Sunday, February 18, 2007

Guru left me with mixed feelings. I went in with low expectations, since Mani Ratnam's previous efforts in Hindi had been patchy at best.
Firstly, it is clearly based on Dhirubhai Ambani's life. The parallels are numerous - right from the main protagonist working in Turkey (Dhirubhai worked in Aden), to his run ins with old money (his spat with Nusli Wadia), being mentored by a newspaper baron and the subsequent fallout (Ramnath Goenka), the paralytic stroke (Dhirubhai had one in 1986 or around that time), to of course the similarities in the business - polyester and chemicals. And not to forget, the huge shareholder meetings, which was a first in India at the time.
The movie brings out brilliantly the atmosphere that prevailed in India during the license raj, how difficult it was for an entrepreneur to succeed- yet Mani Ratnam falls prey to the disease that afflicts Bombay filmmakers - which is the need to create a 'hero'. Not even Dhirubhai Ambani's biggest admirers would have accused him of being morally clean or upright ( 20 years on, people like Narayana Murthy and Azim Premji have significantly cleaner reputations) - but Gurubhai Desai at the end of the movie is painted like some crusading messiah, trying to lift everyone out of poverty against the rich elite holding them back.
And in doing so, a lot of things get messed up. Everything is either good or bad - black or white, which is just plain strange. Ramnath Goenka and Dhirubhai fought all because Ramnath chose to support Nusli Wadia and spurned Dhirubhai