'Guru' in hot water with Hindus


NEW DELHI -- Paramount's Mike Myers comedy "The Love Guru" has been criticized by world Hindu groups saying the film makes fun of the world's oldest practiced religion.

The film, which also features pop star Justin Timberlake and is still in post-production, is a satire created in the same spirit as "Austin Powers," Jessica Rovins, Paramount Pictures senior vp for national publicity said in a statement.

But at least two prominent Hindu groups still were displeased.

"Hollywood is trying to make money by laughing at our holy men and in the process creating a stereotype," Lila Sharma, president of the India Heritage Panel based in Chandigarh, north of New Delh, told local media. "The filmmakers should secure a clean chit from Hindu leaders before the film’s release."

Due to open June 20, "Guru" is directed by Marco Schnabel starring Myers as an American raised in an Indian ashram who moves back to the U.S. as Guru Pitka to seek fame and fortune in the world of self-help and spirituality.

Rajan Zed, president of the U.S.-based Universal Society of Hinduism, said that the film "appears to be lampooning Hinduism," which has about a billion adherents, most of whom live in India and Nepal.

Rovins at Paramount said it was the studio’s "full intention to screen the film for Rajan Zed and other Hindu leaders in the U.S. once we have a finished print. The movie is a comedy and the purpose is to entertain, and we are not making this movie to offend anybody."

Promoted with the tag line "His Karma is huge," "Guru" also stars Ben Kingsley, Jessica Alba and includes a cameo by New Age guru and author Deepak Chopra.

Myers, who is also the film's co-producer and co-writer, also received flak in 1999 for offending Hindu sensibilities. In a "Vanity Fair" magazine photo spread, the Canadian comic appeared as a Hindu demigod with a long red tongue, surrounded by semi-nude women.

Myers said at the time that he was only lampooning the likes of Michael Jackson flocking to Indian gurus. But following protests by groups of U.S.-based Indians, "Vanity Fair" published an apology from photographer David LaChappelle.