GURU is the story of a man who wants to make money. He has the gumption and the smarts to do it too; what I would call a jugaadu person. How he does what he does, and how he progresses from a village lad to a rich mill-owning tycoon, is the movie. The film is fairly biographical, bears a striking resemblance to Dhirubhai Ambani’s life, and appears almost documentar-ish, except for the fact that the director actually takes sides, and chooses to paint the protagonist in heroic and altruistic colors.
Gurukant Desai (Abhishek) is the ambitious son of a small-time school teacher (Rajendra Gupta). After failing at school and earning his pessimistic father’s displeasure he travels to Turkey for work. There he does well, but opts to return home to work for himself. Home, and lacking enough capital to start his own business, he marries his best friend Jignesh’s (Arya Babbar) elder sister for her dowry money. The lady in question, Sujata (Aishwarya) has a tainted reputation, since she has attempted previously to run-away with a lover. Now, “saved” by Guru, she becomes his loving and devoted wife. Guru embarks in his new business venture in the city with his wife and her brother (who is his partner), and thus starts his journey . . .
The movie faithfully follows Guru’s trials, tribulations and successes, portraying Guru has a hard-working, industrious and extremely enterprising man. He succeeds by, as he puts it himself, the bribe and the kick philosophy. Where he can get work done through a “kick”, he lets loose, and where people want salaams, he salutes. He gets work done anyway he can, caring not about his many detractors but concentrating instead on forging ahead. Guru truly embodies the visionary, taking risks, and reading needs and markets correctly when other go astray. Abhishek does a sterling job as Guru, ebullient as the young Guru, and growing convincingly into the middle-aged, sport-a-paunch industrialist.
Then there’s Mithunda, making a comeback to the acting skills (Mrigaya, Sitara) I was sure he’d forgotten after he donned those Disco dancing shoes. As newspaperman Manik Dasgupta, he looks old and quite the Bengali babu (which is what he’s playing) who, with his journalistic second-in-command Shyam Saxena (a thinned-down Madhavan) is for doing things by the book and thus against Guru’s devious ways. Quite the communist foil to Guru’s capitalist dreams. The duo, through their newspaper “The Independent” expose and malign Guru’s methods. Vidya Balan plays Meenu, Manik’s ailing grand-daughter, who marries Shyam.
The film isn’t boring, and I’m not too keen on bio-pics, but it does lack the oomph, because one can’t really get behind Guru’s cause. I mean I’m all for making money. Money is a good thing. But let’s call a spade a spade, and not hide all our lets-get-rich schemes under the guise of doing “world-good”. I would be happy championing Guru’s cause if he declared that he did it because that was the way to make money, money he wanted for his family and for himself. That’s not a bad thing to want. However, when Guru runs into trouble with the government for resorting to unethical practices, he justifies it as doing it for the people - “My company benefited but so did my shareholders”. Oh please ! No one does it for the share-holders; that is but a side-effect. We know why Guru resorts to bribes. It’s because you cannot be an honest cog in the wheel of a corrupt system. So I would forgive Guru all his misdemeanors , and nod my head in empathy, if he told it like it is. Does Guru really believe he's altruistic ? If yes, that’s a bit pompous and hard to believe. If not, then Guru is presenting the “altruism” theory as a part of his conniving persona, which doesn’t jell well when you’re trying to believe that he’s a do-gooder with a heart of gold.
I do see director Ratnam addressing societal changes; Yuva dealt with youth action, and “Dil se” dealt with terrorists. So when he develops Guru’s story into a case against the government for throttling enterprising entrepreneurs, you can sort of see where he’s going, and sympathise. When Guru berates the government bureaucracy as working only when oiled with money, you nod your head in agreement. Yes, government rules may be archaic and stupid, but they must be amended and made to work not only for people like the devious Guru, but for the common man on the street.
So, overall this film was good, definitely watchable. Without the pomposity and the self-righteousness, I’d have enjoyed it a whole lot more.