GURU, THE(director: Daisy von Scherler Mayer; screenwriter: Tracey Jackson; cinematographer: John de Borman; editors: Bruce Green/Cara Silverman; music: David Carbonara; cast: Heather Graham (Sharonna), Jimi Mistry (Ramu Gupta), Marisa Tomei (Lexi), Michael McKean (Dwain), Dash Mihok (Rusty), Emil Marwa (Vijay), (Father Flannagan), Anita Gillette (Mrs. McGee), Pat McNamara (Mr. McGee), Dwight Ewell (Peaches), Christine Baranski (Chantal); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Tim Bevan/Eric Fellner; Studio Canal/Universal; 2002)
“This American version of a Bollywood musical is one of the worst films I have run across in the last few years.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This American version of a Bollywood musical is one of the worst films I have run across in the last few years. The music is loud and awful, the production values are the pits, the acting is lame, the garish colors of the stage sets are blinding and the script is regrettable. Its satire was crude to a level that goes beyond dumbness. The banal hero envisions the American Dream as a chance for him to become rich and famous, which makes it hard to sympathize with his climb up the ladder. Every time I thought it can’t get worse, it rose to new heights of crassness. Worse than its kitsch music or naive comedy or unfeeling romance story, is when it gets serious and starts moralizing. Peter Sellers, where are you when we need you most? The Guru’s star, Jimi Mistry, had no feel for screwball comedy and lacked charisma and screen presence, and seemed more pompous than likable. All the satirical comedy routines felt flat because the comedy had no real life situations to bounce off. All the characters were cartoonish one-dimensional types, which made it improbable that the spoof could work effectively. Things felt as fake as the fake guru. The moral lessons handed out could drive one to strangle the guru and all his cronies, and the gods would probably smile with approval. If I heard the film’s mantra: “Move your feet to the beat of your heart” one more time, I think I would have given up and shut the DVD off.
Ramu Gupta (Jimi Mistry) is an ambitious and sexy young Indian dance teacher of older Delhi women who has visions of himself becoming the next John Travolta from Grease. He’s influenced by his relative Vijay’s letters of success in America and gives up his supportive middle-class family and goes to New York City. Instead of finding Vijay living in a penthouse, Ramu finds him driving a cab and living in a crowded Queens walk-up apartment with other Indian immigrants.
Ramu gets a job waiting tables at an Indian restaurant, but gets fired when he overreacts to a racist customer’s complaints over the curry. He then auditions for a porno film and by dancing the Macarena gets the starring part. The cheery porno filmmaker (McKean) is bemused that Ramu, dressed in an Hawaiian grass skirt, can’t get an erection with the sexy porn star Sharonna (Graham), as the embarrassed Ramu walks off the set complaining he can’t perform when others are watching. The porn scenes were PG-13 shots. Everything in this film is fake, even its cynical take on gurus and the elite.
Ramu’s luck changes when at a socialite’s catered birthday party, the Indian hired to be the swami by Mrs. McGee gets too drunk to perform and Ramu subs. He dances the Macarena with the guests, says some vacuous nothings, and the elite are impressed with his superficial anti-materialistic philosophy. He immediately beds down with the spiritually searching New Age socialite birthday girl, Lexi (Tomei), and becomes the sex guru. Lexi gets him private advice sessions with all her neurotic acquaintances and a showbiz agent. The sleazy agent gets the fake guru Broadway theater dates for one-man shows and bookings on the Sally Jesse Raphael daytime TV talk show. Realizing he’s a chowder-head and hasn’t even read Deepak Chopra, he turns to porn star Sharonna for her sex philosophy–agreeing only to not make a play for her or tell anyone where he got these lessons. He buys her an $800 wedding cake and she schools him about the mysteries of sex, which leads to him making a fortune and gaining fame. Sharonna is leading a double life, as she’s engaged to a straight-laced fireman, Rusty, whose Catholic beliefs prevent him from having sex before marriage. She pretends to be a substitute teacher, as she fears that if Rusty finds out about her secret life he’ll dump her. It all leads to Sharonna falling in love with Ramu because he loves her for what she is. This romance happens even though there’s no chemistry between them. And, in an unconvincing and unfunny manner, this becomes another film that rips off the wedding ending to The Graduate.
Daisy von Scherler Mayer is the director. Tracey Jackson is the screenwriter, who worked on the original idea by the executive producer Shekhar Kapur (he directed Elizabeth). Be warned: the only wisdom you’ll gain from this movie, is to get your antenna up when another Bollywood movie comes around about a guru.
REVIEWED ON 7/31/2003 GRADE: D
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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