The Guru

on January 31, 2003 by Chris Wiegand
Executive produced by Shekhar Kapur ("The Four Feathers"), "The Guru" is another polished picture from Working Title, the Hugh Grant hit factory responsible for "Notting Hill," "About A Boy" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral." A spirited (and spiritual) cross-cultural comedy, it could quite easily be called "Bollywood Hollywood," if Deepa Mehta hadn't already used the title.

The film follows Ramu (charismatic "East Is East" star Jimi Mistry), a dreamful Indian dance instructor who enjoys teaching the intricate twists of the Macarena yet really yearns for fame and fortune. Full of grand aspirations, he leaves New Delhi for New York with the hope of becoming a superstar. Resorting to the small ads, he accidentally auditions for a blue movie and is introduced to the equally idealistic porn star Sharonna (Heather Graham, drawing on her parts in "Boogie Nights" and "Bowfinger"). While it's soon apparent that Ramu isn't suited to adult entertainment, he's intrigued to hear his co-star share some of her particularly insightful sexual wisdom.

When Ramu finds himself at an exclusive uptown gathering, he regurgitates Sharonna's views on sex to the delectable and very wealthy Lexi ("In The Bedroom's" Marisa Tomei"). A New Age freak looking for a new whim, Lexi is impressed and reinvents Ramu as the "Guru of sex," spreading the word among the upper echelons of Manhattan. Fame awaits, but is that what Ramu really wants?

From its fish-out-of-water scenario and rags-to-riches trajectory to its predictable twists and convoluted conclusion, "The Guru" is every bit as formulaic as Working Title's earlier comic fodder. Nevertheless, it's easy to forgive this colorful fable's foibles, principally because it never takes itself too seriously. There's much to relish here, including a raft of deft supporting performances. A brisk narrative is embellished with some exuberant and imaginatively choreographed musical numbers, while Tracey Jackson's piquant screenplay balances bawdy comedy with a perceptive critique of cultural flirtation. Entertaining, if not exactly enlightening. Starring Jimi Mistry, Heather Graham, Marisa Tomei and Christine Baranski. Directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer. Written by Tracey Jackson. Produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Michael London. A Universal release. Comedy. Rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, and for language. Running time: 95 min

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