Page last updated at 12:20 GMT, Wednesday, 18 June 2008 13:20 UK

Hindus upset over Hollywood film

By Frances Harrison
BBC religious affairs correspondent

Mike Myers with the poster of Love Guru in the background
The producers say the film portrays a fictional faith

Hindus in the US have started a protest against a Hollywood comedy, saying the film will hurt the religious sentiments of millions of Hindus worldwide.

More than 5,000 people have signed an online petition protesting against the film Love Guru, starring actor Mike Myers and due to be released on Friday.

Some Hindu groups are considering a boycott of Paramount Pictures which produced the film.

Paramount says the film does not make reference to any particular religion.

The company says Love Guru portrays a purely fictional faith.

We all know when you show a person with a sari and a mark on their forehead that will be associated with Hinduism
Bhavna Shinde,
Sanatan Society

In the film, Myers plays the main character, Guru Pitka - who is raised by gurus in an ashram in India and then moves to the US to seek fame as a self-help coach resolving the marital problems of a Canadian hockey player.

The film includes a character played by the British Iranian comedian Omid Djalili called Guru Satchabigknoba and a hockey player called Coach Cherkov.

'Mythical creation'

The argument that it's slapstick and farce rather than real religion doesn't wash with Hindu activists in the US.

The premature outcry against the movie is itself religious propaganda
Spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra

They say that in the West so little is known about Hinduism that even a parody like Love Guru could be misinterpreted by teenagers and give them a skewed view of the religion.

"They should draw a line when it comes to people's faith," says Bhavna Shinde of the Sanatan Society in the US.

She is upset that the main character wears sacred Hindu saffron robes and carries holy prayer beads.

Mike Myers himself has described the religion he lampoons as a "mythical creation - it's like the Force in Star Wars".

And Paramount Pictures have quoted the spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra rebutting criticism of the film based on only the two-and-a-half-minute trailer.

"The premature outcry against the movie is itself religious propaganda," said Mr Chopra.

'Hindu concepts'

But Bhavna Shinde is not convinced - indeed she says it's ironic the film company quotes a man who doesn't even consider himself to be a Hindu.

"We all know when you show a person with a sari and a mark on their forehead that will be associated with Hinduism."

She argues that terms used in the film like "guru", "karma" and "ashram" are "signature Hindu concepts" clearly pointing to Hinduism.

"Which other religion are they talking about?" she asks.

So far it's only the trailer that's caused concern - two Hindu groups in the US have complained that they were promised an early screening before the film is released but were never shown it.

In the UK, Paramount Pictures says it will arrange a pre-screening for Hindus before the film opens in August.

Hindu activists in the US have appealed to the rating body to change the classification for the film - which warns some material may be inappropriate for children under 13 years of age - to make it impossible for anyone under 17 to see it.

They've also written protest letters to the Indian Film Censor Board.

They say they would have been happy with some kind of disclaimer at the start of the film explaining that it is not a proper representation of Hinduism but complain their views were not listened to.

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