The trailer has the power to make viewers freeze in their tracks and gawp. So it is hardly surprising that a press conference to promote the MSG The Messenger was full of enthusiastic journalists, camera crews and photographers – especially since the star of the event was leading man Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh himself.

The film is set to be released on February 13.

The head of the Dera Saucha Sauda religious sect has a litany of credits on the contentious movie, including lead actor, co-director, screenplay writer, music composer and song writer. He has also reportedly contributed to the cinematography, production design and choreography, and has written and sung the movie’s seven songs. Singh is the epitome of omniscience within the universe of his debut film.

In the flesh, Singh appeared to be like any other flamboyant, self-regarding and image-conscious denizen of Tinsel Town. The long-haired and self-declared "rock star saint" arrived 90 minutes late for the press conference, held at the Novotel hotel in Juhu in northwestern Mumbai (the delay was attributed to traffic). Singh sailed through the lobby and bounded purposefully down a corridor through a shower of flashbulbs. His spangled tee shirt was stretched over a paunch that contradicted the images of strenuous workouts depicted in the promotional material, and his white shoes complemented his white-and-black patterned trousers.

Singh took questions on a dazzling variety of temporal subjects – his group’s support for the Bharatiya Janata Party, his views on Narendra Modi and the controversial All India Bakchod Roast, his movie premiere. By the end of the press conference, Singh appeared just like any other confident entertainer on the eve of a major release.

This was Singh in multi-hyphenated mode (one of the brochures in his press kit lists no less than 105 humanitarian deeds he has performed, from “self-reliance” to “birds nurturing” and “heart donation” to “genuine guidance”). Politics, distribution strategies, marketing plans – he had an answer for everything.

Gurmeet Singh unplugged

What did Singh feel about clashing at the box office with the glamourous Jacqueline Fernandez-starrer Roy?

“My child, I don’t clash with anybody,” he replied.

Narendra Modi? “He is doing good work”, especially since he is merely implementing projects on cleanliness and female foeticide that had actually been pioneered by the Dera Sacha Sauda. Why is the movie titled MSG The Messenger and not MSG Messenger of God? That’s a decision of Hakikat Entertainment Private Limited, which has produced MSG and hopes to roll out a sequel.

Valentine’s Day? “I have watched the youth celebrate it with enthusiasm. Friendship is okay, but within limits.”

What about the Central Board of Film Certification’s contention that the movie should be banned since it promotes miracles as a cure for such serious conditions as AIDS? “We haven’t shown any such thing at any length in the movie. What we have talked about is a drink that contains Rooh Afza, water, sugar and milk, and when people drink this, those who have complete faith in the Almighty, only they are cured. I don’t have any special powers, only people who have faith in God get cured.”

Could he please sing?

Singh belted out a couple of lines at the top of his voice.

Ordinary release to cult favourite

MSG is rumoured to be opening on close to 3,000 screens on February 13, the same day as the twisty thriller Roy, starring Arjun Kapoor, Jacqueline Fernandez and Ranbir Kapoor. Had it been granted a censor certificate in the very first application round last month, the movie would probably have faded into public consciousness as a self-styled messiah’s vanity project and a cult whimsy. Instead, MSG was denied a certificate on two occasions, promoting an appeal that was heard with suspicious haste. This resulted in a Universal screening certificate that paved the way for the film to be released on Friday. The former chairperson of the CBFC, Leela Samson, who had been serving an extension on her expired term, took the opportunity to resign, as did board members appointed by her.

The brouhaha has transformed MSG into the must-watch movie of the week, marked by hashtags on Twitter that are counting down the days to the release. Since its budget is unknown – the self-declared saint didn’t disclose the amount spent on the production – there’s not telling what has been spent, and what has been earned.

What is clear is that Gurmeet Singh has big plans to use the film to expand his base beyond his strongholds in Punjab and Haryana. He will travel to several places to promote MSG, and push his message of good values and universal love through the pre-release promotional activities. He already plans a sequel around the theme of terrorism. He is perfectly attuned to the ability of technology to transform his image and connect with young audiences, and he has immense faith in the ability of computers to suggest miracles.

Will he ever star in a love story?

“I can only romance God, through VFX [visual effects].”