The Guru

Bollywood's slow invasion of America makes a movie like The Guru possible. Over the past couple years, Lagaan, Monsoon Wedding, and even American Chai are introducing domestic audiences to the world of Indian cinema, where everybody breaks out into song and dance. The Guru is also one of those every-increasing movies about the immigrant experience in America (and one of the few without the word "American" in its title). Like most immigrants, Ramu Gupta (Jimi Mistry, The Mystic Masseur, East is East) wants to come to America to succeed. He loves to dance and sing, and wants to be a huge movie star (although there are no Indian stars in America). As a child, he snuck into American musicals while his parents watched Indian films.

The Guru is certainly a strange movie. On one hand, it is a romantic comedy. On the other, part of it is set in the world of pornography. Still, writer Tracey Jackson manages to keep an overall whimsical tone. The movie comes alive in its choreographed numbers, when the proceedings become quite loony. However, for most of it, it remains stuck in romantic comedy mode; ever predictable and a little dull. Gupta answers an ad for what he thinks is an audition, and lands on the set of an adult movie where he meets porn star Sharonna (Heather Graham, From Hell, Sidewalks of New York). At the same time, he is working as a waiter when circumstances allow him to pretend to be a swami. The first thing that comes to mind is the advice Sharonna gave him, so he says it and becomes a hit with Lexi (Marisa Tomei, The Wild Thornberrys Movie, Just a Kiss). Lexi is rich and adoring, and ready to introduce Gupta to all her friends who are willing to pay for multiple sessions.

Gupta goes back to Sharonna and asks for more love advice, in the guise of furthering his career as a porn star. He turns around and dispenses this advice to Lexi and her friends, becoming a hot commodity in the process. He is becoming a star, and falling in love with Sharonna. For her part, Sharonna thinks that all her conversations with Gupta are private. See where this is heading? Director Daisy von Scherler Mayer (Madeline, Woo) never intends to make The Guru anything more than a light-hearted look at Gupta's life, and it succeeds on the level of being a pleasant diversion.

The fact that The Guru is just plain different makes it on the refreshing side. The three leads are appealing in their own manner. All of them bring a sort of wide-eyed innocence to their roles, Graham and Tomei for their purposeful vapidity, paradoxically covering a deeper sense of intelligence, and Mistry for his unending eagerness. Von Scherler Mayer has a lot to poke fun at with porn, American culture, and Indian culture, and does so, but never in a spiteful manner. It's all very superficial, but enough to make one smile.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 34 minutes, Rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, and for language.

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