Archive for January, 2007

It’s been awhile since I saw a Mani Ratnam film, and I’ve been looking forward to the release of Guru. I was also encouraged by the film’s dream opening at the box office. And of course, there was also the media hype surrounding this Abhishek-Ash starrer.

So, when I finally got down to seeing the film today, my response could best be described as a mixed reaction.

I would be among the first to admit that Mani Ratnam is telling an unusual story in the Bollywood context. There are also very strong performances from Abhishek, Mithun, Vidya Balan and Madhavan. If that was not enough, Mani Ratnam does a Sanjay Leela Bhansali – ie, he actually gets Ash to act!!! And there are traces of the famed Ash-Abhishek chemistry (though I still think she makes a better couple with Hrithik in Dhoom 2)

In terms of technique, there are also glimpses of the trademark Mani Ratnam sense of melody and the penchant for idyllic pastoral settings.

But, the greatness of Guru ends there. The problem is that the film is trying to pack too much into one story. So it ends up telling you a lot of little things, and yet you end up leaving the theatre without carrying one single lasting impression of the movie. Except perhaps for the performances.

The impact of the film is also lessened by transitions in the lives of the characters that lack smoothness. The film is meant to cover over a decade in the life of the protagonist. But, the sense of passing time is never completely felt. Neither is the great struggle that begets success. Again, the problem is that the director is trying to cover too much ground in too little time. In situations like this, it pays for the director to just stop for a minute and focus.

Mani Ratnam also struggles to find a balance between his traditional simplicity and the glitz of Bollywood. In the attempt to juxtaposition elements, some of the glitz seems misplaced.

I was also disturbed by some of the messages that seemed to be made at the end of the film. Do the ends justify the means? If a businessman makes money for his shareholders is it alright for him to be corrupt? Is it okay to bribe or circumvent the law? If the answer to those questions is ‘yes’, we have never really understood the sickness of the corruption that eats into and stifles our system today.

Even if we ignore complex questions like the message of the film, it would be true to say that Guru has been let down by poor screenplay and direction. The saving grace lies in the great performances that you get to see. This is particularly unusual for a Mani Ratnam film.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t say that Guru is a bad film. But, I wouldn’t say that it is a great film either.
Let’s hope that 2007 has better examples of craft to offer.

Memories, time and distance

Posted: January 13, 2007 in Life and Living

A friend emailed to say that he was ‘tying the knot’. As I read his mail, there was this strong lingering sense of loss.

Once again, I thought of school. I don’t do that often these days.

I saw again the beginnings of many dreams and the struggle for excellence.

Friends names resurfaced, and then once more slipped into oblivion. Molly, beautiful Molly. Runjhun, my woman of substance. Archana, discerning spirit. Anjali, ever intuitive. Ruchika, my dearest friend. Where are they all?

More frightening… the self doubt.

Was I the person that I had dreamt that I would be?

Had I achieved the things that we discussed passionately till the early hours of the morning or had my mouth grown into a sullen pucker of embittered discontent?

Had I grown old?

I thought of my friend who I have watched grow from a boy into a man, albeit from a distance. There hardly remained any traces of the boy who had been my great friend.

I thought of the special bond between friends that had slowly disintegrated over the last decade. Bit by bit.

After all, if we had to still be friends, it had to be a new beginning every time. There was no occasion for that and it was never important enough.

Time and distance.

I am happy about my life. It would be true to say that while I have not achieved great success, I have never been so content. I am proud of my friend’s achievements and I am happy for all that he has found. But, there is also that lingering sadness for all that we have irretrievably lost.