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:: The Guru

Ramu Gupta (Jimi Mistry) is a New Delhi dance instructor, teaching housewives the Macarena while dreaming of Hollywood stardom. He decides to follow his dreams to America but finds himself working in an Indian restaurant to get by. Ramu auditions for Ramrod Productions hoping for a big break in movies. Instead, he gets his big break in to porno. After a humiliating debut, porn starlet Sharonna (Heather Graham) agrees to give Ramu a ‘sex education’. What she doesn’t know is that Ramu has stumbled in to high society by being asked to impersonate a guru at socialite Lexi’s (Marissa Tomei) birthday party. Spouting Sharonna’s sexual wisdom he becomes a sex guru to unhappy rich people.

What’s great about the Guru is the way it combines Bollywood cinematic conventions in to a traditional romantic comedy. Initially the film has some fun with the East meets West scenario but the fish-out-of-water gags get a bit tired as the story wears on. The Bollywood, porn and sex therapy elements mean that occasionally you feel like your watching ‘Carry on up the Khyber’ but overall it’s more like a feature length episode of ‘The Khumars at Number 42’.

Director Daisy von Scherler Mayer obviously had fun with the Bollywood dance sequences, which are very entertaining. Unfortunately, she hasn’t applied quite the same enthusiasm and style to the rest of the film so it seems a little dull by comparison. It’s a shame the scriptwriter (Tracey Jackson) didn’t take her Bollywood idea all the way and make it a musical because the story’s itching for the dance numbers to happen throughout.

The performance direction is arch; only Mistry manages to seem like a real person rather than a cartoon character. He is charming in the lead but a little nervous. You get the feeling he’s working very hard but he does a great job with the material nevertheless. Heather Graham has her moments but overall seems very strained. The role is essentially a reprise of her Rollergirl character from ‘Boogie Nights’ but she doesn’t look like she’s having as much fun with it. Maris Tomai is suitably irritating as the neurotic Lexi. Her performance is a little clichéd and she comes off badly opposite the more believable Mistry. The supporting characters are solid but Dwain (Michael McKean) shines as the director of Ramrod productions.

‘The Guru’ is entertaining and unusual but not hysterically funny. Definitely worth a look if you’re in the mood for something light and frothy.

Screening on general release