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Ramu Gupta (Jimi Mistry) is a young Indian dance instructor was wants to make it big in America. But the road to fame is paved with misadventures and Ramu winds up as a waiter at an Indian Restaurant in New York. When he successfully auditions for Dwain (Michael McKean) of Ramrod Productions to star opposite Sharonna (Heather Graham), he is unaware that he has in fact, signed to work in an adult movie. In the meantime, he is fired from his job at the restaurant, but finds himself re-hired, when he saves the day for his caterer boss and fills in for the hired spiritual guru to entertain New Age socialite Lexi (Marisa Tomei) at her birthday dinner. Lexi is smitten and Ramu enlists Sharonna’s help to enlighten him on all matters sexual.

Review by Louise Keller:
With its colourful psychedelic menus and accompanying new age music on DVD, it’s easy to be swept back into the frivolous, fun mood of The Guru. For a minute I thought I was back in the 60s, but I quickly fell under the spell of this delightful film filled with escapism and plenty of energy and laughs from its inventive script.

It’s the tale of an ambitious dance teacher whose eyes sparkle with John Travolta fever, as he yearns for the stardom of the Stars and Stripes variety. Echoing resonances from American Desi, this Bollywood goes to Hollywood tale has the dash and splash of Strictly Ballroom and the sweet heart of Bend It Like Beckham. We start in a suburban New Delhi dance class for housewives, venture into New York porn movies studios (where you ‘get hard or get going’), before landing on stage as a self-proclaimed spiritualist sexpert, guiding the masses like a traffic light at a busy intersection.

According to Jimi Mistry in his commentary, although the dance class is shot in New York, the opening scenes when we meet Ramu, are shot in the streets of India. He confesses that he has never been to India and what a thrill it was to be filming there despite the heat (he had to change shirts 20 times a day!) and he describes the nervous energy he shed when riding a motorcycle for the first time in the busy streets. But what struck me most of all when listening to his commentary, is his accent: he has an English accent reminiscent of Clive Owen, and sounds nothing like his onscreen persona.

Mistry’s onscreen appeal is in abundance, gliding easily from confident charmer to vulnerable victim, while Heather Graham is ravishing as the porn star, cum teacher, cum Hindi Princess cum bride-to-be. (Director Daisy Von Scherler comments that there are very few actresses with such beauty and comedic flair.) The film offers many memorable moments and I guarantee you will never again think of Billy Joel’s song ‘Just the Way You Are’ without chuckling. Mistry and Graham have great chemistry and make an irresistible yin and yan east/west style. All the cast is excellent and Marisa Tomei is appealing as the poor-little-rich girl intent on claiming anyone’s spirituality as her security blanket. As Ramu says ‘Dancing is like love: you need to move your feet to the beat of your heart’ and in this happy lollypop on a stick, our hearts are beaming from ear to ear. 

The half a dozen deleted scenes are prefaced with a title card to explain context, and are mildly interesting. I like the extended opening scene that firmly establishes the colourful Indian locations even better - we see decorated elephants in the busy streets, peddling rickshaws, crowds and garlands. There’s a cute scene only a few seconds long when Lexi complains to Ramu in bed ‘Is Guru sex always so fast?’ Marisa Tomei’s expression is a classic.

Director Daisy Von Scherler Mayer and writer Tracey Jackson cover some interesting ground in their audio commentary, and point out improvisations and how each take was totally different. One notable scene is when Ramu and Sharonna are rehearsing for the porn movie, which is one of the film’s funniest. And in the scene when Ramu auditions for the director and performs his seemingly spontaneous strip-dance, you may be interested to hear that it was actually unrehearsed, having been worked out in Mistri’s trailer before the scene was shot. There’s a photo gallery and a few trailers – the only connection I could make for including a trailer of Ned Kelly, is that Graham was once the real-life girlfriend of Heath Ledger. But I think it’s stretching things a little far to imagine that is the reason for its inclusion. 

I loved every minute of The Guru – it’s a vibrant charmer that dazzles and delights from start to finish. It’s a terrific DVD and one that bears repeated viewing.

Published June 5, 2003

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CAST: Heather Graham, Ramu Gupta, Marisa Tomei

DIRECTOR: Daisy Von Scherler Mayer

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

PRESENTATION: Aspect Ratio - Anamorphic Widescreen; Audio – 5.1 Surround/DTS

SPECIAL FEATURES: SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary with director Daisy Von Scherler Mayer and writer Tracey Jackson; commentary with Jimy Mistry; deleted scenes; Sugarbabes music video; photo gallery; trailers of The Guru, Ned Kelly, Johnny English


DVD RELEASE: June 4, 2003

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