The Guru (2002)
Directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * ½

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After arriving in New York from India, Ramu (Jimi Mistry) pursues his dream of becoming an actor, but, instead, winds up working as a waiter. He does eventually get a job as an actor, but it is in a pornographic movie. Even this does not work out, however, when, despite the sexual advice he receives from his female co-star, Sharonna (Heather Graham), he is unable to perform before the film crew. Later, while again working as a waiter, this time at a birthday party being held for a spoiled socialite named Lexi (Marisa Tomei), Ramu is pressured by his boss into pretending he is a spiritual guru. Unable to think of anything wise to say, he repeats to the partygoers the advice Sharonna gave him, which so impresses Lexi that she decides to help make him famous. Since he is still uncertain about what he should tell his new but ever growing coterie of disciples, Ramu seeks out Sharonna and asks her to tutor him. As she does so, he starts to fall in love with her, even though she is engaged to another man, who is, however, unaware of her profession.

Daisy von Scherler Mayer's The Guru is a generally entertaining if largely uninspired film. Its characters are pleasant though forgettable, and its story, while incorporating a few imaginative details, is largely prosaic.


One of the movie's cleverest and most potentially incisive elements is von Scherler Mayer's gentle satire on the current faddish interest in teachers who adopt vaguely Indian styles and spout New Age or other Western ideas that easily swayed individuals can mistake for the wisdom of the East. Lexi, in particular, is presented as being obsessed with one system of "Eastern" thought after another, and as being deeply impressed with Ramu's philosophy of sex, even though the only thing Indian about it is Ramu himself. The actual philosophy is entirely Sharonna's. Of course, being European, she could never have convinced someone like Lexi of anything she might have tried to teach her. Regrettably, while played for the odd laugh, this theme is never really developed and is, consequently, largely wasted.


There are, in addition to this, other elements introduced into the film which could have greatly increased its quality but with which nothing is ultimately done. The inclusion of a few Bollywood style dance numbers, for instance, is appealing, but they are performed in such an uninspired way that the viewer is likely to be disappointed with them.


Sadly, as unsuccessful as these elements are, they are far better than is anything else in the film. The romance that develops between Ramu and Sharonna is especially poorly realized and is, perhaps, the movie's least satisfactory thread. It is so completely formulaic that any person capable of thought will be able to see exactly how it is going to develop. The viewer is, as a result, unlikely ever to be able to engage with the characters and feel concern for them. Their lives are simply too dull and predictable. Even the skills of the actors, several of whom, Heather Graham in particular, acquit themselves well, are never able to enhance significantly the quality of such a tedious story.


The Guru does contain a number of interesting elements, and these do sufficiently buoy up the movie so that it is often enjoyable to watch. Unfortunately, because whatever potential the film had is largely wasted, The Guru is, in the end, very lightweight, forgettable fluff.

Review by Keith Allen

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