I kept my word and watched the top-rated much-hyped path-breaking epoch-making [don’t I just LOVE using those cliches] well-shot Maniflick second day third show. I came back with mixed feelings, but somehow I don’t feel like writing a scathing mocking review, like I normally do. So this is going to be a propah review, fair to the movie, fair to all, considering that the movie has been quite fair to Dhirubhai, whoops, Gurubhai. Yeah, contrary to all you’ve been hearing from the movie’s makers, it’s a thinly-veiled tale heavily inspired by Mr. Ambani’s meteoric rise. I don’t think I should go into the storyline much, coz you reading this must have heard it already from your sis/bro/neighbor/friend if you haven’t already given it a watch.
Where do I start? The beginning. Except that the movie doesn’t start at the beginning – it starts at the end. Only, you don’t know that until you’re at the end. An older AB [not AB senior] putting fundae on his fundae. Flashback to 1951, Idhar village. The schoolmaster’s son has just flunked his finals. And he’s got a job in Turkey [he’s asking permission to go there], so father’s not very angry, and asks him to get lost in Turkey. Permission granted, so the lad and his mum rejoice with dancing and tame expletives.
Cut to Turkey. Man, the place is bee-yoo-tiful if it is the way it’s shot. Gurukant’s working for Shell Oil. He has some side-business of some sort in the market, which I’m not too clear about. But its ingenuity is nowhere close to that of what Mr. Ambani did in Yemen – the Yemeni Rial is a coin of pure silver, so he placed large orders for them, and melted and shipped the coins from Aden to England and other places with a high demand for pure silver.
Item song by Mallika. Somehow, Mayya Mayya reminds me of Chandralekha from Thiruda, Thiruda. Anyway, the song is very well shot, the locations are awesome.
Guru quits his job after seven or so years and comes back home. Cut to shot of girl dancing in rain. Brilliant camerawork. Rajiv Menon, that’s why. That also explains why the song resembles Konjum Mainakkaley from Kandukondain, Kandukondain – it was a Rajiv Menon film. At the end of the song, she runs away from home, wildly remniscent of Heera Rajagopal in Thiruda Thiruda [I hope Mr. Mani Ratnam’ll be happy that I’ve mentioned this movie so many times on this page that people who haven’t watched it yet will go watch it]. Her co-elopee refused to show up, she decides to go away. Ends up meeting Guru on the train. Her folks catch up with her the next station.
Ah, looks like I’m going deep into the details of the story. Which happens when there isn’t all that much of a story to review. To cut a long story short, excuse the expression, Sujata’s [That’s Ash] dowry has gone up by quite a bit, thanks to her little adventure, so Guru marries her as he needs capital to start his bijnes [That’s the only thing in the whole movie, apart from AB’s body language that is there to suggest Guru’s humble beginnings]. Well, anyway, he comes to Mumbai to start a textile business, but finds that it’s hard to break into the ranks. With the help of the editor of a newspaper solely dedicated to publishing the truth [Mithun Chakraborty, doing Ramnath Goenka’s role, and the paper is called “The Independent”, a non-allusion to The Indian Express], and also a few unorthodox methods, he manages to.
Then comes the meteoric rise, which is limited to just a song or two. Not much light is shed about his methods and ingenuity, don’t watch the movie expecting that, you’ll only be disappointed. [I can’t resist adding this: And no, this movie doesn’t help you get into the IIMs].
Next, Guru’s offered something unethical [someone with a bad resemblance to Nusli Wadia]. He quite obviously refuses, and goes to the Press with this story. Old habits die hard, and he uses his unorthodox ways on the staff of The Independent. Mithunda’s miffed. So he gets a young journalist [Madhavan] to steamroll Guru. With the Truth. And there seems to be plenty of it to implicate Gurubhai – misappropriations, bending of rules, not following regulations and stipulations. Stock prices fall. Guru has a stroke. He also has charges slapped on him, and has to attend a hearing.
This whole thing was meant to set the stage for the Climax. Which is a four-and-a-half minute rhetoric rant by AB. So short, you’ll not even notice you’re at the climax. It has absolutely no build-up, no riveting background music, and plenty of rhetoric. You run the risk of missing the point altogether. Which is what happened to most people, who said the movie was wastage [that’s NITK lingo]. The point, as I got it, was a cry for Liberalization, which was yet to come in Ambani’s time [this happened in 1986]. And I wish the director had made it clearer that Guru was acquitted not because of the speech, but due to insufficient evidence [Atleast I hope that was why he was acquitted, it seems to be a really irresponsible film on the lines of <aargh> RDB if it happened to be otherwise].
Cut to the ending, which is the beginning, only, it’s in color. One swing of a camera, it turns out he’s speaking to a gathering of stockholders. …. And the legend lives on. The End.
It’s obvious as Pinocchio’s Nose that this is a Dhirubhai Ambani story. Only wish it had been more spectacular, focused on his methods. It’s an AB film, start to finish, and no other character has much prominence – they’re just characters flitting in and out, even Ash. Madhavan was supposed to be the villain or something, and we were all expecting some sort of a good build-up with music and all before some slick camera swings that give his intro. Nope, nothing of that sort. He’s just in the same room as Mithun, and turns his head casually at AB’s entry. Such a low-key intro that we forgot it was Madhavan, and forgot to yell and whistle at his entry. He doesn’t do all that much, except his usual niceguy-with-a-mission thing. Oh, yes, he gets to kiss Vidya Balan. She doesn’t have ANYTHING to do here, except that. And also hop around in a wheelchair and die slowly.
All said and done, I really wish this had been made in Tamil, with Surya in AB’s role [btw, he’s providing voice for Guru in the dubbed Tamil version]. Mani Ratnam hasn’t really mastered the art of making a Hindi movie; like someone said on the Mani-a post, he’s too rooted in south-indian sensiblities to make something in Hindi that’ll get the same response as it would if it were made in Tamil, or Kannada [his first movie, Pallavi Anupallavi was in Kannada and was Anil Kapoor’s debut]. Like Alaipayuthey generated quite a storm even with non-Tamil-movie watchers who watched it.
On the positive side, it’s very well-shot, as your sis/bro/friend/mom/dad/neighbor must have had you know by now. The locales are too beautiful for words, and the lighting is just right.. Mani picked the right man for the job. Acting-wise, everyone did a good job [Vidya Balan is a bit overstated, though]. AB seems to have worked on his body language. Music is really Rehman [I hope that says it all], and choreography is just right.
I’d say it’s worth a watch.