Citizen GuruKant3 min read

Thakur: Nahi jailer sahab, agar ek taraf in me ye sab kharaabiyaa hai to doosari taraf kuchh khubiyaa bhi hai.
Jailer: Khota sikka to dono hi taraf se khota hota hai.
Thakur: Sikke aur insaa me shayad yehi fark hai….
(From ‘Sholay’)

It is this ‘Fark’ that Maniratnam brings to the fore in the characterization of ‘Gurukanth Desai’, his starry-eyed protagonist. And inspite of all the ‘kharaabiyan’ his detractors find in his approach of running a business, Guru marches on and emerges a winner. Maniratnam takes all the contrasting views on Gurukanth Desai and weaves an endearing tale, almost attempting a Citizen Kane. But he stays away from the darker side of the force and just when things start to become a little heavy and megalomaniac for Bollywood standards, he pulls ‘Guru’ back rather abruptly to a predictable ending. And the story moves out of the movie as Gurubhai’s unexplained and enigmatic legacy.


Coming to the story of the movie, it deals with the five phases of Guru’s life.

  • The formative years and breaking away from tradition.
  • Riding a flight of fancy and chasing a dream.
  • Rising over the peers.
  • Battling with his detractors.
  • Emerging invincible and in the process become larger than life.

While Maniratnam and his crew shine in the first three, it is Abhishek Bachchan all the way in the last two. Infact it is his stellar performance that saves the second half which is a tad weak and monotonous compared to the first. Fortunately, Abhishek peaks at the right time to carry the rest of the movie on his shoulders. It is as if he emerges from his Guru, Maniratnam’s shadows.

It is given that technical standards are noteworthy in Maniratnam’s films. But ‘Guru’ raises the bar in production design, cinematography and audiography, all of them well blended into story telling. Whether it is the remote village in Gujarat or the dance hall that showcases Mallika Sherawat, or the bustling streets of Mumbai, the trio of Samir Chanda (Production Design), Rajiv Menon (Cinematography) and H. Sridhar (Audiography) succeed in creating an immersion factor for the audience. In particular Maniratnam uses the street set of Mumbai to good effect before the song sequence of ‘Tere Bina’.

Speaking of songs, there is not much to mention. AR Rahman comes with an average effort and his songs come as speed breakers to narration especially in the second half. But, he redeems himself with a memorable background score, and the theme of Guru haunts you long after you leave the movie theatre.

There has been some talk about the story based on the life of Dhirubhai Ambani and the likes. But as the movie progresses into second half, Maniratnam steers away from this line and creates an Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead kind of power-battle with Mithun Chakraborty, Madhavan, Abhishek Bachchan and Vidya Balan at the vertices. As ‘Guru’ is bombarded with lot of facts and morals, the story telling becomes rather technical and internalized. But Abhishek’s performance takes your mind away from all these and his aplomb carries you away, specially in the climax which is molded on the lines of The Godfather Part II.

The rest of the star cast headed by Aishwarya Rai is adequate and fits nicely into the journey of ‘Guru’. In a biopic kind of a movie, you can never really cover every angle, but two aspects are quite glaring. One is the absence of a steady competitor in Guru’s line of business and the missing conflict. Second, there is no consistent portrayal of Guru’s people management, vital in a business leader’s growth. But these could be brushed away as minor looking at the ground covered already.

In the end ‘Guru’ is a thourougly watchable fare with lot of ‘khubiyaa’. Enjoy it in a multiplex near you. (In ordinary theatres the sound mixing is just not right).

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Related links
Laksh on Maniratnam’s Guru
Guru’s official site

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