Hindus object to Tomb Raider sequences

Author: VIJI SUNDARAM

Publication: INDIAWEST 

Publication Date: Jan 17, 2002, 03.33 PM IST

A Hindu coalition in the US is once again taking up the cudgels against the us entertainment industry for what it calls “religious bigotry.” the target this time is Paramount Pictures which last November released in the us the action-packed movie, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider .

In the movie is a scene where statues of monkey soldiers at a temple at the famed Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia spring to life and take on monster features as they attack the movie’s heroine, lara croft, played by Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie. croft pulls a gun and blows them away. “they’ve depicted Hanuman soldiers as monsters,” world Vaishnava association spokesman Syama Sundar said. “these are obviously revered devotees of the lord.”

Responding to an angry letter jointly written by WVA and the American Hindus Against Defamation, Paramount’s Senior Vice President Karen Magid wrote back that the entertainment giant, prior to the filming, “discussed with Cambodian authorities the picture’s Cambodian locations and engaged a Cambodian company to act as Paramount’s liaison with the government. “these authorities were provided with a story synopsis which included the depiction of statues guarding the tomb, who come to life to defend the tomb. after reviewing the story synopsis, the authority for the protection and management of Angkor and the region of Siem Reap granted Paramount permission to film the Angkor Wat temple and sacred grounds.”

Magid went on to say that because paramount got permission from those authorities, as well as from the King of Cambodia to film in Cambodia, it did not think the contents of the movie script would offend anyone’s sensibilities. since it did, “Paramount deeply regrets that any aspect of Tomb Raider may have offended the World Vaishnava Association or any of its individual members,” Magid wrote, adding that no disrespect was meant to Hinduism or Buddhism. but Ajay Shah of American Hindus Against Defamation said that Paramount’s response “doesn’t go far enough.” he said Paramount hasn’t agreed to WVAs and AHAD’s demands to not get “any derivative work” out of the sequence, like video games and advertisement material. nor has it agreed to edit out those offending sequences before it releases the film in other countries, he said.

Additionally, “that apology is basically meaningless because they have not committed to refraining from doing such things in the future,” Sundar said. Sundar said he didn’t think Paramount did the offending sequences out of ignorance, given that the movie evolved from the video game, Tomb Raider III, where Lord Shiva is depicted as a monster. AHAD and WVA have taken up the issue with the video game maker, as well, Shah said. “Hindu deities and scriptures are suddenly very popular in Hollywood,” Sundar said. “but Hollywood is offending Hindu sensibilities. had it portrayed Jesus or Mother Mary as monsters, there would have been a huge outcry. basically, it amounts to religious bigotry.” Shah said that his group became aware of the offending scene only after someone saw the movie on a flight and contacted his group. the movie finished its run in the US and the UK several weeks ago, and has begun playing in India now. “had we known about those sequences sooner, we would have jumped on the case long ago,” Shah said.

WVA, which represents some 30 Vaishnava groups worldwide, and AHAD have gotten together in the past and taken a tough stand against companies and individuals who have used depictions of Hindu deities as a marketing tool. they forced a nightclub in chicago five years ago to stop having their waiters dress up as Hindu gods while serving liquor to their customers. they got SONY to pull an Aerosmith album that had a picture of Lord Krishna with a woman’s breasts on its cover. two years ago, they forced a Seattle firm called Sittin’ Pretty to stop manufacturing toilet seats with images of Hindu gods and goddesses on them. They successfully protested the depiction of Hanuman and Krishna in the movie, Xena: The Warrior Princess . ” Paramount has not heard the last from us,” Shah said earlier this week.

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