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Mani Ratnam
Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Mithun, Madhavan, Vidya Balan
Rajiv Menon
Madras Talkies
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Mani Ratnam’s Guru is undoubtedly a gutsy and outstanding film. He may have denied it before the release of the film but Guru is definitely a bio-pic on Dhirubhai Ambani, the Reliance industry founder.

It is all about Ambani’s rags-to-riches story from early 50’s to mid 80’s. Mani tells us about the life and times of a man who became a messiah for the middle class in the country. Mani’s Gurukanth Desai brilliantly portrayed by Abhishek Bachchan dares to dream big. To realize his dreams he crosses many hurdles, often cutting corners and is accused of making the system corrupt by using morally questionable means to achieve his goals.

Lets face it. Dhirubhai, like our protagonist Gurukanth Desai was a real hero for millions of Indians as he believed in sharing his wealth with the very same people who contributed to his company initially. Mani has used this larger-than-life figure of Guru to not only glorify him but also make us root for him when he lands in conflict with the government and its agencies along with rivals who are out to crush his spirit and company.

The film works in a similar pattern to the way that superheroes in a mass masala film beats up more than a dozen guys and wins against all odds. The tagline of the film clearly conveys the story of Guru - Villager, Visionary, Winner! And Mani sir the king of romance has weaved a beautiful love story with several magical moments-the bedroom scene where the couple playfully smack each other, the scene when he presents her a swing as Guru tells her his future dreams or the kitchen scene when he hugs her while she cooks- all stay in your mind.

Mani is one of the few directors in Indian cinema who understands the intimate portraits of love and human relationships which he conveys subtlety and effectively. Abhishek-Ash on screen chemistry has never been so good, as unlike other directors Mani is not carried away by their star status that both look so natural and real.

The scene where Guru comes to ManekDas Gupta’s (Mithun Chakravarthy as the late legendary Ramnath Goenka) house and the confrontation scene that happens is brilliant. No loud background score, no shouting, no melancholy - just an exchange of words which convey the break up between the two is one of the best scenes in the film.

However the highlight of the film is the climax scene as Guru faces the enquiry commission set up by the government. Mani seems to have been influenced by Martin Scorsese’s classic The Aviator(2004) a bio-pic on the legendary US millionaire Howard Hughes played by Leonardo DeCaprio. Full credit goes to Abhishek who speaks his mind without the aid of a lawyer and gets the audiences on his side when he is accused by the commission of profiteering and breaking customs and income tax laws in the country.

Outstanding performance is extracted from everyone in the cast. Armed with the film’s best written role, Abhishek Bachchan delivers the most outstanding performance of his career. He lives the role of Guru from a vibrant young boy to a responsible man to a successful businessman- he pours plenty of heartfelt emotions into his role. His body language, gait and dialogue delivery are superb.

Aishwarya Rai has never looked so natural in recent times. As Sujatha she is outstanding especially in the second half with a matured performance when she becomes Guru’s biggest support and pillar of strength. Mithun as the newspaper baron is dignified. Madhavan in a cameo is perfect while Vidya Balan is wasted in an inconspicuous role.

Like all Mani films, technically Guru is awesome with Raji Menon’s camerawork . The look and feel of the film the colour shift from yellow to blue hue, Turkey market, Aishwarya’s introductory song, railway station(Where did Mani get that black beauty steam engine train?) the switch pan court scenes in the climax are eye-catching. Plus Sameer Chanda’s artwork and Sreekar Prasad’s editing are the plus points.

The crisp dialogues of Vijay Krishna Acharya makes it a great film to watch. Though much has been said about A.R.Rahman’s songs, it is the background score which is a winner this time. Mani’s picturisation is good though there is nothing new like the Barso Re… song reminds you of the Roja song. The best among the lot is Mallika Sherawat’s Mayya Mayya….

On the downside the film is too long (2 hr 42 in) and drags in the second half. Too many songs, acts as a speed breaker especially the celebration song post interval Ek Lo Ek Muft… stands out like a sore thumb. The love between Madhavan and Vidya Balan lacks passion and the lengthy scene between the two which ends up in a lip lock is boring and tests the patience of the viewers.

Mani has to be appreciated for making a bio-pic the most difficult genre work. Guru is a mature, professionally made film with great performances. It is stylish, engrossing, classy and a must see for connoisseurs of good cinema.

Verdict: Very Good


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