How often have we said this while re-reviewing films on this site? That for all the ace technical crew assembled, for all the strong performances, a film ultimately fails to deliver as a whole due to a weak screenplay. We saw this with Fanaa, Krrish, Dhoom 2 and now Guru too falls into this category. The disappointment in Guru’s case is all the more as this is a Mani Ratnam film and comes from a director who has the reputation and track record of making films that have been both commercially successful and intellectually stimulating as well.
Guru, as is now widely known, is inspired by Dhirubhai Ambani’s rags to riches saga and traces Gurukant Desai’s rise from a young lad in a remote village of Gujarat to overcoming all odds and becoming India’s top industrialist. The elements are all there in the inherent story for the film to be a rousing epic highlighting the triumph of the human spirit but unfortunately the film’s script is far too superficial and simplistic. One never feels Guru battling huge odds to make a success of his life. And even in the attempt of making him grey as Guru breaks rules to move ahead, Ratnam justifies the same in the climatic speech with Guru saying it was the only way he could move up in life, bringing in a clumsy it was all for the shareholders logic and India’s progress towards becoming a first world country and equating Guru’s flaunting of rules to Gandhi breaking rules to get freedom from the British. Really!
The film deals with a huge time span but its flow is choppy and uneven, Lots of loose ends are left hanging. The track of Guru’s father for instance. Considering it is he who has the least belief in Guru’s abilities surely a scene was required between the two once Guru has tasted success. As is the track with his brother-in-law who snaps ties with him. One also fails to see what additional impact the Vidya Balan track adds to the film; in fact, it takes away from its main focus.
Even the ‘Mani Ratnam moments’ are but sporadic and often reminiscent of what he has already done in his earlier films. Potentially winning scenes like when Guru and his wife reach their old house and remember their times together in their struggling days are killed with being overlong, obvious with some sloppy juxtaposition of the then and now shots.
The strength of the film lies in its performances. The film is Abhishek’s story from beginning to end and the actor, by and large, delivers. At his best moments he is nothing short of brilliant (the scene where his bro-in-law reveals the truth to this wife about her marriage for instance) and while his performance is refreshingly natural and charming as the young man making his fortune, it appears laboured and even a little stilted as he ages. The mannerisms, gestures, dialogues are deliberate and over the top to show he has aged. And there is a sense of deja vu in some of his angry young man scenes which at times seem to be invoking his father. But all in all, he more than ably carries the film on his shoulders. Aishwarya Rai responds with perhaps one of the most natural and real performances of her career. Though essentially a supporting role as the woman behind Abhishek, she nevertheless manages to leave her mark on the film and holds her own in each of her scenes in the film. They are more than ably supported by Mithun Chakraborty (playing a character based on Dhirubhai’s mentor and later nemesis – Goenka), who shows what a fine actor he is given the right role and why he is the recipient of three National Awards, Madhavan and Vidya Balan, even if the latter two suffer from weakly sketched roles. Balan’s role though well performed as mentioned earlier, adds nothing to the film’s storyline. Of the supporting cast, Manoj Joshi and Arya Babbar stand out.
Surprisingly one place where the film falters is in its music and song picturizations, normally Mani Ratnam’s forte. But then in his last few films Ratnam has been getting more and more abstract with his song picturizations, often alienating them from the rest of his films. The music, while typically Rahman with some extremely complex orchestration is one of those tracks, where unlike a Roja, Rangeela or Swades, one will have to hear it repeatedly if the songs are to appear familiar and catchy. To make things worse, the songs are not well integrated into the main story line nor are they spaced out well into the film, yet another screenplay fault. And in spite of some energetic dance steps, the songs seem to lack in energy with some truly ordinary choreography. The best tuned song is undoubtedly Tere Bina and sadly it suffers from being placed really badly in the flow of the film. And the less said about the Bhang song or Mallika Sherawat’s dancing the better. What a let down!
Technically again, the film fails to measure up to a Mani Ratnam film. Sound cuts are jerky in several places. Editing of the film could have been tighter particularly in the second half. Rajiv Menon’s cinematography is dazzlingly brilliant at places (see the sequences of Aishwarya on the bicycle as she runs away from home for example) but inconsistent. The Turkey sequences look hurriedly shot through as though the unit had limited time at their disposal.
All in all average at best and a disappointment from Mani Sir, but yes, still better than most of the films you see on the Hindi screen today. But then, that isn’t saying much, is it?
Hindi, Drama, Color