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"The Guru"

COMING IN the genre of "East Is East" and other such ventures featuring thoughts and ideas of India juxtaposed with Western culture is Universal Studios/ Canal and Working Title presentation, "The Guru". While the subject is pretty much routine — of a young man with stars in his eyes heading towards the land of opportunities for name, fame and money — the difference is in the use of psuedo-spiritualism combined with sex, to make it palatable and well ... rather funny.

Even as you chuckle through the film, you also wonder who is being made fun of? The Indians and their propensity to seek greener pastures and inadvertently make good; or the Americans — lonely and rudderless — finding solace in anything that self help gurus of peace preach? As the film progresses, you realise that the intention perhaps may not be to make a dig at either, but to look at a serious problem — in a tongue in cheek fashion. Which in turn, takes away the rough edges that could raise several hackles. It's certainly not a great film — even if you consider the fact that the combined talents of Hollywood and Bollywood biggies, for colour, melody visage and basics have gone into the venture. But you could pass those few hours experiencing some of the comic elements in the Big Apple.

Ramu, (Jimi Mistry) is a young Indian — a dance instructor at that — whose heart tells him to go to the U.S. to become a big star. How he passes over Bollywood for that same goal is beside the point. Plus he is lured to New York with his friend's promises of a fantastic life of fast cars, beautiful babes and a penthouse, only to find that the only job he will get is that of a waiter serving tandoori chicken — that too not too well it would seem. His constant `I want to act' lands him a small part in a porn film, but ah ...well — he just does not seem up to it. And his co-star Sharonna (Heather Graham) tells him a few axioms about performing with the mind. However the job lasts just a day and Ramu is back to basics, with no clue about how to fulfil his dreams.

Till such time he becomes a hasty replacement as a swamiji for a swank Manhattan party, where Indian gurus are the current flavour. And new age therapy crazed socialite Lexi (Marisa Tomei) is very taken up by him. Suddenly all that theory counsel by Sharonna comes useful and Ramu recycles her words of wisdom. A smitten Lexi embarks on a project to share him with the world and before long; Ramu becomes the guru of sex with every lonely, unhappy American wanting a piece of him.

The film has all the feel of a Hindi pot-boiler with some truly predictable situations and music — but what the heck — perhaps that's just the idea.

Director Daisy Von Scherler Mayer must have thought that its great to make a love story in the midst of some cultural differences and also prove that love really conquers all — conscience and truth. So what if there is such blatant oversell of the goodness of true love!

Heather Graham plays her part well as a porn star on one side and as a prim schoolteacher (so that her boyfriend would respect her) on the other. And yes she also does well when she has to parade and dance about like a true Indian heroine. Jimi Mistry is earnest and sincere even when he may have felt like a fool — when his body just won't respond while shooting for a porn film. He is rather lovable. Marisa Tomei is cute as the socialite on a quest for soulful wisdom.

Initially it was conceived by Shekhar Kapur, one of the producers, with the premise derived from his experience when he first moved to London as a young man. He just wanted to meet pretty blonde girls, but there was this whole reaction to him — people were sort of in awe about the whole mystical aspect of the fact that he was from India. It was fully developed by screenwriter Tracey Jackson into a crazy love story. As for the choreography, while Bollywood takes its inspiration from Hollywood musicals, this film re-invents the whole process and has come out with numbers where over 50 dancers have been taken from numerous universities and members of the South Asian Bangra dance groups.

Shot in New Delhi and New York, with the latter providing the true- immigrant-in-a-cultural-melting-pot feel, there is no holding back for this entire production — the more the merrier, the more melodrama the better, the more sparkle and colour, the better.


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