Guru : Movie Review

Even though it's only been 2 weeks since Guru released, it already seems too late to post a review; what with all the discussions and the media overkill already on. But still...
First things first, I have been a Mithunda fan since childhood and I cannot have an objective view about him, I am too biased in his favour to have that. So I will not mention anything about his acting (which I think was great :) he totally justified his top billing in the credits).
The movie faced huge expectations before release and had a huge task ahead of it if it wanted to meet even half of those expectations. I, for one, do not think it does justice to those expectations. Is it because the expectations were too much or is it because the movie lacked something depends on one's perception.
The movie has a lot of things going for it. Generally good performances (in fact I cannot think of a single bad or below average performance), great camera work, great dresses, some really good scenes, lots of hype...and the list goes on. The scenes between Nanaji (Mithunda) and Guru (Abhishek Bachchan) were the highlights of the movie; especially the one just after the intermission where Nanaji makes Shyam (Madhavan) tell his opinion of Guru in front of Guru and Meenu (Vidya Balan). Both Nanaji and Guru are their own persons, not dependent on anyone else, focussed on their goal (truth and independence for Nanaji and grand financial success for Guru) and their tussle is really worth a watch. Too bad there is too little of it in the movie.
Also, the India of the bygone era has been depicted beautifully. You'd feel that you are watching a movie actually shot in the 60s. Great care has been taken with everybody's costumes (that includes the extras who just fill the frame), and it really helps the movie visually. Generally in period movies I have seen too much focus being out on the clothes of the main cast and not enough attention being given to the supporting cast. Thankfully, that is not the case here.
Yet another plus is the background music (it is by A. R. Rehman I believe, though not totally sure). The music is really in sync with the happenings in the movie and takes the movie forward on many occassions. A long distance from the days of stock sounds :)
The story is of a boy from a village in Gujrat, Gurukant Desai. The movies tracks his growth (well I wouldn't call it growth all the way...later on it was just change) as he makes the journey of life. He is a Maths failed son of a Maths teacher one day, a young boy dancing around with Mallika in beautiful Turkey the next day, and a businessman in India for life after that. Watch out for the scene when his supervisor in Turkey asks him 'When he decided to go back to India and start his own business?'. The answer is - 'Right after the saab asked me to put on the tie', I could not have identified more with a scene.
Gurubhai moves on in life, meeting and manipulating people as he meets them. There is only one person he does not use to his advantage, or rather is not shown using, and that is Meenu. At first look, it is not clear what significance Meenu's role has in the story of Gurubhai. But at closer look, we understand that she is the one person that tells us that Guru is still capable of unconditional affection, devoid of any material motives. Before her, even his wife was a means of gaining capital for him.
His relationship with Nanaji is, as I said, the high-point of the movie. It is a relationship based on a chance meeting, which Guru later uses to his advantage, much to the anger of Nanaji who is a man of principles and who puts truth above everything else. This leads to the crossing of their paths later in Guru's career, and Nanaji vows to bring him to justice. The honest journalist Shyam, who is not so honest in the ways he gets his stories as long as the stories are true, is the trusted lieutenant he chooses for this. And together they almost manage to defeat one of the most powerful men in India, almost.
How Gurubhai manages to snatch victory from the jaws of this situation forms the climax, which is just one of the things that is disappointing about the movie. The other things are:

  1. We never really get to see the struggle of Gurubhai, it all happens too fast. One closeup he is a small time businessman, next closeup he is one of the top business tycoons.
  2. Too many threads are left hanging. For example, the reaction of Jignesh (Arya Babbar) was too extreme and we never get to know what happens of him.
  3. Abhishek Bachchan is more of Abhishek Bachchan and less of Gurubhai. That does not mean he is not good, he is good. But not like some reviewers would have you believe.
  4. The climax is a letdown after such a great build-up. One four and a half minute speech is not enough to get you out of charges to the tune of hundreds of crores. Especially when the speech has no facts, only rhetoric.
  5. Nanaji and Shyam just disappear after one point. What happened of their struggle?
  6. The love track between Shyam and Meenu was not necessary, even though it did not drag much.
  7. The movie drags after the interval at some point. The song "Ek lo Ek muft" was totally unnecessary and actually slows the movie down considerably. The song "Barso re" is also not needed but does not matter too much since it comes right at the start.
  8. I have almost stopped understanding the lyrics of Gulzaar ;)
I am not too sure how many of the things shown in the movie match the life of Dhirubhai Ambani since I am not very well informed on him. But the few obvious ones are:

  1. The Gujrat connection and the general storyline.
  2. The meeting with the honest minitster (supposedly based on Dhirubhai's meeting with Rajiv Gandhi)
  3. Mithun's character is supposedly based on Ramnath Goenka
  4. The paralysis attack
  5. The inquiry and the allegations on Gurubhai

I am sure the more informed viewer will find out many more such similarities. But even without knowing all these, Guru is worth a one time watch. This is certainly not one of the best works of Mani Rathnam, but is still better than the really stupid movies (Dhoom2 types) that we are being fed with regularly. Had the post-interva portions been more tight and the climax a bit more creative, this could have been a great movie. But now, it is just an above average movie bordering on good.
About the performances. Abhishek is good. The only problem, as I mentioned earlier also, is that he is more of Abhishek and less of Gurukant. Aishwarya is ok, Vidya Balan had nothing much to do. Madhavan is adequate. I have already said I will make no statements about Mithunda so I won't tell you that he is great.
The supporting cast is good. Guru's father, his friend in Turkey, his brother-in-law, his accountant and his father-in -law are the ones you might remember later.
The songs are ok. I do not comment too much on Rehman's songs because they have a tendency of growing on you. So I will give them some time before making a decision.
The direction is good. Some scenes really stand out. I think the DVD of this movie will be a worthy piece to have. All in all, you should not be disappointed.

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IMDB link here