The Guru

| February 4, 2003

Ramu Gupta grew up in his native India watching homegrown movies of his country but enjoying those which came from the United States far more. He became a dance instructor while cultivating his dream to become a star in Hollywood. Upon arriving in the US he found that it was going to be a lot harder than expected and he ends up working in a restaurant with his cousin, Vijay (Emil Marwa from East is East).
This is the beginning of The Guru, a new comedy by director Daisy von Scherler Mayer (Party Girl, Woo). Jimi Mistry (East is East, Mystic Masseur) is Ramu, whose first opportunity as an actor comes in a porno film. He is unable to…perform…and is bounced from the set. His costar in that venture is Sharonna (Heather Graham) who begins to give him tops on how to use his naked body as a costume so he can forget that there are 20 people watching him do his thing.
As happens many times, timing is the key to gaining success and during a high-society birthday party that his restaurant is catering, an the Indian Guru that is supposed to entertain the guests is unable, leaving a “performance” spot open for Gupta. Not knowing what a guru should say, Gupta falls back on what he has been taught by Sharonna–repackaging it for the non-porno audience.
The party was being thrown for a codependent socialite named Lexi (Marisa Tomei–In the Bedroom, My Cousin Vinny) and she immediately grasps onto Gupta as her new spiritual leader and introduces him to a who’s who of societal believers. Gupta goes from guru to THE GURU and begins to discover what he really wants in the world of fame and fortune.
I’m not sure what the target for this movie is going to be. It is certainly funny, but a lot of the humor revolves around the stereotype that all Indians in this country either A) work for 7-11 or B) drive a cab or C) work in an Indian restaurant. Oh, and don’t forget that they talk funny. Or that they have that unusual religious symbol on their foreheads. Or that their music has that particular high-pitched music that can be difficult on the uninitiated ear. Or that people from India are confused with Native Americans. You get the picture. I’m not sure that it is funny since the racial slang is coming in the form of self-deprecating humor, I leave that to those of Indian decent. There are several takeoffs on Indian films though not being an expert on the genre, I can’t tell you which ones. I will just tell you that they do a good job of comparing and contrasting the Indian and American version of the Musical Number, showing that they are not that different. It was written by first timer Tracey Jackson and as first movies go, is rather entertaining.
The acting is good. Mistry is interesting in his role, and Graham seems comfortable in the feminine lead of an offbeat comedy. She has had two other similar parts–in Say It Isn’t So and Committed–in which she is the wiser-than-she-seems girlfriend, and pulls it off because she has that girl next door kind of smile. Tomei is stunning as always, with one scene in her underwear that is absolutely titillating. Lexi gains the most enlightenment in this movie and we are very happy for her.
The Guru will probably find its way to video counters quite quickly and it’s from there you should definitely pull it. Maybe with some Chicken Tikka take out.

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