Saturday, June 23, 2007

GURU - handsomely produced but cumbersome

GURU is a handsomely produced but cumbersome film based on the life of Indian rags-to-riches businessman Dhirubhai Ambani.

Co-written and directed by Mani Ratnam (director of the infinitely better YUVA), GURU is unambitious in its narrative structure and thematic material. It follows a young man as he leaves his small Indian village and learns his trade in the markets of Istanbul. Cue a credibility-busting "item number" involving excruciating belly-dancing from Mallika Sherawat. Composer A.R.Rahman should know better too. Guru returns to India and marries a disabled girl, ostensibly in order to get the money to stake his business. He starts a cloth trading company, successfully breaking up the corrupt local bosses with the help of a local crusading journalist. Before long he is running one of the biggest companies in India, if not the world. Naturally, there is some bribery, some corruption, some adversity, some triumph over adversity. And then it's over. But nowhere do we have the kind of emotional exploration that we see in a film like GODFATHER II - another film about a powerful but corrupt man.

With the nicely drawn visuals offset by the weak narrative in the second half of the film, do the performances tip this into a must-see movie? Basically, no. The movie stars Bollywood's Brangelina, Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai as the businessman and his wife respectively. Bachchan has done better work, not least in YUVA. Rai returns to her plastic big-Bollywood persona - a million miles away from her early performances in art-house movies CHOKHER BALI and RAINCOAT. The talented Madhavan, Mithun Chakraborty and Vidya Balan are good in the supporting cast, but this is small recompense in a near-three-hour slog.

GURU was released in Canada, India, Malaysia, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA on January 12th 2007. It is now available on DVD.

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