Guru—the Review

54 Comments

Who was Dhirubhai?

Was he, in the words of R  Goenka someone who “did not just rape the system but made it his mistress” through systematic manipulation of the “license raj”, that claustrophobic legacy of Nehruvian socialism and the corruption it institutionalized, to stifle competition and to advance his interests?

Or was he a visionary who built up a corporate empire through Machiavellian opportunism, cunning and sheer hard work, seizing opportunities when none existed, breaking the back of the traditional cabal of Indian business families and the hold of financial institutions by raising money from the people, a man who inspired hate and derision not for how many he bribed but because the rise of the poorly-educated “hawker waiting outside the cabin” to one of the richest men in the world was just too much for the established gentry to swallow?

In the lavishly mounted “Guru”, Maniratnam (arguably India’s finest mainstream movie director) tries to answer these questions through the fable of Gurukant Desai or Gurubhai, a thinly-disguised surrogate for Dhirubhai Ambani, challenging you to interpret this man as either a crooked businessman who justified his brazen transgressions of the law by self-servingly appealing to a higher ideal (the freedom to make money) or a revolutionary who broke the anaconda-like grip of the permit raaj (you needed a permit to import machinery, you needed a permit to increase production, you needed a permit to make more profit) on Indian businesses by showing how the system itself made it impossible to run a successful enterprise without engaging in corruption.

One of the many pleasures in watching Guru is trying to figure out the mapping of the fictitious characters to those in real life: whether Mithun Chakraborty’s Manikdas Gupta is Ramanath Goenka, whether Madhavan’s Shyam Saxena is Arun Shourie and whether the “10 minute meeting” with a certain incorruptible politician is a reference to an actual event that has since become a part of Indian political folklore —a particularly unique experience since usually commercial Hindi movies are far removed from anything that has happened or has a remote chance of ever happening. But “Guru” would be just as fascinating if it was a work of pure fiction standing as it is on the shoulders of some spectacularly powerful acting performances, credit for which should go in no small measure to the director (in addition to the actors of course).

After all, if there is a movie in which Aishwarya does a great job, can you not salute the director for just that ?

Mithun Chakraborty shows the world what a powerful actor he can be, once he frees himself from the clutches of the TLV Prasads and the Kanti Shahs of the world, by essaying the role of editor Manikdas Gupta, Gurubhai’s bete noire, as he brings a measure of vulnerability, honesty and determination to the character in the very limited screen-time he is given.

However this movie belongs to Abhishek Bachchan who, playing the title role, rises spectacularly to the occasion, getting underneath the skin of his character and metamorphosing in front of the camera from a wide-eyed, brash wannabe to a larger-than-life corporate legend. Whether it be gently mocking the committee investigating charges against him, or reminiscing with Aishwarya about innocent times gone by, or sparring with Mithun or Madhavan, Abhishek manages to shine through in every scene.

While technically top-notch (after all this is a Maniratnam movie), “Guru” does suffer from being straitjacketed by the expectations of commercial cinema : the innocent village belle getting drenched in the rain, the Gujarati ethnic dance sequence, Ms. Oversized-Potatoes-on-Sticks pretending to be a belly dancer, Ms. Rai’s backstory and most importantly, the totally superficial character played by Vidya Balan and her love angle with Madhavan that eats into time that could have been used to show, for instance, how “Manikdas Gupta” in his manic rush to finish off “Gurubhai” ended up playing into his hands.

However these minor faults are swept away by the tidal wave force of Maniratnam’s craft as he adroitly, with shades of grey and brown and an occasional dab of smudging white, paints an inspiring portrait of one of post-independent India’s most important historic figures, who from dust and dreams created the nation’s first Fortune 500 company.

A must-watch.

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54 thoughts on “Guru—the Review

  1. that’s what i love about maniratnam. he always shows ‘real’ people in his movies. they’re not the ultimate flawless protagonists, living by rigid ‘parampara’ in rainbow land.. there are always many shades of grey somewhere, which makes his characters seem like real people.

    btw, mallika sherawat cannot dance! i was so disappointed. she looks good and all, i even like some of her movies (eg. pyar ke side effect.. she acts well!) BUT she just cannot dance. ufff. during the time of that entire song, i was only trying to figure out what the hell is she doing, not to mention the fact that i could not understand a word in the song.

  2. I am pasting again my comments about Ambani and Veerappan since many do not seem to have read them:

    I don’t know why u people laugh at Veerappan. In my opinion, he is just an extension of Dhirubai Ambani. Both fought against the system. Society is not willing to give anything to them and they took it forcefully from the society. Veerappan just went some more steps ahead in illegal ways because he was an uneducated. Veerappan’s actions are thus really justified. One more thing, who owns mother nature man ? It is everybody’s property. Veerppan’s also.

    One more great thing about Veerappan is he had built a businesss empire around the sandal tries, which are lying there useless in deep jungles. He created wealth and employment from them and he did that by not working in AC chambers like us but by working in jungles fighting cold, rain, and cruel animals. Isn’t it great ?

  3. The climax scene should have been
    1. No explanation provided by Guru and the audience decide what he does and why he did those.
    2. If explanation is provided, the dialogues must be really sharp and must be simple as well as meaningful. Simple because it comes from rag-to-rich guy. Meaningful because he speaks for the business community when it is forced to bend rules (atleast that is what they say)

  4. Yourfan writes:
    @GB:I haven’t seen Guru. But as you have praised Abhisek’s & Ash’s acting power, a question popped up in my mind. At the time of making Guru what would the astrologers say about whether he/she was under the influence of Rai’s/Abhi’s mangalik – or mangalik was not ‘potent’ as they were not ‘married’ (as if being married or not has any effect in their life style!) or is it that all those pujas have warded off the evil influences of mangalik – but then the pujas were performed much later!! I guess I am getting more and more confused as I write. Help!!

    One of your commenter, saty sent a line ‘behind every fortune there is a crime”. Again I have a question. Do you agree with the quote? If so what crime did you commit ? Now, don’t be too modest – in blog sphere you are quite famous specially with such a huge number of commenters and readers and that sure is a ‘fortune’.

    P.S: Guru has been exempted from entertainment tax in UP!! Bachchans have all the luck in the world – otherwise how can they have such a loyal ardent friend!! Oh how I long for such a friend who shall do so much for me and in return all I have to do is to be seen with the benefactor in public- simple!!!

  5. Hi Arnabda,
    Me a big fan of RTDM and follow it quite relegiously. Your movie reviews are always a treat.
    Having said that I will comment on RTDM for first time since I could not resist not commenting on a manirathnam’s (my Guru) film.

    I personally feel Guru is manirathnam’s most commercial and adultarated film. In fact even Yuva and Dil Se were better in terms of avoiding the ‘safe path’ and putting commercial aspects unnecesaarily. Here are my two pennies IMHO

    1. Guru as per Shyam saxena is a guy who smuggles machinery in garb of spare parts .. cheats the government and avoids tax payments. Guru’s logic is that “i do it for my thousands of shareholders”. For thousands of shareholders you cannot harm the government and billions of citizens. The core issue (which was there in Nayagan) is missing. The dillema of right versus right is replaced by wrong versus right (Guru being Wrong here). Yes it is a good film if it had showed AB Jr more grey, villanish .. but there were not even grey shades … just purported accusations, whereas when the man is clearly an evil/tarnished. His rise is applaudable .. but not his methods. He is no better than a smuggler in that sense. Again drawing back to nayagan .. at lease u cld identify and sympathise with Kamal.

    2.It might have been based on Ambani. I personally felt MR took sides and deliberatly played Guru too postive and made a typical ‘hindi masala film’ where the scope was to do much more.

    3. Didn’t AB Jr’s performance in some scenes looks mangled up ?? In some scenes he copies Brando from Godfather … Amitabh from Agneepath and Lallan from Yuva (esp the body language). And what is with the Gujju accent in some scenes and missing in other scenes ?

    4.Isn’t the last portion too inspired from Aviator ??

    I might be nit-picking, and could go on and on .. but just realised it is ur blog. Nevertheless, Would be intresting to hear ur take on my comment 🙂

    Love ur blog and keep it up Dada ….

  6. Didn’t you find the story strange? Everytime I thought it was picking up, they started to sing. Wasn’t it supposed to be about Guru teh businessman and not Guru the singer/dancer? Very badly handled if you ask me.
    (My review)

  7. Too episodic and fragmented to be coherent . The screenplay is just a selection of events lined up in a chronological fashion. The movie doesnt elaborate on the gray shades and presents a straight and linear narrative that is ‘boring’ to say the least.

    Maniratnam as is usually the case with him, backpeddles and refuses to take a stand (Probably because of the issues Mr. Mukesh Ambani was supposd to have had with the making of the movie). He has always used real life to draw his inspiration, at least he should have the guts to be able to state that the movie is inspired by certain facts or people, what was with the disclaimer in the beginning. I guess you are not aware of Iruvar (which was a far better movie), that was supposedly based on Karunanidhi, MGR and Jayalalitha.

    The speech at the end was so hilarious and badly written (and am not even referncing to the gandhi comparison), that it sounded amatuerish…I mean Gurubhai’s speech is completely off-context to the charges he has been read out and the ludicrousness is compunded by the appreciative nod by the jury head.

    Redeeming elements were the lush cinematography and music.

    Why is it that, people in the north india, specially bollywood, have this big thing with Maniratnam. I mean he is one of the better directors, but he is usually derivative. I gez it has to do with people identifying good movies with cinematic flourishes and picture perfect frames.

    Maniratnam’s better movie’s were Nayakan, Moonram Pirai, the totally commercial Dalapathy, Iruvar…

    Just my take…

    Rahul

  8. Very mild review from GB. I expected a spicy review from him because Guru is a movie with lot of loop holes and plot discontinuity. Seems GB is bogged down by south indian lobby, especially Kishor. Bravo GB, give another review on Guru, which is spicy and exposing all the silly things in Maniratnam’s direction. Don’t get bogged down by critics. especially, don’t care about Kishor much.

  9. GB, I didn’t think Guru was a great movie. The second half, more than the first, assumes viewers knowledge of Dhirubhai’s life. That lacking, it would get boring – and also it doesn’t build well on the First half’s setup.

    See my take here

    Btw, what about the all-knowing, got-to-you-by-yer-balls smiles Aishwarya flashed everytime she translated her husband’s mumblings to the benefit of enquiry commission? I found it mildly irritating.

  10. Only two let downs in the movie
    1) Aishwarya rai – well she is completely one dimensional….
    2) The patronizing lecture to the govt comitee…if he had shown Guru bribing the farce of comitees tht would have been a better end…

  11. My friends finally believed me that Mithun won a national award for his first movie after watching him in Guru hehe – he was just brilliant. But yes, the movie belonged to Abhishek – what I loved was the finer nuances of acting and language of Gujarati which Mani was able to bring about so brilliantly. For example, Abhishek says “hum dono fipty fipty partners honge”, the word “fipty” is so gujarathi. I would have expected anybody else to miss out on it, but both Abhishek and the screenplay writers did a great job there.

    Vidya Balan was so wasted!

    Suyog

  12. I liked the way you began GB: was Dhirubhai a guy who raped the system or was he a businessman who played the system better than the others and earned the envy and stoked rage in legacy business houses? Guru doesn’t quite get into this, although it touches upon the bitter Dhirubhai Vs Nusli Wadia rivalry, but largely as it was being fought in newspaper columns.

    Although Nusli was faced direct competition in the DMT vs PTA battle (both raw material for making polyster yarn), he was really the face of legacy business and R P Goenka its sword arm. It was frankly a much bigger gang-up against D. Loosely speaking, it was a Parsi gang-up as the Tatas was the hidden hand behind Nusli. The first faceoff, if you will recall, was a Sunday magazine cover story, “Will the bubble burst”. This was on the eve of the E or F series debenture issue of Reliance. The story came out on Sunday arguing that Reliance was a bubble waiting to burst, and from Monday onwards Nusli & Co is said to have offloaded 1 lakh RIL shares for four days running to drive down RIL share price. D raised money from his distributors and on the fifth day he went to the market (of course through proxies) and asked for delivery. As it was all short selling, physical shares were not in the possession of Nusli & Co. They scoured the market and seeing the interest RIL shares shot through the roof. The settlement was done but Nusli & Co are estimated to have lost Rs 70 crore – a very large amount in the late ’70s.

    This was the first round of the battle which D won hands down. It should be chronicled, if it hasn’t been already. The second happened in the mid-80s when R P Goenka let loose S Gurumurthy with a series of trenchant articles that were part correct and part false, very cleverly interwoven, to create the impression that D had stolen anything and everything (including a full plant) right under the eyes of the govt. This was a trickier battle as the Rajiv Gandhi govt was initially hostile towards D. But within a year or so, D was able to get V P Singh – a fierce opponent – out of the govt by convincing RG that VP had raked up the HDW submarine deal only to target Rajiv. As you rightly point out, the meeting between the politician and businessman in which the businessman offers the politician him money that was allegedly left with him by the politician’s dad/mom is part of political folklore. But it probably hapened, but not in the dramatic manner in which Guru shows or as the stories about it are told. In short, D had RG with him in no time, painted R P Goenka as VP’s stooge and got the govt to launch a huge offensive against Indian Express.

    It’s unfair to expect Guru to deal with any of this. For all you know the Ambanis will get any honest film on D canned. Unfortunately, the upshot of this is that there will be few trustworthy chronicles of India’s most successful businessman – it will be either a hagiography or a hit job. Guru is the former.

  13. Well written GB,
    We have been, for quite a while now, deriding Pabhu-ji movies. And he deserves it for churning out one dud after another (albeit his movies have a cult following). But with this movie he has shown why he was won three national awards. Only a brilliant director like Mani could pull out a performance like this from him. Of course, it was a pleasure seeing Little B act so well and not ham like he did in D2. And kudos to To-be-Mrs little B, she pulled it off with a subtle performance and didnt repeat the ‘funny guy- o-i am so cool and hot’ routine from D2.
    This show that in the hands of a superlative director, marginial actors deliver big time!!

  14. Shashikant mentioned this – R is only India’s first privately owned company to be on the 500, IOC has been on the 500 for over ten years.
    GB, honestly I expected more from you. This movie is fairly weak, especially for some of us who deal with Reliance (and R-ADAG) everyday. The movie seems to be badly edited at points, certain incidents make no sense – like afore-mentioned Gujrati dance – as a friend noted if only women could lose weight after childbirth – but then again this is a movie, so who cares about an inconsistency like that!
    The movie ignores Dirubhai’s ties with the political class, other than the ‘famous’ Rajiv meeting. A lot the methods DHA used are papered over – maybe at the insistence of ADA who indirectly funded the movie.
    Mani Ratnam is a great director, and Iruvar proves that he can take on touchy topics brilliantly, this movie is a massive let-down! But then again, this was the best Bollywood movie on the screen, and still is, so far in 2007.

  15. I am glad that you gave credit to Abhishek and not lambaste him for trying to copy his dad. I mean he is Big B’s son. If he wont be like Big B, then who would be? Its like saying the lion is not good because his roar is exactly like his dad’s. Wow! I can even surprise myself by the lame examples I use sometimes.

  16. @Saty: Ahem. Well not always.

    @Sang.Froid: I agree. Mallika is a horrible dancer—-I do not understand how she became so popular. Her figure is weird, her acting skills mediocre, she cannot dance for her life..

    @Kishor: I think the problem was that Verrapan was doing ecological damage and also killing people. Dhirubhai was doing “victimless” crimes: flouting export regulations, operating “ghost plants”…

    @Ram: I felt the dialogues were sharp and effective enough. Perhaps too sharp and effective but well this is a movie and a rousing inspiring ending is always what the audience wants.

    @Kishor: Well the point is that Gurukant is justifying what he did and to do that he is portraying himself as another Gandhi. Whether we choose to buy into that (of course I personally do not because Gandhi broke laws for others, “Guru’bhai broke it for himself) is of course our prerogative.

    @Yourfan: Simple. Ash has been married off to a tree. After that peace has been restored in the world. As to my crimes, I shall of course not accept them here…if you want to know about them, wait for the movie “Great Guru” (2050) starring Mimoh Chakrabarty’s grandson as “Karnab” , the story of a blogger’s rise to power and his titanic struggles with Batash Sen……

    As to Guru being tax exempt in UP, true. One thing you can say about the SP. They are real friends.

    @Diptakirti: Hmm….I have to accept I did not catch how they broke up his name in the movie: on the Net both spellings are used.

    @Kartik:

    1. Whether his methods are applaudable are not is an issue totally orthogonal to the discussions of the merits of the movie. In my opinion, it is a question that Maniratnam raises and asks you to answer: is he a smuggler or a saviour? Just like as in “People vs Larry Flynt” is Larry a pornographer plumbing the depths of depravity and then trying to squeeze out of libel charges or is he a free speech warrior—you decide !
    2. Directors are allowed to have their biases as long as they do not force their opinions down the audience’s throats with “white strokes”. Milos Foreman had his biases with regards to Flynt. So did Orson Wells with regards to Hearst.

    3.I dont think so.

    4. I havent seen Aviator and so cannot comment.

    @Aditya: Well the director has to operate within the confines of commercial cinema and we need to accept that. And it was about Guru the person—if it was Guru the businessman we might be getting too documentary-ish.

    @Kasi and Nikhil: Perhaps. But the reason I felt it was Arun Shourie (though historically it was Gurumurthy who went after Ambani) was because here Madhavan is shown married to a lady suffering from multiple sclerosis whereas Arun Shourie’s son is spastic….

    @Rahul: I am glad that Maniratnam does not take a stance and leaves it open to us to judge. I totally disagree with the contention that the ending speech was hilarious and had nothing to do with the charges against him—-it was a tacit acceptance of guilt however strongly justified by his contentions that the laws were unfair in the first place and that many people gained from what he did.

    @Swamy: While it is true that I am currying favour with Kishor so that Bengal is considered to be part of South India, I would be intellectually dishonest if I gave a “spicy review” of a movie I really liked.

    @Giri: I think it was pride. Pride at the fact that her uneducated husband can stand up to the august company arrayed against him.

    @Gourav: The last speech was for drama.

    @Suyog: Hmm.

    @Rani: Nice comment. But I doubt if it would be possible to maintain the interest of the general audience if the movie became a purely political potboiler. Not to say that many feathers would be ruffled.

    @OMG: Yes it does !

    @K: “GB, honestly I expected more from you. This movie is fairly weak, especially for some of us who deal with Reliance (and R-ADAG) everyday”

    Come on K. No matter what your personal feelings towards Reliance is, borne out from dealing with them everyday, they have nothing to do with the merits of the movie for a general audience ! As to biopics papering over uncomfortable aspects of the protagonists, well “People vs Larry Flynt” was guilty of that and so was “Gandhi”. However does it make them lesser movies for that? [Remember movie, not documentary]. The “Guru” character has sufficiently dark shades of grey and his justification of his actions should be taken for just what it is: his own justification.

    I agree with you about the singing and dancing part but then again Maniratnam needs to fill up the seats. I am sure Ambani would empathize!

    @Ashish: :-).

  17. GB, would u give me any role in Great Guru ? I would like to act in a role of one of the south indian greats. Ur collections also would be very good in South India.

  18. I have to agree with people here who were disappointed with the movie. And I agree the choppy editing contributed a lot to the general feeling of dissatisfaction I came out with from the theatre. He made the same error in Dil Se – plain bad editing.

    But that’s not my only grouse with the movie. I feel that other than Gurukant Desai, and to some extent Aishwarya’s ALL other characters were given short shrift. There was no plausible character development for any of them, no motive, and no rationale for doing what they were doing in the movie. It is to Madhavan’s and of course Prabhuji’s credit that they made impacts with half baked roles.

    I won’t even talk about Vidya Balan’s character. Enough has been said there. Also Mallika’s role had obviously been chopped later. There was a stray scene of them holidaying will Mallika, and ten no mention of her till Guru’s lackey remembers her in the hospital after the suicide attempt.

    I mean, what was with the scene where Mithun goes to see Abhishek at the hospital? He disappears after that. There is no denouement at all. I also felt that Mani (or maybe his backers) realized that they were making the Mithun character too sympathetic and idealistic. So they put in the scene where he is willfully cruel to Ash by calling up Abhishek as asking him not to send his wife as a messenger of peace. That scene firmly put him in the “bad person” to Guru’s “good but misunderstood” person slot in the film. Oh and yes, Mithun is shown as implacable, while Guru of course is so warm and friendly that he even visits the vindictive reporter’s house to meet the crippled wife. And the audience feels, “aww..he’s no nice and still this dastardly reporter is going after this cuddly papa bear.”

    More proof of airbrushing Guru’s character at the cost of others:

    1) Arzaan Whatever’s character shown to be a total unmitigated slimeball. Again in contrast to Guru’s entrepreneurial good guy.

    2) Whenever anything bad happens, it’s not Guru but his chamchas who do it e.g. the attack on Mithun’s car. Guru, of course, had no clue. And he is shown as getting angry at the incident.

    The point is, I really don’t see the grey areas in the Gurukant Desai character. All his grey areas are justified by the director – either by taking the excuse of the Licence Raj, or by mitigating them with sequences showing his kindness to cripples, or through the fact of making his shareholders rich (remember the cringe inducing “I have got 3 daughters married because of Shakti shares. I support you” scene just before the ‘open-house everyone-allowed-in’ populist legal panel/committee?).

    And the climax. Again enough people have commented on its inauthencity and bombast. So I refrain.

    Finally, having said all that, let me try a Mani Ratnam by saying that it is still a better film than many others that have come out this year. Ash and Abhishek have done a great job, as have Mithun and Madhavan. The acting is the saving grace and has, in my opinion, elevated the film to a level that it cinematically does not deserve to be in.

  19. @Kishor
    Just curious, where do I have to be from to be qualified as a “South Indian”? I mean, it is from your point of perspective, no?
    For example, people in Delhi swear that Maharashtrians are pukka southies. People in Kerala feel they are totally Northies. Is it that, as you go to the north, your superiority slowly declines?
    Also, how do you qualify as a northie or a southie, is it based on where you were born, or is it what languages you speak? What if you speak more than one? Is it based on your ancestry? How far back do you have to track the ancestry? I mean, Tam Brahms supposedly migrated from the North a few centuries back, what are they now, Northies or Southies? Do we go back upto the stone age, or farther? We might all be kind of westies if we go all the way back to Ethiopia.

    Anyway, please reply soon, because based on your response I need to decide if I should migrate to the Andamans and have my kids born at Indira Point, so that they will be as superior as possible!

  20. Hey GB,
    Mithun Chakraborty’s character is Manik Dasgupta not Manikdas Gupta. I am pretty sure about that. Gurukant Desai/Dhirubhai Ambani was no Gandhi. That’s a BIG stretch…but then again that’s the Bollywood mantra- strech it beyond the breaking point. right?

  21. Hi Arnab, Venkat from Chicago. I do read your blog once in a while, but never had a chance to relate to your reviews because I never saw any of those movies that you talk about 🙂

    But your review of Guru is pretty ordinary, don’t get me wrong — there is very little by way of any analysis and more of just “interesting facts”.

    For a nice review that was nearly spot-on, read Bharadwaj Rangan (Indian Express) here : http://brangan.easyjournal.com/entry.aspx?eid=3252750. This btw, is also one of the most interesting blogs that I came across recently.

    How are things otherwise? Last month Vic Basin was here, and he was telling me about your Halloween drama 🙂

    –venkat

  22. >>”challenging you to interpret this man as either a crooked businessman who justified his brazen transgressions of the law by self-servingly appealing to a higher ideal (the freedom to make money) or a revolutionary who broke the anaconda-like grip of the permit raaj”

    Very well written, Greatbong. Though the film has worked in the B.O. (compared to the usual fare that Mani’s films meet), I think it is being unduly criticized for “taking sides” (while I’d definitely say it doesn’t, ethically or morally); actually, as far as the criticisms go, I think it is the audience which is passing a moral judgement on the protagonist of the film.

  23. why dawood also is generating business by using the same people by using their greed factor..rise of both are simultaneous..sometimes it appears they are interchangeable..

  24. Mani Ratnam. I’ve liked all his movies excpet for Dil Se.. the end sucked!

    @Kishor: Shabash! Brilliant observation. How smart and observant you are. Like HP said, we Southies truly owe you lots! 🙂

  25. Let me offer my two cents to the Gandhi-Gurubhai comparison. GB, I don’t think Gurubhai intended to ‘compare’ himself with Gandhiji, although many critics have been harping on about this. What he might have meant is that, Gandhiji did what he felt was right by revolting against the British. Even though ‘ghulami’ was the ‘kanoon’, he stood up against it. And he was vindicated when India became free and ‘ghulami’ was no longer the ‘kanoon’. Similarly, for Gurubhai (or Dhirubhai) ‘free markets’ was the natural thing to strive for, even though India was shackled by the License-quota-permit Raaj. And this philosophy now stands vindicated, when the ‘kanoon’ had to eventually change to usher in ‘free markets’. This has nothing to do with working for himself or for the country. This is plain-speak, Gurubhai style. Very practical. And I loved it for that. Don’t read too much into it.

  26. Pingback: The Sai Chronicles » Blog Archive » Hug Day 2007

  27. Hi HP and Lalbadshah: I know we southies are great. One day we will take over whole India and send all other Indians out of India. World is our southies’.

  28. Hi GB.
    I have been a frequent visitor to your blog for some time now.
    I was waiting for your Guru review because I did not feel you’d like it (and as you said that would guarantee us a spicy review :D).
    Am quite surprised the movie has been labeled a “must-watch” from you.

  29. The first half is just awesome storytelling, but the second half slows down in pace, particularly .. the climax where Guru delivers a lecture to the jury is a real letdown. The reason – its not convincing enough. All the accusations against Guru, Guru waiting, and delivering a soliloquy, comparing himself to Gandhi and then the jury taking a minute to decide his fate. Man. Something is wrong there.

    And ….. I would not call this Abhishek’s standout performance. Somehow, I got the feeling that Abhishek was “acting”. But, full marks to him for trying .. sincerely. Lallan in Yuva still wins hands down.

    The movie is a letdown by Mani’s standards.

  30. @Venkat

    Thanks for the link you provided. Its awesome. Spent the whole evening reading a lot of reviews, even those which are quite dated now. Was as involved as I was on the day I first discovered RTDM. Well, almost…

  31. No GB, it won’t be a political potboiler but a thriller involving very bitter corporate rivalry with political dogfights. But you’re right it will be tough to do an honest movie on D.

  32. The name is actually Manik Dasgupta … reviewer’s familiar with only northern belt names spelt it as Manikdas Gupta … Mithun is a bengali character in the film … a typical Bengali meddling with rules and beuraucracy surely missing the bigger picture, finding demon in money makers and absolutely non-progressive.

  33. GURU..a confused film

    plz check out our forum also..the most informal chat forum on bollywod-Moviezone
    http://moviezone.7.forumer.com

    Thers confusion abt what is guru kant desai, hero or villain, he is shown hero most of time, bt the tale of his heroic growth is just so swiftly turned over that it seems one sided..and we dont feel like siding with him. Then the crimes he committed is counted out..he seems all evil..And an end speech..which is a lot of self appreciation and nothing else..whers the justification for all he has done? why he shud b let free when madhavan as a honest truthspeaking reporter brought out true stories of his undehand dealings? a lot of brahua and arrogance dont really win u court caeses! i ddnt even feel the speech was worth an applause,, then if he got away free, he must hav bribed the system more..is this our new hero? i winced when he mentioned gandhiji..thank god he said he is not like that! and do kameez, ek biwi aur ek bhai, it wasnt really right.. he had 25000 rs dehej and 15000 he earned..wasnt it a big amount in those days..?

    Thers confusion is the ageing of guru as a character..he has grey hair a hump back and fat body when he came back frm abroad and shown attending contractors daughters wedding..10 years in business is mentioned. Then the couple r having the babies..no i am not saying they cant have babies late, bt next a song comes ek lo ek muft and he is young allover again..

    Thers confusion in abhisheks performance too..somtimes he has the hump back, paunch, really exaggerated mannerisms and make ugly faces, somtimes he is all ok, normal abhishek like.. And as for me, i enjoy when he is normal than when he push his head to front, raise shoulders to make neck look shorter and push out his tummy.. Mentally or physically challenged characters r never my fav performances, i call them a forced acting to get teh awards..and i feel this one shud fit in that categoy too somhow..on the whole an uneven, manufactured attempt at acting glory, bt he falls well short of the praises he won for this!

    mithun chakravarthy was brilliant without a doubt..he never looked the mithun we knw, even without any add on traits like guru character..he shud play more senior roles like this..he has a authentic face and perfect worry lines and sure gr8 capabilties..madhavan was sincere and handsome and cute..is he getting younger in years?

    and then thers ash..it wont b wrong if i say i liked ash’s performance than abhisheks, she had no set of set acts to make her look different, bt still she was miles differnt frm last one saw of her, spontaneous and natural than ever seen..well done ash! vidya balan wud hav made no diff if she wasnt ther even bt ok, she did well too..

    so thats my review..i wud hav liked the show to follow guru more..follow how he went up the ladder gradually..his dealings with ppl and beaurocracy..his good deeds..his fraud deals..the foriegn bogus companies..that empty carton exports..importing machinery as spare parts..
    if viewers r involved in how he was faced with difficulties and solved them with intelligence and tact, right way or wrong way, we will b more ready to accept him as hero..otherwise saying he did all this to make ‘tarakki’ dont work really, mr.director!

    2.5/5

  34. Didn’t Arun Shourie say that by breaking the laws, Dhiru created the case for their not being there at all, and that prople like him had done a great service to the country? The laws shouldn’t be held up as a sort of gold standard. Let’s face it, the excessive restrictions were simply wrong. (If I were in Dhiru’s place, I would have broken the laws too.) In that sense, the comparison with Gandhi is completely justified.

    Everybody predicted that Reliance would fall after liberalisation, as the government it needed would no longer be able to help it. It did not. That speaks enough of his calibre.

    Guru is a good film. It’s not bad, but not one of the ‘best ever’ either. Vidya Balan was completely unnecessary, and the film could have easily been shortened by 30 minutes. But Mani says he was fully satisfied with it, so to each his own. 🙂

  35. Agree with each and every word of your review. Excellent review BongDa.

    “While technically top-notch (after all this is a Maniratnam movie), “Guru” does suffer from being straitjacketed by the expectations of commercial cinema”

  36. Very humorous. Excuse my nitpicking, but I thought the man in question is R N Goenka or Ram Nath Goenka, ex-Indian Express, and not R P Goenka or Ram Prasad Goenka from RPG Enterprises, as you have referred to at the start of the post and also in some comments. Am I missing something?

    [GB: Thank you. Corrected]

  37. i was thoroughly disappointed with the movie right from the very first scene…mani ratnam, alas, has tried to sell a story ..a movie ….n thats about it! being a tamilian…i’ve watched a lot of maniratnam …movies like mouna ragam n kanathil muthamital……what set them apart from guru is that they are real…the have story without stupid songs n actors who steer the movie on acting skills rather than their star power!
    i watched it solely for mithun’s and madhavan’s performance…n they did their roles marvelously!

  38. GB,

    A bit of weird trivia. I remember seeing a movie called Guru with Prabhuji as main lead in the early 80s – late 90s era. It had sridevi in a double role.

    -Zaphod

  39. hi,
    i really liked the brilliance of a sothie.
    mani is gem.
    we all sothies are like that. except that we can never become part of mainstream india, we know everything about india and not only south india,
    even in south , lot of people know dhirubhai ambani.
    good moveimaker, good movie .
    good job tambi.
    general knowledge movies for south indian kid to know dhirubhai , we will show in schools in chennai.
    vannakam !

    sanjeev
    MBA – CBS,

  40. Pingback: Greatbong’s Best Movies of 2007 at Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind

  41. i just love guru(abhishek bachan)he is such a great actor and he has prooved like his father to be an organized actor, he is real guru. he has always been a good player in all films, GURU is very magical movie he shows all the tactics to be a good business man even he was a illetrate man, so he gonna be a business man.FANATASTIC..

  42. Wonderful review, Abhishek’s excellent performance (as you said it’s after all Maniratnam’s movie)and the authenticity of the characters made the watch the movie a couple of times.

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