But alas! Mani Ratnam, at least this time round, has compromised his vision to deliver the all-India hit that has proved so elusive in the past - which is not bad, just that its a little sad to see somebody like Mani Ratnam succumb to BO dictates too. He takes bits and pieces from some of his best movies, to tell us the fable of pioneer Gurukant Desai in his latest outing 'Guru'.
Guru, like Anandan of 'Iruvar', is a man of dreams. The difference is that Guru dreams of wealth, while Anandan dreams of politics and power. The similarities don't end here, though. Both Guru and Anandan marry a bold, forthright Aishwarya Rai; neither of them marry for love, at least in the beginning. Neither of them can resist the corrupting allure of power, despite claims to the effect that they do it all 'for the people'.
Guru, like Velu of 'Nayakan', believes that laws are made to be broken, especially if they do not make sense. Neither Guru nor Velu-Nayakan hesitate to intimidate adversaries by barging into their homes uninvited. Both of them stop short, however, from harming an enemy upon the uncomfortable realization that he's married to somebody they love.
Guru and Sujatha, like Shekhar and Shaila from 'Bombay', have twins.
Guru and Manikdas, like Anandan and Selvam from 'Iruvar', split after a clash of ideologies. However, they continue to be respectful of each other, despite being harsh critics of each other too.
Meenu, like Anjali, is expected to die shortly. Yet her enjoyment of life during her brief existence endears herself to everyone around her.
The Mallika number 'Mayya Mayya' serves much the same purpose as 'Nila Athu' from 'Nayakan'.
Despite all this rehashing, the film has some great moments - especially the scenes featuring Abhishek and his dad, Abhishek and Aish (sharing some sort of camaraderie at last, after some 5 films together) after they first come to Bombay, the ones with Abhishek and Mithun together, and of course all the scenes with Madhavan oir Vidya Balan anywhere in the frame.
Aishwarya, easily the weakest link of the cast, manages to hold her end together. Despite retaining her ingratiating voice and style of dialogue delivery, she delivers a competent performance. This is easily her best work after 'Iruvar'.
Mithun is a solid presence in the movie. There's nothing much that stretches the actor in him, really. But its a relief to see him in a normal character role, with a decent part to play (as opposed to stuff like 'Lucky').
Vidya Balan, though saddled with a half-baked role, is very, very competent. So is Madhavan, re-doing his intense act from 'Leysa Leysa'. The proposal scene between him and Vidya Balan was one of the best scenes of the movie.
In the end, this is an out-and-out Abhishek vehicle. I'm no fan of the guy (I didn't like him in 'Yuva', for instance), but here he's outdone himself. Apart from his odd posture at times, he's extremely good here (especially considering the fact that he's barely 20 films old). While it is true that he could have got a lot of the nuances like the accent, for one) correct, his expressions were spot-on. Most importantly, nowhere did it seem that any other contemporary actor might have done a better job.
ARR, surprisingly, disappoints. This is nowhere in the realm of his earlier collaborations with Mani. While 'Jaage', 'Ay Hairathe' and 'Tere Bina' are exquisite, the same cannot be said about the rest of the soundtrack. What's more, Mani disappoints with his picturizations - especially with that of 'Tere Bina', which seems straight out of 'Snehithane' from 'Alaipayuthe'.
In the end, 'Guru' is a disappointment for those who were expecting Mani at his vintage best; I do hope his 'Lajjo' with Aamir and Kareena has a more original screenplay. However - and this holds true especially for those who are not familiar with some of Mani's earlier movies - it most definitely is worth a watch for Abhishek's bravura performance.