January 28, 2007

‘Guru’ Movie Review- Gurubhai Mani Ratnam

Filed under: Most Read,movie reviews,Movies,opinions — Kaveeta Oberoi Kaul @ 4:47 pm
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Kaveeta Kaul


Featured post at Sulekha

A friend, who is also a film maker, enquired of me conspiratorially, prior to the release of the film ‘Guru’ as to what were my reactions of the promos or rather what were the expectations from the film. The pre- release buzz which surrounds a film based on rather nebulous criteria, word of mouth gossip, disgruntled colleagues, envious peers, or the plain diabolic variety of ‘industrywallahs, who revel in pulling down any effort they feel threatened by either by sheer enormity of the project or sincerity in its making, is often hugely erroneous.

Since I correspond to none of the above mentioned categories, my assessment was based on plain heuristics, if I may add, home grown. I had expected a ‘CitizenKane-ish’ film, dark, serious, perhaps boring. That it was meant to be major boost vehicle for AB’s son Abhishek, was another factor which added to the sentiment that here was a film which may attempt to take on more than it can chew, and leave the viewer dull and lifeless in a zombie like state ,once the curtains fell.

Lets just say simply, I erred. It came across as a film which was remorseless in its argument, unapologetic in its message. That to me was a refreshing, invigorating departure from the usual hackneyed affair churned out in Bollywood..daring to be different. No moral fable with a pretentious message for social upliftment .

I refused to view it as a venture which was biographical . No sirree.. No Dhirubhai Ambani legions meant to be niggling you while viewing . It unsettles you, brings on dynamics not meant to be considered and before you know it, you are criticising the logistics of events, frantically connecting fictitious names with their real counterparts, when all you should be doing is surrendering your senses to a creative attempt.

One of the most unnerving tasks for any film maker, is the onset of his film, when establishing his characters with conviction and in the light they are meant to be viewed in the next three hours. Mani Ratnam scored majorly in this area. The Turkey bit was shot with a certain innocent vivaciousness and energy. Of course the newness of the actual locale was a contributory factor.

However, what rankled me was the introduction of Aishwarya , with that rather inane song number in the rain after which she quicky runs home to change and elope!! Hello..why should we swallow that! It would have been so apt had the juxtaposition of ‘departures’ been dealt with synonymously. Consider this. Abhishek is leaving from Turkey , to return to his land, to fulfill his dreams . Aishwarya is leaving her home in search of her dreams as well. Both were destined to meet on the same train a few minutes later( screen time) Juxtaposing departures, with synchronocity of aspirations.. Perfect. So why was not this available opportunity readymade in the script, not exploited? It would have given Ash a substantive entry point. I would hate to think that inclusion of a song sung on top of a rock, or behind another boulder in the rain was the raison d’etre of such a crucial decision…sigh..all they had to do was 🙂 Kidding..Criticising another’s work is soo much simpler.

Barring this , the story now goes on to graph the journey of a spirited, uneducated, village boy, never a wannabe, but made up of Alexander’s grit of conquering the world, as it were, and the ups and downs of his life. Ofcourse certain situations were ‘filmi’ and too good to be true . But, alls fair if the sum total is innovatively different.

For the first time, the pair of Ash and Abhishek, so madly, badly, deeply in love otherwise, translated into an on screen chemisry which kept one rivetted. They were endearing and lovable as a couple . The song ‘aye hairathey’ lent magically to the aura of a romance which brought a smile to your face and a longing in your heart. Mani Ratnam ..vintage..most certainly.

Despite the angry protests of the ‘rationalising of unlawful activities’ kinda outburst from most critics of the film, to me it seemed hardly worth reckoning, both from a cinegoers pov and that of a citizens.. Without going off tangentially into an economic reform tirade, one can say with utmost placidity, if laws that encourage growth are promulgated with a vision to encompass masses, lawlessness would not be an option. ‘Laissez faire’ a viable option, capitalism an intended goal. I think that is what the final speech of Abhishek is meant to convey when the parallel with Mahatama Gandhis civil disobedience movement is drawn in almost sanctimonious exemplificartion, of his modus operandi.

Just a thought.. If indeed the occurrence in the 80’s when Sr. Ambani was recriminated for abuse of law, had resulted in conviction..there would have been no Reliance! So what does this speak of.. archaic laws and blinkered execution of the self same.

What stuck out as a sore thumb was the character of Vidya Balan…both in its scripting and her acting abilities. Cynically speaking it was meant to underline the humane side of ‘Guru Bhai’..the almost angelic saintly, philosophical man who is a businessman, married to his set of ethics but not without the strain of a compassionate, caring human being first, with no hint of revenge or stark contrast to ‘Nanaji’..I suppose. But where was the need to bring on a child who suddenly grows up into someone on a wheel chair, and agrees to marry the single person on this planet who has vowed to destroy her Guru Bhai! Huh??

Abhishek Bachchan under the hawk like supervision, guidance, and Direction of Mani Ratnam, has given a performance which has been his best so far. It has at once catapulted him into a muliticrore star bracket, and placed him along the erstwhile list of the star- actors of Bollywood. Harangued by the burden of being Sr. Bachchans son must have been a daunting task. The albatross is free from his neck. He can look forward to a glorious future..personally and professionally.


Albeit with a caveat. Its no big secret that this enterprise was author backed, sharpened to perfection for showcasing his talent, with the help of a a master craftsman. Will Abhishek be successful sans these? Will he be able to sustain his credibility? Will a less talented Director mange to extricate a performance worth the mention? This remains to be seen.. .his next release will tell all!


Aishwarya Rai, despite criticism from various quarters , has remained a personal favourite. Her performance in “Hum dil de chuke sanam’ and ‘Raincoat’ had more or less amply proven her mettle. But sadly, often beauty impedes the recognition of talent. Its as if the two are mutually exclusive..If you are beautiful, you cannot be as talented..Why? ..Just… Well , that jinx has been broken presumably. She pulls off an underplayed, sincere, mature performance, with just the right tenor of mischief in the eyes and pride in the accomplishments of ‘her man’. One can almost hear the briefing by the Director here. Lets face it..every actor needs a Director to lift the perfrmance form the mundane and plastic to one which takes it to dizzy heights.

The rather stridently bold characterisation of the ‘woman behind the man’ Sujata,was brought out brilliantly. What a relief and refreshing diametrically opposite stand to not just pathetic representation in Bollywood down the years, but those regressive tele seials. Here was a woman, who preferred to be in the background, one step behind her man publicly, but make no mistake about it, she was a stough as nails. The scene when Gurubhai collapses on the floor, struck with paralysis, Sujata responded, with ‘ keep breathing, while I get an ambulance’.. No wailings, harried dramtics, though with tension writ large in her body language, she handled the situation with stoicness and adeptness, so remarkable..if not exemplary.. An Ardhangini in the truest connotation of the term, where she was a ‘fifty percent partner’ not just economically, but sharing centrestage with her husband both for the brickbats and the bouquets.

The ‘bedroom scene’ was a moment in cinema which I will never forget. Stripped of pretensions, the two in complete abandon , innocence, naivete as if frolicked, intuitively, naturally, unaffectedly.’ with an undercurrrent of passion running through. I wonder who the creator of that scene was. It difficult to script a moment of the either organically grows on the sets as a result of chemistry or in a rare second of innovation, or then is a replica of a personal experience. It culminated beautifully in the ‘jhoola sequence’.

Mani Ratnam, is one emancipated male..deserved of a more ways than just the maker of a technically brilliant film. Anyone who attempts to break away from the shackles of stereotypes and risks presenting a woman, otherwise conventional, in a passive aggressive stance, strong, determined, non flummoxed, is worthy of being lauded. While the man behind it may have been Mani sir, yet Ashs histrionics cannot be swept aside. She underplayed the character, with just the right dose of fire in her eyes, and a stiffness in her body which spoke volumes. This is the tenor of women that embodies the truth as prevalent today or rather as ought to be the paradigm of woman hood.


Mithun Chakraborty is unrecognisable from his ‘disco dancer days’. One is compelled to recall however his advent into Bollywood. He was A Mrinal Sen protege in ‘Mrigaya’..remember that powerhouse performance? In ‘Guru’ as ‘Nanaji’, the honest to a fault editor of a Newspaper who prides himself in his veracious demeanour and upright sensibilities, he came out TOPS. Not a single scene which struck one as being artificial, contrived, or forced. He lived his character..which is truly noteworthy, considering his long hiatus from films..But then again only goes to prove ..Once an Actor, always an Actor.

The performance of Roshan Seth deserves special mention. His screen time may not have exceeeded 10 minutes. Yet, the sheer reality and authenticity of his emotion, made you believe as if it was an Honorable Judge Of The Supreme Court, whose presence awed you.. Actors like him come but once in a while. His every nuance, from the lift of an eyebrow to the hint of a smile conveyed magnificently…In humble praise..Your Honor.

Cinematography by Rajiv Menon was world say the least. It lent remarkably to the tone, ambience, mood of the film, almost as if speaking a language, subtle and yet unmistakable.

Although based in Mumbai factually and scriptwise, Shooting for the film took place in Turkey and Badami, Melkote, Karnataka, as well as in Chennai and Madurai, Tamil Nadu.(wiki) and other locations except.. Mumbai. What this must have translated into budget wise is anybody’s guess. To recreate a city outside of its periphery is an astronomical extravaganza. Suffice to say that most films to day have a budget of what might have been just the CG (computer graphics), DI ( digital intermedia) cost of sets , involved in this film. Dichotomies at work even in the Film Industry are tell tale of those of India as a whole!

To surmise, Mani Ratnam, allegedly inspired, has dealt out a hand that insiduously proves that he is one of the Gurus in our industry..a man who knows fully well the worth of his wares and has honed his skill at selling it adroitly.

Rating : 4/5

Cross posted at Sulekha

Kaveetaa Kaul



  1. Great film!!!!!!!!!!!

    ABhishek is now STAR..

    Comment by anonymous — January 30, 2007 @ 5:25 pm | Reply

  2. I quite liked the film..altho the end I feel was a bit explanations given. But even then better than seeing the others.

    Comment by Neha — January 30, 2007 @ 9:29 pm | Reply

  3. Great review..Thanks.

    Technically its well done. Aishwarya and abhishek have finally proved well suited.

    Comment by Krishnan — January 31, 2007 @ 10:00 am | Reply

  4. Anonymous..sure he is a star but the next film will solidify it one way or the other.

    Hi Neha,

    Frankly I liked the end. No need for explanations..I guess as audiences its time we grow up.

    Thanks a ton Krishnan 🙂

    Ash and Abhi really really look good together in this one..which only goes to prove that the captain is the director of the ship.. or what went wrong in Umrao Jaan?

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — February 1, 2007 @ 3:53 pm | Reply

  5. Kaveeta kaul One of the most brilliant reviews I have read in a long time..imo much better than the film. Keep it up. Looking forward to many more such like.

    Comment by murali rg — February 8, 2007 @ 12:12 pm | Reply

  6. Very comprehensive review and splendid photographs. I feel that what you said about Vidya Balan is true. Strange but my latest post also starts with the word “Guru”

    Comment by Hiren — February 11, 2007 @ 2:33 pm | Reply

  7. I quite liked the film, only felt that Ms Rai was quite out of place and out of there indeed a role for her in that film? But the film, in my opinion, quiet an entertainer..thanks Madras Talkies.

    Comment by Rajesh Kumar — February 12, 2007 @ 2:57 pm | Reply

  8. Hi Murali..Thanks. ,,I sure will try but you never can tell..Inspiration is a fickle companion. 🙂

    Hi Hiren,,Thanks. I tried to sync the mood of the snaps with that of the post and how I saw the characters. Although I would have preferred another one of Ash’s, as she appeared in the second half. I am glad you agree about Vidya. She is a good actress but in this film sadly for her, the character was hopelessly out of place and she is bringing on her Parineeta act in every film. That dose of coyness and whatever was suited for that film ..certainly not this one.

    I will drop in and read about your ‘Guru’ 🙂

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — February 12, 2007 @ 3:58 pm | Reply

  9. Hi Rajesh..Indeed I feel that Ash was an integral part of both his growth as a character and the plot of the film. A man is defined by his relationships..irrespective of his career. Sans this aspect, I think the film would have been dull and lifeless. Ashs performance in the courtroom scene, the hospital etc spoke of a certain maturity. To downplay is so difficult.But ofcourse you are free to disagree.

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — February 12, 2007 @ 4:40 pm | Reply

  10. Any street smart person knows that the three card trick or it various versions (including the ones with three caps and a tiny ball) hinges on a trick that is not the one that Mani states in Guru. The fake victory that Mani gives his lead character, very early in the movie, in order to establish the character’s acumen, just leaves a lingering bad taste which the movie never overcomes.

    The problem with Guru is similar to the problem one has in watching Rock Hudson make pillow talk to Doris Day. It is very obvious that Rock Hudson is more into the spot boy than into Doris Day. Likewise it is clear that Mani Ratnam is more into communism / socialism than into Capitalism. I so wish that this movie had been made by some true Ayn Rand devotee, a non apologetic believer in capitalism.

    Even otherwise, Mani Ratnam in Guru is somewhat confused. I don’t think he is sure whether he wants to make a biopic or a commentary of today’s India. A commercial masala or a hard hitting realism based saga. The result is that we see farmers in Gujarat wear a woven rattan hats that belongs to a different region of India. An Item number in Hindi/Urdu in Istanbul at the height of Attaurk revolution. Unnecessary songs, unexplained relationships and characters that suddenly disappearing when their purpose has been served. . Perhaps these things are quite common in a David Dhawan movie, but was not Mani supposed to be a genius?

    I have never been more under whelmed than by Lil C (Big B’s son) in Guru. The problem is that in almost every scene someone else steals the scene. How bad do you have to be when even a no name actor (playing the trader in the market) outperforms you? How bad do you have to be when another no name that plays the father outshines you in a scene that was meant to showcase your talents? I guess, before long, Mani finally figured out that Lil C was no actor, and in order to allow him to rise and shine, he got Maddy to sacrifice and sit down. Interestingly enough just as HR in Dhoom II exposed the fact that Lil C does not have an iota of physical attractiveness, Maddy in his intro scene in Guru exposes the fact that Lil C has no charm or grace either. There is no doubt in my mind that had Maddy been given more scope in Guru, he would have been fatally destructive to Lil C’s career. One has to see the scene where Lil C has a stroke to realize how lackluster his acting is.

    The “genius” Mani ends the movie with another fake victory for the lead character. If only a true believer had made the movie, the end would have inspired Desis to the cause of capitalism. Unfortunately Mani has done a disservice.

    Comment by Shaan Khan — April 12, 2007 @ 8:48 am | Reply

  11. Shaan,

    I thoroughly enjoyed the passion with which you tore apart the film..even if I dont agree with any of it. The point is that there is no point in convincing each other..

    Its important to accept the prevalence of another totally, diametrically opposite set of ideas which has served as prism for your viewing.

    Umm.. all I have to say is that he neither intended it to be ‘a biopic nor a commentary of todays India. I dont think Mani intended this to be a treatise on Capitalism either. The trigger point was the life and times of Dhirubhai Ambani.Its complex really to encapsulate such a range of events with honesty and sincerity while at once serving the needs of Commmercial cinema..whether we like it or not.. all art is at the end of the day , also Commerce!


    Comment by kaveetaakaul — April 12, 2007 @ 4:53 pm | Reply

  12. I totally I agree with your views on live and let live. As a matter of fact if I had not “enjoyed” your post in the first place, I would have not responded with a comment (but I wish there was a way to correct typos etc).

    Nonetheless, it is very hard for me to read some praises on Guru and wonder whether the person really did not see i) Mani’s confusion, ii) Mani’s repulsion for capitalistic views which was counter productive to the demands of the movie and iii) The necessity of an actor of more gravity and substance than Lil C.

    I seriously would recommend Lil C to stop blowing air pockets in his cheek cavity just before he has to make a big dialogue. I think it is a sign of nervous energy and hopefully over time will disappear. The end of Guru was for me so hollow (especially the tribunal scenes and victory) that I walked out of the movie saying to myself that the only thing that could have made it more of a farce was if Mike Tyson (or Sachin Tendulkar) in their trade mark high pitched voice had done the voice over for “Banna Chahate Ho Duniya Ki Sabse Badi Company ?”

    Anyway Goodluck to you sweety.

    Comment by Shaan Khan — April 12, 2007 @ 7:32 pm | Reply

  13. Shaan.. I have rarely laughed so much on reading a comment..notwithstanding one which negated every word of the 1500 odd words of the review in question.

    That you are livid with fury at the maker and his Lil C ( ha ha)is more than obvious..Look I have nothing more to add except admit that I truly did not see i)ii)iii)in the manner you have. Surprisingly I am able to sense your objections to the hilt, while embracing mine with equal passion..So what is the via media..

    I write for this site called ‘Naachgaana’ where, besides this review, there are some rather comprehensively brilliant essays on Guru.. which I recommend strongly. Chances are that it will infuriate you further..or maybe just maybe may tilt the scale in favor of an alternate point of view..or then might nudge you into viewing the film afresh..

    Wanna take a look?

    The second last comment by Satyam includes a number of links which you might ‘revel’ going through.

    In Tysons voice.. ‘Enjoy the ride’

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — April 12, 2007 @ 8:16 pm | Reply

  14. There are not many people in the world who believe is allowing people to have their own views. Differences in opinion are meant to enrich us but alas they cause fury. I have been as a consequence been booted off many a sites for being myself, for being gracious enough to open the portals of my mind for casual visitation. Granted that I am not a diplomat and do not believe in posing as one, but I am polite (most of the time). The site you mentioned, changed my password, deleted all my post and after doing that accused me of doing it as a way of running away from a debate. Prior to that and since then no one has ever accused me of running away from a discussion. Anyway thank you for the reference.

    BTW the next time you sit down and watch Guru, you will see the air pockets on Lil C’s face, you will see Mani’s confusion, etc etc. I have now impregnated you with my “noor” and you are now enlightened. 🙂 Mani will not be able to pull off a fast one anymore.

    Comment by Shaan Khan — April 12, 2007 @ 9:44 pm | Reply

  15. ‘wallah, kya noor hai’..chashme bud door..

    Who knows.. you may decide to see Guru as an effort at cinematic story telling, Abhi as a sincere actor and Mani as someone who..well.. tried!

    ‘Aur bhi gham hai Zamaane mein gurubhai ke siva’….There are other reviews on this site as well.. nosh farmaiye 🙂

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — April 13, 2007 @ 9:39 am | Reply

  16. wat is de meaning or full form of “Lil C” shaan khan is refering to abhishek bachchan??

    Comment by Burhan — June 28, 2008 @ 7:09 pm | Reply

  17. guru a not fantastic but gud film of maniratnam

    Comment by mitr — December 24, 2008 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

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    Comment by srinivaskumarsingh — November 9, 2010 @ 6:03 pm | Reply

  19. hi,
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    Comment by rapidleech — January 15, 2011 @ 9:06 pm | Reply

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    Comment by hindi cinema — January 10, 2015 @ 5:12 pm | Reply

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