Monday, January 15, 2007

Guru


Directed by Mani Ratnam

Writing credits:

Anurag Kashyap (dialogue)
Mani Ratnam (story)

Genre: Drama / Romance
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Credited cast:
Abhishek Bachchan .... Gurukant Desai
Aishwarya Rai .... Sujatha
Madhavan .... Shyam Saxena
Vidya Balan .... Meenu

Mithun Chakraborty .... Manikdas Gupta

Mallika Sherawat .... Jhumpa

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Who does not want to be independent? Who does not want to control one's own destiny? Who does not want to carve a niche for oneself? Everyone does. But there are some who answer the above correctly and dream on and then there are others who go on to make it a reality. Gurukant Desai (Abhishek) is one such person.

Partly driven by his ever-pessimistic dad's incessant taunts, Gurukant, who likes to be called Guru, orients his life's goal to make it big...real big. Driven by a stint during his early years in Turkey, Guru is hell-bent on being an independent businessman in a field that people hesitate to take risks -- yarn trading. In that bargain, he decides to play with lives, others' that is. To raise capital money for his new venture, he decides to get married to his friend's sister Sujatha (played by Aishwarya) and use the dowry gained as part of that. It's a coincidence (in the movie) that the girl turns out to be the same one who he met on his train ride back to his village -- when she was planning to make a run for it with her lover, who in fact had chickened out.


Guru irradiates revolutionary thinking. Cotton being the norm of the day, it would apparently be foolhardy to play with people's choices, but he thinks otherwise and starts to trade in polyester instead -- a great gamble, fetching him returns that make the gamble look minuscule in comparison. His rise is simply meteoric and it's not long before his fame and wealth are rivaling each other to rise higher. It's interesting to see how Mani Ratnam captures the initial hardships that Guru has in getting a foothold in the industry; the very issues that he overcomes using the one thing that seems to be a solution to every impediment: money.

Sujatha learns of her husband's dowry-capital scheme and moves back to the village. Guru's march into the corporate world continues but he yearns for her and the feeling in mutual and they are re-united soon after a song. These few scenes reinforce how Guru considers Sujatha to be his pillar of strength for everything he has achieved so far and everything he seeks to achieve. At this point, Abhishek's performance has just started to show a glimpse of what is to come. It is Aishwarya who has been able to play the perfect foil to Abhi's role. In Ash's own words in a post-movie interview, it is completely Abhi's show...and the rest is yet to come!

Manikdas (Mithun) makes a nice entry as the owner of the daily newspaper and is instrumental to get Guru his first break. Manikdas essays the role of the guru, until he crosses the line of truth himself in his quest for success. Vidya Balan plays Meenu, the girl with multiple sclerosis and Manikdas' grand-daughter, who soon becomes the Guru's pet and she is showered with the same love that Guru would have for his own children.

But when Guru crosses over to the "dark" side, Manikdas along with his able journalist employee Shyam Saxena (played by Madhavan) takes on the might of Guru, his power, fame and the strength of money. What follows then is an interesting tale of how the pen is mightier than the sword, how love conquers physical disabilities and the resolution of one man to not hear "no" for an answer.

If you noticed, most of the above review highlighted the title character and rightly so -- this is Abhiskek's movie as Guru. The choice of characters and their acting have been done very nicely to not take away the crux of the movie. It is one man's fight against himself in the end. It is of great relief that Abhishek has come of age with this movie. One grouse though, that I will have against Mani Ratnam is to always focus the camera too close to the face of the characters, for e.g. seeing the tear drop flow down the face and into the mouth. Imagine seeing this on the big screen. I'm pretty sure there are subtler ways to present the same emotion to the audience. The makeup-less characters are a nice change to the powder-laden faces; Mani Ratnan has always emphasized naturalness in his movies.

Also, please do not go to see this movie just for Mallika Sherawat. She is wasted in one completely unnecessary song and is practically non-existent...and if you have read this far, it just wouldn't matter whether this movie is indeed based on DhiruBhai Ambani's life...it just wouldn't matter.

I would definitely mark this movie as a one-time watch. Don't have too much of expectations on the music (although, Rahman's music always catches on late after the movie releases). Be prepared for some lame last minute lame dialogues but the hospital scenes of Abhishek will bring back nostalgic memories of Amitabh. A son following in the father's footsteps? Only time will tell...


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