The Guru

(Daisy Von Scherler Mayer, USA, 2002)


This is a light comedy which achieves a level of frothy, clichéd unreality far more successfully and pleasingly than the contemporaneous hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002).

Ramu (Jimi Mistry) is an Indian dance instructor who prefers Grease (1978) and the Macarena to his native tradition of the Bollywood musical. He travels to New York with his head full of the American Dream. His Indian companions, who have managed only to become waiters or cab drivers, assure him it is indeed only a dream.

Through unlikely circumstances, Ramu takes on a fake identity and becomes popular as the Guru of Sex. All his wisdom in this area comes from Sharonna (Heather Graham), who is unaware of his masquerade. In turn, Sharonna’s fiancé is oblivious to her secret life as a porn star.

The Guru is a paper-thin confection. The plot has credibility problems, characters such as the neurotic rich girl Lexi (Marisa Tomei) are familiar caricatures, and it is an oddly chaste film considering that sex is its central subject.

But director Daisy Von Scherler Mayer (Party Girl, 1995) gives it a winning charm, and at least moves it beyond the rigid formula employed usually employed by this production company, Working Title (Notting Hill, 1999).

It has been fascinating to watch how Bollywood has become, over the past few years, a trendy reference in Western pop culture, with glimpses of this form of spectacle in films as diverse as Moulin Rouge (2001) and Ghost World (2001). But a condescending at-arms-length approach to Indian popular art still generally holds sway.

The Guru takes a modest step forward in this regard. The Bollywood-style musical sequences are done with great flair and energy, and are essentially faithful to the Indian style. This is due in large part to the contribution of choreographer Mary Ann Kellogg who, as she proved in Superstar (1999), is a master at crafting zany, spirited dance routines.

© Adrian Martin November 2002

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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