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"Guru" I Like this movie

By Subhash K Jha

Starring Mithun Chakraborty, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Madhavan, Vidya Balan
Directed by Mani Rathnam

Polyster gets a silken treatment in the hands of one of India's most accomplished technicians and raconteurs. Thanks in no small measure to Abhishek Bachchan's career-defining performance Guru stands tall among the the techno-savvy films where huge stars have played gizmo-gorged title roles with cold clinical detachment.

Guru has a lived-in warm feeling to it. From the Gujarati village to Istanbul to the murky machinations of the business world in Mumbai….Mani Rathnam's wannabe tycoon travels the gamut of land and emotions with an astonishing spectrum of characters and situations to support the ambitions of both the protagonist and his creator.

"Don't be a dreamer," warns the ambitious Gurukant Desai.

We can't really accept that cynical reading of human aspirations…not in a film that comes from one of the greatest visionaries of Indian cinema.

Mani Rathnam has made it a habit to create new lyrical modes of expressing cinematic exuberance without going over-board. In Guru he again refrains from toppling over in excitement as he recreates the life and times of an industrialist who would go to any lengths to achieve his means.

In weaving in and out of what looks like a quasi-biopic, Mani also finds space to create a superb love story between Guru and his eminently supportive wife Sujata (Aishwarya Rai) who shares not only her husband's dreams but also some of his avarice for materialism.

When he buys her a much-missed swing in the city-home to give her a whiff of their village life Sujata pouts, "I thought you'd get saris and jewellery".

Ironically when she discovers he married her for her money, she pouts sulks and goes into a nostalgic love song that seems to owe its playful effervescence to Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam.

The songs (composed with dreamy disdain by A.R Rahman) are an exasperating nuisance. The long narration opens with Mallika Sherawat cavorting frantically in Kabul….and moves quickly to Aishwarya Rai in the village frolicking songfully in the rain.

Visually correct and compelling the two music-video images bringing together the two contrasting faces of seduction do not occupy any thoughtful spatial harmony.

Blissfully, a great deal of thought has gone into creating a dramatic conflict between the newspaper baron Manik Dasgupta (Mithun Chakraborty), his excessively upright deputy Shyam (Madhavan) and the acutely corruptible stalwart Guru who actually has the gall to compare himself to Bapuji (Mahatma Gandhi) in his rousing rhetorical finale.

"Forty years ago another man broke the law. We call him Bapu," argues Gurukant at the inquiry commission (visualized on the lines of Hollywood's A Few Good Men and other courtroom dramas) as Roshan Seth (compelling as the head of the commission) watches open-mouted.

Honestly! Integrity isn't obtainable in the selfconscious dialogues. Nor does the crusader-journalist's attempt to bring down the business tycoon ring completely true.

It's the Ash-Abhishek axis that gives a sublime spin to Rathnam's rhetorical raga of rags to riches.

Whether it was the Tamil Moun Ragam or the Hindi Bombay, marital moments have always been Mani's forte. This time too he infuses the sometimes-over-stylized visuals with wonderfully warm moments between husband and wife as they climb the slippery rungs of his dreams and ambitions.

While Abhishek goes with age-defying fluency from wild child to paralyzed orator, Aishwarya stands next to him with passionate grace. Together the couple creates an arching yin and yang. Watch Aishwarya's subtle play of defiant longing in the sequence where she jumps into the train taking away her away newly-married husband.

In the sequences where she communicates her paralyzed husband's ideas to sundry aggressive forces, her face registers every bit of the wife's determined devotion.

Abhishek moves with agile fury through every phase of his character's transition from dreamer to schemer. But you wish there was more of Mithun.

Madhavan's earnest performance is marred by an excessively idealistic characterization. Crusading journalism is all very fine. But marrying a girl with multiple-scleroris (Vidya Balan, wasted) seems more a sign of emblematic idealism than the real thing.

The visuals are unnecessarily manipulative. The kiss between Madhavan and Vidya Balan in the pouring rain makes you wonder which came first…the rain or the pain. Finally though, you're looking at a film which leaves your misgivings far behind and races towards a summit where manipulation is often confused with morality.

When Mithun as the newspaper baron orders his angelic deputy to go ahead with yet another expose on Gurukant Desai although he has suffered a paralytic stroke, you suddenly see what Mani Rathnam wants you to see.

There're no blacks and whites in contemporary life. There are the shimmering colours of romance and rage that you often crave for in real life and sometimes find in your movies.

Guru gives you the comfort of seeing idealism being subverted by the supple hands of creativity into a force that's at once intoxicating and tragic.

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