Sunday, January 14, 2007

Movie Review: Guru

"Guru Bhai Guru Bhai aveche, dhoom dhadaka {something}che"

The long awaited Guru released to expected full houses in Bangalore. My completely Mani Ratnam/AR Rahman smitten cousin took the trouble of standing in the long queue and got the tickets 2 days in advance. So, there I was waiting to see the opening scenes of one of the most anticipated movies of this year.

This is one movie where the promos and the media speculations more or less gave away the entire story. A dreamer from a small village in Gujarat, toils and fights his way to name, fame and money. The story is based on or inspired by the life of Dhirubhai Ambani and the chants of Guru Bhai heard during the movie almost sound like Dhirubhai! The movie starts with Gurukant Desai(Abhishek), telling how he didn't listen to his dad and dared to dream and the story just follows his dream from then on. He is smart, witty and a quick thinker and hates to hear NO for an answer. He is so obsessed to make it big in the world of business that he decides to marry Sujatha(Aishwarya) to get some dowry that would help him start his business. He goes to Bombay and gets going, but finds out that the business of his interest is run like a fiefdom by a wealthy textile magnates son. In his process to get a foothold here he seeks the help of an honest editor of a newspaper, Manikdas Gupta(Mithun Chakraborty) {if Gurukant is Dhirubhai, is Manikdas Ramnath Goenka?} . Manikdas is moved by Gurus plight and starts reporting the ways of the business magnates son. The business magnates son gives up and Guru is now in business! Guru looks up to Manikdas as a father figure and revers him. But during the course of his rise, Guru uses tactics which were not legal or fair and in one such instance uses the newspaper whose editor Manikdas is, to write a false story about the rich textile magnate(whose son pissed him off to start with) who tried to intimidate Guru into selling his business. This irks Manikdas who then starts a crusade to bring down Guru. He apparently still cares for Guru but can't stop being the honest guy that he is. For this special purpose, Manikdas chooses Shyam Saxena(Madhavan), who is an young and honest reporter to start investigating into the meteoric rise of Guru and then expose his misdeeds.

This rivalry results in Guru facing a lot of flak from the people who have invested in his company and this hurts him mentally and physically. He ends up with a paralytic stroke and during his hospitalization receives summons from a tribunal which is looking into his company's finances. He takes a couple of months to sort of recover and attends the hearings with his wife talking on his behalf. When the closed door hearings are finally opened to the public, the silent-till-now Guru suddenly feels a lot better and gives a longish speech about how he cannot be stopped just like India cannot be stopped. The speech apparently does the magic and he is only fined and otherwise left scot-free.

I have of course skipped many parts of the movie, for e.g. the whole character of Meenu(Vidya Balan), the handicapped grand daughter of Manikdas who has a special place in Gurus heart and towards the end marries Shyam Saxena. This role though very well essayed by Vidya Balan has very little significance to the overall plot of the movie. She is there just to keep reassuring the audience that our hero is actually a hero and has feelings and is not just a money monger. The character does this job and nothing more. Also conveniently forgettable was the item number by Mallika Sherawat which was more sexy than I expected and did nothing to the films story. Probably will manage to pull some guys to the theaters one more time. :-)

Now coming to the real review, the director has done a decent job with the script in hand, but there wasn't really any flashes of brilliance. We have come to expect a lot more from Mani Ratnam. Mani usually tries to convey a message through his films, but here, in an attempt to send a message across he has short sold the core of his story. Guru should either have been arrested by the tribunal or Guru should have cheated his way out of trouble, either would have done the job. But Mani chose the safe way out and this gave an abrupt end to the movie. The cinematography by Rajiv Menon is excellent, especially in the song Barso Re. The low light effects that Mani had shown us in Bombay is again visible here and the viewer can continue to appreciate the special skill that Mani and his cinematographers possess. The music by A R Rahman is apt (though I remain disappointed by it) and the background score is quite good. Everybody in the movie has acted very well with a special mention about Abhishek who has done a fabulous job. I felt Aishwarya also did a good job and in fact surprised me with some above par acting in a couple of scenes. One of the plus points of the movie is its casting which is just excellent. Didn't notice anything special in the choreography by Saroj Khan and the screenplay with respect to couple of songs i.e. their placement in the movie was very bad. I felt they were out of place and just jumped onto the screen when least expected. This is quite unlike Mani who usually manages to blend the songs into the storyline. The movie moved along at a good pace in the first haf, but I felt the storytelling tapered in the second half. You could see that Manikdas and Shyam were getting to Guru, but Guru wasn't really winning over them. He didn't win any confrontation by hook or by crook and this was something the viewer would have expected after the way the first half ended. The "winner takes all" speech towards the end by Guru in front of the tribunal was the masala that Mani should have avoided. But he just had to end the movie this way, and I can guess his reasons.

Mani was playing it safe! He was not going to let the young dreamer from Gujarat lose. After Dil Se, Mani has firmly decided that he is always going to end his movies on a happy note. The Indian audience are just not mature enough to understand that a tragic end to a movie could also be the best ending the film demanded or deserved. Take Alaipayuthey, take Kannathil Muthamittal, take Yuva, he compusively gave these movies a happy ending. Logically he could just as easily have killed Shalini's character in Alaipayuthey, but he didn't. He afterall needed the hit, he didn't want his brother and producer of most of his films including Guru to try committing suicide again!

None the less, Guru will be a winner at the box office. It may not be one of better films of Mani, but it is not among his worst either. A decent fair and definitely worth a watch(or more). I give it a 7.5 out of 10.


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