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Reviewer's Summary - Mediocre

Language: Hindi
Year: January 12, 2007 in the U.S.
Actors: Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Madhavan, Vidya Balan, Mithun Chakraborty, Mallika Sherawat
Director: Mani Ratnam
Producer: Mani Ratnam & G Srinivasan
Story & Screenplay:Mani Ratnam
Dialogs:Anurag Kashyap
Music: A R Rahman
Lyrics: Gulzar

Ambani Deserves Better...Art Fails to Keep Pace with Life

Mani Ratnam's Guru does an enormous disservice to Dhirubhai Ambani, a colorful buccaneer and one of the most larger than life figures of modern India.

Like many of history's unforgettable characters, Dhirubhai Ambani was a hungry man all his life. Driven by his insatiable appetite, Ambani dramatically altered the landscape of Indian business, particularly in the 1970s and 80s, for both good and bad.

But Guru - the movie - fails to capture the essence of this extraordinary personality, the license-Raj times Ambani lived in, his role in creating an equity cult among the Indian middle class and his vicious fights with rivals. Also, don't forget his pernicious dalliance with corrupt politicians, venal bureaucrats and grasping journalists.

As Australian journalist Hamish McDonald rightly observes in his book The Polyester Prince, "Dhirubhai was never simply an industrialist, a trader, a financial juggler or a political manipulator, but all four in one."

But very little of Ambani's hunger or explosive energy comes through in the movie Guru. The movie is a pathetic caricature of a giant.

Of course, Guru has the inane disclaimer that it's a work of fiction. Does anybody really believe that drivel?

Guru is the story of Gurukant Desai a.k.a Guru (Abhishek Bachchan), a young lad who travels from his village of Idhar in Gujarat to Turkey before making it big as a Polyester tycoon in Bombay. In reality, Ambani worked in the Yemeni city of Aden before returning to India to start his own business.

Guru, the movie, has many things going wrong. More than anything else, it's Abhishek Bachchan's passionless, effete performance and Mani Ratnam's inept screenplay that robs us of the pleasure of seeing the life of an extraordinary individual brought to the big screen.

Abhishek Bachchan can't act. And the dude has proved it time and again. Why Mani Ratnam chose Abhishek Bachchan to play the role of one of Modern India's most interesting personalities is a mystery.

If Abhishek Bachchan can't act, he's in good company in Guru - his co-star Ms.World Aishwarya Rai can't emote for the life of her. Mercifully, Ms.Rai doesn't have that big a role in Guru.

Admitted, it's hard to distill the life story of many decades into two hours and 40 minutes. But it's been done by more competent directors than Mani Ratnam. Watch Robert De Niro's new movie The Good Shepherd for a fine lesson in keeping the audience spellbound through several decades in the life of CIA agent Edward Wilson, played with great elan by Matt Damon.

But then Mani Ratnam is not only no Robert De Niro, Mani Ratnam is also a director in decline. It's hard to believe that Guru is the product of the same director who brought us delightful movies like Kannathil Muthamittal and Bombay. Mani Ratnam's last Hindi movie Yuva was lousy. Guru is only a few notches better.

And what is that fine actress Vidya Balan doing in the movie? We searched hard for an answer but came a cropper. Her character as the Multiple Sclerosis granddaughter of the newspaper baron Nanaji (Mithun Chakraborty) is poorly fleshed out.

Madhavan has a limited role as the fearless journalist Shyam Saxena hellbent on exposing Guru's corrupt path to the acme of business.

The sole distinction of Guru is its music. Music maestro A.R.Rehman has yet again worked magic. We loved Guru's songs. Our favorite was Baazi Laga. Set to a nice beat, the song is a treat for the ears. We also enjoyed Barso Re and Mayya Marem featuring that voluptous babe Mallika Sherawat.

In a telling comment on the quality of the movie, a group of Gujjus behind us at the Regal Commerce movie house in North Brunswick (New Jersey) quickly grew restless and started chatting, talking on the phone and periodically walked in and out of the hall. They were clearly bored with Guru. And so were we.

Dhirubhai Ambani's rich, multi-layered story waits to be told on celluloid by a more competent cast of moviemakers.
- Copyright Rekha Inc.

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