This is about the silliest thing I’ve seen this side of
Neptune’s Daughter—a 1949 musical comedy starring
that million dollar mermaid, Esther Williams—which I thought
took the cake for pure wackiness and ignorant fun.
Ramu Gupta (Mistry) leaves his family and his dance-instructor
job behind to pursue his dreams of fame and fortune in America.
Disillusionment sets in immediately when his homie Vijay
(Marwa) meets Ramu in a yellow cab instead of the
limo described in his letters, conveys him to a two-room
“penthouse” that they share with two other Indian immigrants,
and gets Ramu a job as a waiter. Undaunted, Ramu hauls his
headshots around town, winding up at Ramrod Productions.
Having utterly mistaken the nature of this company’s films,
Ramu strips down to his whitey-tighties and slays the producer
with a spirited audition—Tom Cruise’s Risky Business
dance number. This performance allows Dwain (McKean) to
assess Ramu’s sizable “talents,” cast him as the male lead
in a porno film, opposite Ramrod’s star, Sharonna (Graham).
Unfortunately, whenever the director calls “action,” Ramu
finds himself, shall we say, unprepared for thespian greatness.
To keep his job, Ramu gets Porn 101 tutoring from the thoroughly
professional Sharonna, who’s pretending that her day job
is substitute teaching in order to be worthy of her wholesome
Catholic fiance (Mihok). When the Indian guru scheduled
to sling some bullshit for a bunch of rich white partygoers
conks out, the caterer gets Ramu to step in. Lacking readymade
bullshit of his own, Ramu gives the partyers pseudomystical
renditions of Sharonna’s sex tips, winning several converts
on the spot, including the host’s daughter Lexi (Tomei),
a hopeless follower of enlightenment fads. With Lexi’s drive
and money and Sharonna’s sexual philosophy, Ramu becomes
The Guru Of Sex.
And did I mention that this is a musical?
One of the happiest comebacks in movies, to my mind, is
the return of the musical. The last couple of years have
given us Moulin Rouge, 8 Women, Chicago, and now
The Guru. The return of meringue-light entertainment
is cause for celebration. A balanced film diet should have
room for the serious, the heart-rending, the uplifiting,
and the artistic as well as a bathing beauty and improbable
synchronized water exercises or folks bursting into song.
Some people make cinema and some make entertainment.
Director Daisy von Scherler Mayer (Party Girl,
Madeline, Woo) makes no bones about her work. She’s
clearly here for the fun stuff. It’s tempting to place The
Guru in the guilty-pleasures category, but why should
we feel guilty? What, after all, did we learn from Sullivan’s
Travels if not that a movie that provides a good laugh
is a good day’s work? Mayer does a good day’s work indeed,
providing an engaging romance, a fun comedy, and cool musical
numbers, as well as an unforgettable valentine to Grease
by way of Bollywood.
In The Guru, we get a very good laugh from the old
old story of two people pretending to be what they are not,
all the while falling in love with each other (and singing
and dancing). There are absolutely no plot surprises here,
from the scene where they almost kiss to the big public
confession scene (this one on “Sally Jesse Raphael”) to
the big public declaration-of-love scene. The Guru
is totally a boilerplate romantic comedy, but it’s such
an imaginatively and entertainingly festooned boilerplate
that it’s okay. Naturally everything’s going to come out
all right in the end. And like Jump Tomorrow, another
wonderful multi-cultural romance, it comes out all right
In the best tradition of movies about the porn industry,
The Guru adds amusing euphemisms to the growing lexicon
of auto-eroticism. Heather Graham’s sweet porn star in this
rather broad comedy is a far cry from Boogie Nights’
Roller Girl. Christine Baranski is very good as Lexi’s
mocking, rich bitch mother, who gets her… comeuppance.
Remember that moment when Marshall McLuhan stepped
out from behind that sign and corrected an insufferable
blowhard in Annie Hall, and Woody Allen said,
“If only life were really like this!” Well I say, if only
real life gave us opportunities to respond to day-to-day
situations with song and dance.