Hindu leaders worried about Julia Roberts & ‘Eat, Pray, Love’

Many people described Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling travel/self-help memoir Eat, Pray, Love as good or great, insightful, interesting and funny. Many others described it as silly, narcissistic, hokey, a new-agey piece of trash, neo-colonialist, disastrous, cloying and according to the NY Post, “the worst in Western fetishization of Eastern thought and culture, assured in its answers to existential dilemmas that have confounded intellects greater than hers.” In case you don’t worship at the Temple of Oprah, Eat, Pray, Love is about Elizabeth Gilbert’s year-long journey to Italy, India and Indonesia after a bitter divorce. She eats in Italy, meditates in India, and has some kind of romantic liaison in Indonesia. The book was released in 2006, and got a huge bump in 2007 (when Oprah selected it for her book club) and remains a big bestseller. The movie rights were snapped up by… Plan B, Brad Pitt’s production company. Julia Roberts quickly signed on to star – and it’s filming right now. The film production is about to make it’s way to India very soon – which is what has people worried.

According to Page Six, it seems the backlash against the book and the film production has already begun in India. Hindu scholars are worried that Julia will attempt to make ancient devotional duties somehow pretty and Hollywood-y, and many fear the whole film will “incorrectly depict” Hindus and the Hindu faith:

INDIAN yogis and Hindu leaders are in a huff over fears that Julia Roberts’ upcoming movie, “Eat, Pray, Love,” will bastardize their religion and portray yoga as a crock of New Age mumbo jumbo.

Roberts is in New York this month filming scenes for the screen version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir, which details the author’s efforts to find spiritual enlightenment in Italy, India and Indonesia after she’d gone through a nasty divorce.

But shooting is scheduled in India for the third week of September, and has sparked concerns about whether the film will portray Hinduism and yoga authentically.

Most prominent among the skeptics is Rajan Zed, the head of the Universal Society of Hinduism, who’s led Hindu prayers in the US Senate. He said in a recent interview, “Hinduism and its belief system are quite often misunderstood and incorrectly depicted outside India.”

Zed added, “The people of India will be anxious to see how perfectly Roberts does her job of cleaning ashram floors as a part of her devotional duty, trying to recite 182- verse Sanskrit chant, and going through grueling hours of meditation, while being feasted on by mosquitoes.”

Producers have already disclosed that they won’t shoot “Eat, Pray, Love” at the same ashram where Gilbert studied, but instead will use one near Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, which is near the hotel where Roberts will stay.

The book was derided by The Post’s Maureen Callahan in December of 2007 as “narcissistic New Age reading” and “the worst in Western fetishization of Eastern thought and culture, assured in its answers to existential dilemmas that have confounded intellects greater than hers.”

Javier Bardem, James Franco and Billy Crudup are also on board to star. A rep for Sony said the studio had no comment.

[From Page Six]

I didn’t read the book and I have no desire to see the film, so my general feeling is “meh” on all sides. Do I think Hindu scholars have every right to worry, and to speak publicly about their concerns? Yep. Do I think the film’s portrayal in general of Hinduism (and Julia’s performance specifically) will be offensive? My guess is that if the book offended you, the film will offend you. If you thought the book was amazing, the film will probably be your wet dream (I imagine the Oprah audience, a sea of white, middle-aged, upper-middle-class women, screaming “JULIA!!”). You know what I mean? If anything’s offensive, it’s the source material, not the film. In any case, by making a big deal about the film, the Hindu scholars are ensuring that the India section will be more watered-down, aiming to offend no one.

Julia Roberts and James Franco are shown on the set of Eat, Pray, Love in New York on 8/4/09 and 8/9/09. Credit: Fame Pictures and WENN.com

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21 Responses to “Hindu leaders worried about Julia Roberts & ‘Eat, Pray, Love’”

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  1. Hieronymus Grex says:

    So will she belittle and terrorize the author on her show in a few weeks after the book is found to be complete and utter hogwash and gibberish like she did the guy who wrote A Million Little Pieces- which The ‘O’ also swore by?

  2. happymom says:

    Such an annoying book-so it’s fitting that Julia Roberts would be starring in the movie.

  3. Alexa says:

    I enjoyed the book, and I look forward to seeing Julia Roberts portray the main character. Good choice!

  4. jessiee says:

    I loved the book (it spoke to me), but I think Julia Roberts is a TERRIBLE choice to play the central role. As far as whether the Hindus should be concerned about the way their religion is portrayed? I think anytime something is “hollywoodized” we should be nervous. And you can’t get more hollywoodized than putting Julia Roberts in the lead, wouldn’t you say?

    This casting will keep me from seeing the movie. She’s completely inaunthentic.

  5. Howie says:

    I loved the book, don’t love Julia playing the main role.

  6. Taya says:

    Considering that the book is desribed as a narcissistic new-agey piece of trash, Julia is perfect for the role.

    India is right, Julia is a horrible actress and too old.

  7. icky says:

    Yes, I can see why Hindus and Yogis would be embarrassed. We as Americans should be embarrassed also..again we make a mockery of other cultures for the sake of the almighty dollar

  8. danielle says:

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only person who doesn’t love Miss Julia. I liked her in Closer, and in her older movies.

  9. the original kate says:

    i was forced to read this hideous book (my book club’s choice) and i despised it and the author as well: whiney, shallow, narcisstic and very colonial. it read to me like a teenage girl’s diary, which is fine if you’re a teenage girl, but a grown woman on a quest for self-knowledge it is not. a much better choice for a book about a woman’s journey of self-discovery is “down the nile” by rosemary mahoney. it is everything “eat pray love” wanted to be but isn’t: funny, thoughtful, vivid, respectful of foreign culture,and above all beautifully written.

  10. fizXgirl314 says:

    why don’t people stop whining about every stupid shit? icky… YOU be embarrassed because i’m tired of being told how, as an American, I should be embarrassed about every fucking concern in this world… get a grip world…

  11. KateNonymous says:

    I recently read “Drink, Play, F@#k: One Man’s Search for Anything Across Ireland, Las Vegas, and Thailand,” which was a delightful send up of Gilbert’s book.

  12. MizzExpert says:

    What a hausfrau! Why doesn’t she retire or stick with ‘grandma’ roles? Julia is not an ingenue anymore…not since 1999! Wait and see, she’ll try to milk it as if she’s another Meryl Streep.

  13. princess pea says:

    As to the comments about Julia’s age (really, you’d almost think you folk have the secret and won’t be aging yourselves… chill!) I was under the impression that the narrator/subject wasn’t supposed to be an ingenue. She is supposed to be a grown woman, post divorce and all that. How very wrong it would have been to put Anne Hathaway, for example, in that role.

  14. Kaiser says:

    At first I was wondering if Julia was too old for the role too, but I think Gilbert wrote the book/went on this “journey” when she was about 35 or 36 years old. So Julia is only a few years older than the “character”.

    I kind of think Julia’s casting might be perfect, too. If you’re the kind of person who loves this book, you probably love JULIA!!

  15. Jo 'Mama' Besser says:

    Alright, though I freely admit that I’m not a Julia Roberts fan, my quarrel isn’t with her.

    Hollywood gets everything ‘wrong’. Forget trying to communicate the intricacies and fortresses of Hinduism, book-to-film adaptations are often fraught donnybrooks. A friend of mine wanted to watch SIMON BIRCH with me because she knew that I had read A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY.

    They killed that fucker, didn’t they? Well, I don’t know, I didn’t get through much of it. 40-something virgin in the book now narrates tale to his kid? And weren’t we promised blasted arms?

    Graphic novel? Ask Alan. M. Moore.

    Religious topic? THE PASSION OF THE PASSION-STAINS? That’s one interpretation (haven’t seen it, but you know what I mean).

    Cultural insensitivity? Hollywood wouldn’t know what THAT is! Wasn’t it that film 21 that made a film connected to actual events, and replaced a nearly-all Asian group of students into Aryans?

    The idea of the privileged going to India to ‘get spiritual’ has been around for ages. All a whiny brat needs in life is a magical negro to advise him, and a Taj to house him. Even the rampant neo-colonial message makes me curl up. Not because my sensibilities are offended–thought they can be–but just because it’s lazy to pull out this hoary, mouldy old trope and call it a tale.

  16. Trillion says:

    Happymom nailed it. I wonder if Julia is extra sensitive to odors with those gigantic nostrils of hers?

  17. drm says:

    I got the Eat Pray Love by Gilbert for five dollars from a used book bin on my online book store just before it got the big push on Oprah. I too thought Gilbert whined incessantly, particularly the “bawling on my bathroom floor/desperate/want to die end of her marriage stuff. Having been through it myself, while its very upsetting you have to make decisions and get on with it…she seemed not to know herself very well, what she wanted, needed, or perhaps most importantly what she didn’t want.

  18. stephie says:

    Um… it’s a work of fiction, isn’t it? Who says ANY of it has to be authentic? She isn’t making a documentary.

  19. barneslr says:

    Anyone who attempts to get their education about other cultures (or any other topics, for that matter) from a movie is pretty foolish.

    Movies are for entertainment, pure and simple. Lots of them are based on real events, but that doesn’t mean that they are 100% perfect portrayals of the real thing. ALL movies should be taken with a grain of salt.

    Much ado about nothing, I’d say. Either watch the movie or don’t. Who really cares?

  20. birdgherl says:

    I really liked the book, despite the whole Oprah thing. I am worried that Julia Roberts will f*** it up though. Actually, there is no way she can’t. I was hoping for someone a little more obscure, with a little more depth.

  21. fbeats says:

    i will try to understanding about them and advise them about his worry
    thanks for share