Who is Vishnu?
Vishnu is the Johnny Depp of Gods. Most deities usually play one role: Ganesh plays the lovable elephant-headed God, Shiva is the ascetic meditating on the mountain, and you can always count on Kali to wear Her human-head necklace, human-arm skirt, looking All Scary. Not Vishnu, who defies typecasting! He is the Actor extraordinaire with a highly acclaimed career that spans yugas; he is the karmik (कर्मिक) chameleon, playing parts that run the gamut of innocent boy who loves to pilfer cheese and charm mothers, to suave prankster-playboy who likes to steal the clothes of bathing women and charm the ladies, to bad-ass chariot driver who delights in getting princes to kill members of their own family (albeit only the deserving ones).
Famed for his boyish-godlike good looks, flawless blue complexion, and mesmerizing almond-shaped eyes, Vishnu is an actor of such versatility He has even played a dwarf (pre-Middle Earth), a hybrid (the half-man-half lion Narasimha), and even animals (rather convincingly): He became a fish to save Manu from the flood, rescuing one specimen of every species of flora and fauna (can you say Noah’s Ark?), a boar to save the earth (still finding the time to make love to a woman surfing the crimson tide – a puranic no-no), and cameoed as a tortoise in the riveting epic “Deva and Asura Churn the Ocean for Nectar”.
But even the legendary Vishnu has played a role or two that failed to captivate the universe-wide audience – does anyone even remember the character Balarama? In all fairness, He was upstaged by His older, and more charismatic brother Krishna (also played by Vishnu).
If there were Oscars back in the Treta Yuga, he surely would have bagged several for His most controversial, but also most loved iconic role, what the critics called “His career defining moment” and “best performance in seven incarnations” – Sri Rama. Although this role generated some backlash, offending the sensibilities of several feminist organizations; outraged because He allowed His wife to walk into a blazing fire to prove Her chastity and fidelity.
No stranger to controversy, Vishnu’s movies have long been criticized for its gratuitous violence, particularly His critically acclaimed “Warrior with an Axe”. Unfazed by all the criticism, Vishnu remains undaunted, optimistic, and cheerful even, “People need to remember, all this is not Real, it is just playacting for your entertainment!”
His life off-screen is just as exciting as His “reel life”. Vishnu is a member of the Triad known as the Trimurti, where He serves as the preserver and sustainer of all life, together with Shiva the destroyer, and the less popular Brahma the creator. He also enjoys riding His giant eagle, Garuda, and is not afraid to use His weapons – the SC108 (Sudarshan Chakra, a flying disc with 108 serrated edges to more easily slice the heads off bad guys, a gift from His pal Shiva), and His mace (works great for close-range combat and double-tapping).
When He is not acting or protecting dharma, Vishnu enjoys lazing on His snake couch and getting His feet massaged by His gorgeous, rich, and also famous wife, Lakshmi, Herself a celebrated Actress, often appearing along side Vishnu (you may remember Her spell-binding portrayal of Sita in “Prince of Ayodhya”). The celebrity couple, Vishlaksh, lives in Vaikunta, but maintains a vacation home on the Milk Ocean.
Currently, Vishnu is working on his swan-song role, Kalki, the protagonist of the popular end-of-the-world-doomsday-action-thriller-documentary genre flick called “The End of the World (for Real, for Now)”. He hopes that His final performance would finally drive home the message He has been trying to deliver all throughout His illustrious career: We are all but Actors in the Cosmic drama called Life.