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The Guru

  The Guru
Jimi Mistry practices the seductive art of notetaking on Heather Graham.

© 2003, Universal
All Rights Reserved

As a young boy in India, Ramu Gupta (an indefatigable Jimi Mistry, "East is East") grew disenchanted with his homeland cinema and all its musical numbers. He was turned on by films like "Grease" and dreams of stardom. Now an adult, Ramu has left his successful dance studio in India for New York City, where he plans to make a big splash as an actor. Upon arrival, Ramu learns the hard truth about life as an actor, and soon finds himself on an adult film set unable to "perform." His porn co-star is Sharonna (Heather Graham, experiencing career deja vu after her work as Rollergirl in "Boogie Nights"), who gives Ramu advice about sex that he uses to invent a persona known as "The Guru Of Sex." Ramu goes on to become a huge star, dishing out advice to love-starved New Yorkers (including Marisa Tomei, Christine Baranski and Malachy McCourt), all the while questioning his own feelings for Sharonna.

"The Guru" (IMDb listing) is a screwball comedy without any screwball. A bland knee-slapper that imagines itself as a riotous good time. "The Guru" is like a bicycle with one flat tire. Imaginatively directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer ("Party Girl," "Madeline"), "Guru" has all the right ingredients to take off as a rip-snorting comedy, but oddly, never quite leaves the ground. Working from a script by first-timer writer Tracey Jackson, "The Guru" is a mishmash of ideas, punch lines, and performances that never gel. It's Bollywood meets Hollywood, but it forgets to steal the elements that make those two institutions such powerful dream factories.

Peppered with musical numbers and bright costuming by Michael Clancy ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding"), "The Guru" occasionally works up the energy to burn through lame and desperately unfunny satires of the porn world and the upper-class New York elite. Some of Ramu's situations are indeed funny, but those very same situations (porn sets, talk shows, singing and dancing) call for much bigger movements and laughs, neither of which the director seems able to conjure. Also, there should be some concern when the script calls for a talk show host, and the best they could get is Sally Jesse Raphael.

The most disconcerting aspect to the film is the way the script cheats a little bit with the characters. Slavishly following convention, Ramu and Sharonna begin to develop feelings for each other as they share sexual secrets, with the wrinkle being that Sharonna has a fireman fiancee (Dash Mihok) who doesn't know about her porn career. This alone is snore city, but the film sets up an interesting dilemma for Sharonna in how she's going to jettison her lover for Ramu. This proves far too difficult for von Scherler Mayer and Jackson, who completely cop out and give Sharonna an all-too-easy opportunity to pick Ramu. The spinelessness is typical of this light comedy, which had the opportunity to plunge into raunch and delight, but instead chose complacency at every turn.

Filmfodder Grade: C

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