Saw GURU with Viju yesterday and now I have a topic to post in my blog, the review for Guru! The movie though wasn’t that great for all the expectations and hype it had created; nevertheless, it is worth giving a shot. While I write this, as I started to have enough time and energy, I decided to go for an enhanced review unlike my usual ones where I place a quick review a la the tea-time kind read. But beware; couple of things:
- This shall be a spoiler exposing the story. So read at your own will if you haven’t seen the movie and you are most welcome if you are of the kind who reads spoilers and go to movies!
- Statutory Warning: This is going to be a long affair, so go ahead if you have enough time and patience.
A sneak preview before that. Maniratnam, as always, brings the first of any kind credit to his movies, be it technical or trivial, and so this interesting piece of trivia for Movie Buff’s: Guru became the first Indian movie to have a World wide premier straight from Toronto, Canada. As it happens most of the times, Mani and controversies walk together hand by hand when it comes to the pre-course of his movie release, and GURU too is no exception. GURU, is largely inspired by the rags to riches story of the real life Business Tycoon Late Dhirubhai H. Ambani. Though the movie begins with a standard disclaimer of it being a work of fiction and that the characters bear no resemblance to anyone living or dead and if it does it is pure coincidence, it is blatant from the movie that it clearly internalizes the life and times of Ambani.
The story begins with an old Gurukant Desai (Abhishek Bachchan), neatly clad in a business suit, speaking to the audience from the podium of an empty stadium with a Namaste note, Sapne mat dekha karo. Sapne sach nahin hua karte. Mere Bapu kaha karte thhe. [pause] Magar maine sapne dekha aur sach banana ki himmat kiya”, which translates – “My dad used to say don’t dream as they never materialize. But, nevertheless, I dreamt and had the courage to make them real”. You may now wipe out from your memory the remains of this first scene as it is bound to repeat again after gaining the relevance, very typical of the likes of Alai Payuthey or Yuva, Mani’s previous films.So you know now what do you have in store for the next 2 hours and 50 minutes or so or more.
Next as the movie unfolds, the location changes to the surroundings of a school in a little village in Gujrat, in black and white shades where a young boy summons before his father, a school teacher after failing his school exam. He expresses his desire to leave studies for an offer he got in abroad. The father though doesn’t like the idea, he gives away the consent and the boy packs his bags and leaves to Istanbul, Turkey. He takes up a menial job selling old petrol cans there. The boy is inherently shrewd and once by his observation makes his friend win a small coup with a gambler. Few years down the line, he matures to become the protagonist Gurukant Desai (Abishek Bachchan). You next have a dance sequence by belly dancer (Mallika Sherawat) in a bar in Istanbul, where Guru and friends spend some quality time. Guru, by his astute skills, gets an offer to become Sales supervisor from a Gora Saab (white man) in his factory. Guru turns down the offer and returns to India instead to set up a business of his own.
Cut. Camera next swivels to a countryside location in India, where Sujatha (Aishwarya Rai) is introduced in Barse re Barse re song (like Madhubala in Chinna chinna aasai in Roja). She tries to elope with her boyfriend and in the railway station where they plan to meet, finds herself deserted by him. A train arrives to the platform and she quickly boards into it and stumbles upon Guru (whoelse!), who becomes aware of her situation. Sujatha then is accompanied back home by a relative of hers who came in search of her. Meanwhile Guru is given an aplomb welcome by his home members and Guru tells his proposal to start a business, to which his teacher-dad straightaway refuses as he had burnt his fingers once. Guru now needs capital and lures his childhood friend (Arya Babbar) into a deal where he would marry his elder sister and with the dowry money he would start a business offering him a handsome partnership. Incidentally, the girl happens to be none other than Sujatha and with the mutual consent of their parents he marries her.
Guru comes to the aspiring city of Bombay with his wife and brother-in-law, where he intends to do the cotton business. Guru seeks the approval for his application to become cotton yarn agent from the person in authority, one Mr. Contractor. Though the rich and influential Mr. Contractor is impressed by Guru’s wit, he does nothing to his application. The dejected and frustrated Guru then happens to meet Nanaji (Mithun Chakravarthy), a socialist-nationalist who vents his feeling towards the system through his daily Newspaper, The Independent after scrutinizing the facts. It becomes beneficial to Guru, who overcomes the initial hiccups and establishes himselves as a successful Cotton dealer. He befriends Nanaji who lives with his handicapped teenage grand daughter (who would later become Vidya Balan).
With his fine business acumen and knack of dealing with people and those in power, he wins the trust and hearts of his fellow men. But Guru isn’t satisfied; he is hungry to devour big challenges and his independent decision to advance further becomes a subject of disagreement with his brother-in-law and they part their ways off. Undeterred by risks and impediments, Guru raises capital through public shares and shapes his ambitious project in the form of a Polyester factory. After a couple of photo shoots with his staff in the fast forward mode, Guru becomes the ultimate rich Big Boss of Shakti Parivaar, his business conglomerate where he has major stake. You now have the large and bit older Gurukant Desai bespectacled with a thick golden frame and a neatly shaped out belly, mostly clad in a Blue Safari suit, who loves playing with the rules of the game in business. He becomes the darling of his stake holders, the hero of the middle class and favorite of media.
In a turn of events, Guru uses Nanaji’s Press machinery and media contacts to garner business mileage and image in public when Nanaji was away in an entourage. But, Nanaji is an idealist who lays extreme emphasis in values and principles and does not tolerate Guru’s designs in manipulative business. Because of their ideological differences, he launches a campaign to expose the real Guru through Shyam Saxena (Madhavan, in a cameo role), a daring reporter vows to weed out the wrong practices of Guru’s business. Guru still respects Nanaji as a fatherly figure; nevertheless, he develops a grudge against Shyam but has immense affection for VidyaBalan, who marries Shyam later. Guru is unfazed by the allegations leveled against him by the paper and by his share holders’ base of over 30 lakh people mantles challenges further.
At one point of time, he eventually is accused of manipulating the licenses and even of smuggling and an Inquiry Commission is set up by the judiciary. The commission finds him guilty and levels a score of charges against him which could lead to imprisonment. Gurukant gets paralyzed and his health fails but not in spirits; he raises up and gives voice to what he thinks is just. In the climax court room scene, the enquiry bench gives a kind hearing to Guru for 5 minutes. Guru saves all his energy for this moment and being aware that he is in front of media and people, he justifies his actions and wraps up within 4 and a half minutes circa, giving a 30 second profit to the bench! The commission shares considerate empathy in the largest interests of people. It ends up putting a fine amounting to the loss incurred by the state exchequer for the violation of procedures.
Gurukant Desai thus emerges out as a winner again and you may now go back to scene 1 of the movie. He now faces the full packed stadium with the share holders of his Shakti Parivaar and amidst loud applause, with his charisma and finesse tells them that the Parivaar would have no stopping and that he dreams to expand the buzinezz beyond the boundaries of the nation to make it the world’s numero uno!
Now coming to the other side, the criticisms, the movie goes at a horrifically slow pace. The only fast thing perhaps is the conceptualization of rags to riches transformation in a fast forward mode. You don’t have answers many of your questions. Like, what the role of Vidya Balan has to do with the plot? She came and died leaving no trace of relevance to the main track of the story. What happened to Guru’s brother-in-law, who supposedly was roped in to become Guru’s partner? Why Guru always says that he came to Bombay only with a pair of dresses (and nothing else) and built the business empire, when he actually brought the capital (Dowry money) as well. Watch the movie yourselves to get the same questions or more, sans the answers. After all it is Mani’s movie; the answers are not transparent and characteristic by their conspicuous absence. You have to imagine and substitute with the answers yourselves.
The other characteristics of Mani’s films such as, subtle emotions by the characters, soft-naughty-romance, witty dialogues, frequent use of dark background and foreground are noticeable in many occasions. I liked in particular, the dialogues – “Nazar. Theen glasses mein ek choti thhi” while winning the gambling coup, “Gurukant Desai thha Nahin, hae aur rahega”; “Mein to chalna nahin bhaagna chahta huun” when confronted whether he is careful in his steps; “Yeh to race hae aur jeetna ke liye to tej hi jaana hei” to reporters on his fast fortune; “Bus Ek Cheez. Namaste”, “Lo, maine aapko diya 30 seconds ka profit” to the enquiry commission. The characters have been portrayed well which bring life to the characters. Bachchan Junior has donned the role well and has done a commendable job with his mettle. Literally he has carried the movie on his shoulders. GURU, personally I feel leaves not a great impression, but nevertheless, it is worth giving a one time watch.