Saturday, January 13, 2007


Why would anyone want to watch a barely fictionalised / semi-biographical account of one of India’s most successful businessmen ? Is it to ‘learn’ how to dream ? Or would it be to ‘learn’ how to make the dreams into reality ? If it’s the former, you’re going to love the movie. If its the latter, then, like me, you’re going to be disappointed…

Guru is an enjoyable story, at least in the first half. But its enjoyable only because of Abhishek and Aishwarya – I thought both really excelled in the movie…the plot / the story moves fast, too fast for me and without really developing any of the characters. I got the sense of someone trying to show us a big picture, a vision but without any attention to detail.

The first half focuses on how a good-for-nothing boy (Guru Kant Desai, played by Abhishek Bachchan), who has failed his exams, still dares to dream. How, in chasing the dream, he first goes to Turkey and then returns to set up a business. His father, a simple school teacher and failed business man, is completely opposed to the idea of doing business. But with the encouragement of his mother and his own self-belief, he sets about his task. He gets the seed capital by marrying Sujata (Aishwarya Rai), who is not very marriageable as she had tried to elope and hence now has a sizeable dowry as encouragement. He then goes to Bombay and tries to get into the clothes business – but finds it a ‘closed club’, with entry barriers at every step. With a never say die spirit, he triumph’s over every obstacle and starts to become big. He makes friends with a independent newspaperman, Nanaji (played by Mithun Chakrabarty), and enlists his help in tearing down some of the barriers.

The second half focuses on the kinds of issues he faces post-growth. How his rapid rise leads to many enemies. How Nanaji turns against him and with the help of a reporter starts publishing reports about his various wrong-doings (excise evasion, export scams, political nexus, general corruption etc). How the once grateful public turns against him. And how, thanks to his never say die spirit, he still continues to fight….

While it is established quite quickly and quite well that young Guru has a lot of spirit and big dreams, we never get to see any of the business sense behind him that actually propelled him forward. We never understood why he chose to deal in polyster instead of the cotton that everyone else was trading in. We never understood how / why he decided to get into chemicals, or started going to the people for money instead of banks (public issue instead of debt via banks) or why he chose to do the scams that he did get involved in (what was his logic ?). Which is why at the end it is not clear at all, either to us or to the commission trying Guru in the movie, whether we really saw a visionary or just a guy who was at the right place at the right time and just got lucky. Was he a genius or a thug ?

The movie also has several threads, a few of which were completely unnecessary and several of which are left loose at the end and not tied up which I found quite ironical for a movie about someone in the cloth business. There are several characters / relationships that are not explained / understood at all – for example, Guru’s brother in law, who leaves the business quite abruptly, Nanaji’s daughter, Meenu (Vidya Balan), a handicapped girl who thinks the world of Guru etc.

And something else I don’t get is this pussyfooting around whether it is about Dhirubhai Ambani or not ? The movie begins with the standard ‘work of fiction’ disclaimer and the official website also does nothing to clarify the point. However, if this is a work of fiction, then it borrows too many things from Dhirubhai’s life (Gujarati, dealing in cloth, polyster, enemies named Contractor who are too similar to the Wadia’s, an AGM in Wankhede stadium etc) …and I don’t like this inherent dishonesty / ambivalence. Perhaps this is what also contributed to the unravelling of the second half.

Abhishek carries the movie quite well – his smile, childish enthusiasm, his spirit comes out quite beautifully. He also manages the quite melodramatic ending well. Aishwarya has a role devoid of any glamour, and for me settles the argument once and for all that she is quite a talented actress, not just a pretty face. However, her role is extremely short changed in the film and there is a stark difference between the conception and the execution of the character. One of the most telling indicators for me is the official website’s description of Sujata which begins with the following words ‘I hated my father for forcing me to marry Guru. I was sent away to Bombay to live with my unwanted husband and my anger in a one room chawl’. As someone who has just seen the movie, this is not true at all – that’s not what we saw ! She actually asks Abhishek to take her with him to Bombay ! And we see none of the anger against her father etc.

R Madhavan, as Nanaji’s ace reporter who leads the crusade against Guru, also excels in his role. The others do their roles, which are quite limited, as well as they possibly can. The songs are nice by themselves and are also nicely picturised but are completely unnecessary to the plot – they are all quite forced. For me, they even detract from the main story by making us lose the intensity of the film and of its central character.

For me this is a movie which has a lot of spirit but very little substance. It asks us to fly without giving us the wings. It shows a vision but without the path leading to it. I left the hall disappointed…it could have been so much better.


Shivani said...

Just saw the movie last night and thought it was very enjoyable. I think the movie was all Abhishek!!

Unknown said...

hi ,
apoorv bhaiya, i lost ur mail id, so had2find u on ur blog.
iam reetika ,i met u in jodhpur on d wedding.u rmbr?i read ur reviews i do disagree wt few of the, but still anyways i need a favour frm u plez do write back2me wen u get time.
thanx enjoy
will b waiting fr ur review on honeymoon pvt ltd

Apurv Nagpal said...

i would need your email id to write to you. u'r welcome to write to me at


Unknown said...

watched it - actually sat through Abhishek shocking over-acting (e.g. the scene in which he is lying in the hospital after his heart attack)...but the story was good and sort-of worth watching on DVD if you have nothing better to do...