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THE GURU (article first published : 2003-01-5)

Hollywood meets Bollywood, Grease meets Boogie Nights and romantic comedy gets sprinklings of spice while remaining a very sweet meat in The Guru.

A frivolous mickey-take of the Bollywood musical genre, the porn flick industry, New York's eye-rolling nouveau riche set and matters of spiritual enlightenment, the film has achieved some good box-office abroad. It was given a special media preview in Durban at which those marketing it spoke excitedly about its local expectations and promised an hilarious, memorable treat.

However, after a truly wonderful, often highly-amusing first 10 or 15 minutes, The Guru, is quick to sputter, creak and tumble, becoming a limp and lacklustre, goofily lightweight comedy that disappoints.

The story is of Ramu (East is East charmer Jimi Maistry), a lowly dance instructor in India who teaches The Macarena to neighbourhood aunties, idolises John Travolta and dreams of strutting his stuff in the US of A. He heads for New York but, finding it hard to get a bite on the Big Apple, lands up as a waiter before auditioning to appear in what turns out to be a tacky porn movie.

A novel audition gets him the part, but more problems crop up when he is unable to rise to the occasion, as it were. And this is in spite of some gentle coaching and homespun wisdom from his pretty but dim co-star, Sharonna (Heather Graham), who leads her airhead boyfriend to believe she's a prim schoolteacher.

So Ramu turns to odd jobs again and finally cracks it big when a New Age therapy fanatic, naiive socialite Lexi (a hammy Marisa Tomei), takes him under her wing and turns him into a celebrity among those in her giddy social circle.

Ramu is labelled a hot sex guru, when all he is really doing is regurgitating the bargain-bin sex pep talk he heard from an unknowing Sharonna. And he is soon on the way to the stardom he craves.

The film, it must be noted, has some funny lines and some amusing Bollywood pastiche. But it runs out of steam and becomes corny and soppy. And Heather Graham, sadly, proves once again that she is as awful an actress as she is a pretty one.

Also featuring Christine Baranski and Michael Ontkean, The Guru gets a rating of 5/10. Billy Suter




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