Saturday, January 13, 2007

Review - Guru

Guru - Villager, Visionary...winner?
Guru is a Mani Ratnam movie and that’s good enough a reason for it to succeed in the box office. A storyline that closely resembles that of Dhirubhai Ambani - perhaps the most powerful businessman during his period, a star cast that is certainly capable and a background score by A.R.Rahman who is fresh from his mind-boggling numbers in Silnu Oru Kadhal, you would expect the movie to be another re-inforcement of Indian mainstream Cinema reaching world-class in terms of story-telling and treatment.
Guru, for most parts, flatters to deceive! A movie-maker's strength is in eliminating competing stories, picking the right ones, treating them well and conceiving them as screen stories and then having the cast perform what is expected!
Guru is a fascinating opportunity to take what is the most drama-filled and larger-than-life real life achievement and recreate it in silverscreen. You could not have seen a more defining personality in the last few decades.
Guru starts with the mark of Maniratnam, with sharp dialogues from the Gurukanth Junior, out of the world photography by Rajiv Menon and a very engaging narration style, typically in portions where Gurukanth spends his early days in Turkey or when he is back in Bombay (of those days).
Maniratnam's movies are for audience with a taste for the finer nuances of life. His audience will not be disappointed. Scenes where Abishek Bachchan plays verbal chess with Aishwarya Rai, his newly married partner or when he elegantly claims the thrown to the local yarn mandi or Vidyabalan-Madhavan-Abishek exchanges, put the stamp of Maniratnam and prove beyond debate that he is the badsha of scene-conceptualization.
Mithun Chakraborthy is re-invented in this movie as a truth-obsessed clean press editor, who has a soft corner for Gurukanth, whom he considers as his own son. We hope Mithun da takes up more such roles and makes up for the talent wasted.
Madhavan plays a slightly longer cameo with style, depth and more importantly- ravishing looks. As a reporter, as a lover, as a human being with a purpose in life Madhavan excels as an actor yet again.
If there has been an Oscar nomination category for the best smile, Vidyabalan would win a lifetime award. Her smile is shadowed only by the élan and ease with which she fits into the role of a terminally ill and terminally positive daughter of Mithun.
For Abhishek this movie is a life time chance to prove his mettle as a versatile actor. Carrying the heavy burden of having to synchronize with a real-life inspiration and the physical challenges of sketching an evolution of life and differentiating phases of life through dialogue delivery, body language and style, Abhishek has certainly arrived, safe and in style!
With all these pluses, the movie still fails to live up to the expectation. Maniratnam's conundrum is in deciding which portions of Dhirubhai's life to highlight and which ones to leave and how to treat the character. Where Gurukanth slips as a character or rather falls short of completion is when it glaringly lacks punch in the last half hour of the movie.
Dhirubhai is a quintessential businessman who single handedly re-wrote Indian Business 101. He did not confuse between capitalism and socialism. He dreamt big for himself and his company, in which there were a few crores of shareholders. Social welfare spillover was a byproduct of his success and since he had his priorities right, Dhirubhai had a single-minded focus on overcoming obstacles to build an empire, albeit not all his victories were through just business acumen. He had a reach where things could be made to happen with a movement of an eye!
This essential clarity of the real life character does not come into Gurukanth's characterization. Gurukanth, a sound businessman and a negotiator-par-excellence could just say "namaste" to life-crippling manipulation charges levelled at him and when pressed to react before the verdict, he just wields patriotism and does a cry baby at the famous Indian red tapism.
Nay! The real life Bhai knew how to numb legal quagmires and keep going!
May be Maniratnam should take a pause, revisit his B-school topics of understanding consumer (audience) behavior and how we have changed over years to know more about real-life figures better than we would have, in those non-google days!
And finally.. a word about Aishwarya Rai. She did act well within the confines defined for a typical Indian heroine. She did not however have to try hard at anything in this movie. Perhaps, with marriage on the anvil, is she busy rehearsing for the best moment, than worry about yet another movie, playing (a distant) second fiddle?
In all, Guru is a must watch, for streaks of brilliance and inspiration. After all movie tickets cost less these days!


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