mocking portrayal of religion. Actor-turned-BJP MP Paresh Rawal’s filmography swells with several such gems. Take a look at this compilation by Gems of Bollywood:

Bollywood and it’s most talented keep telling their audience that it is perfectly okay (even funny) to liken idols of Hindu deities to mere commodities, harass a practising Hindu and dismiss their beliefs as “cheap thinking”. Does it still surprise us when Hindus get persecuted across the border, especially around Durga Pooja and such festivals?

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I watch how Bollywood engages with and represents Hindu society. A non-Marxist film critic writing in English.

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