[box cover]

The Guru

With Hollywood producing predictable, cookie-cutter romantic comedies like Two Weeks Notice and Maid in Manhattan at a breakneck pace, it's refreshing to come across a movie like The Guru. Daisy von Scherler Mayer's upbeat, Bollywood-flavored love story may have the same boy-meets-girl core plot as the latest Sandra Bullock vehicle, but it also has the kind of edge and creativity (not to mention nudity) that mainstream "rom-coms" almost uniformly lack. The guru of the title is Ramu Gupta (Jimi Mistry), an earnest, starry-eyed Indian man who comes to New York to pursue his John Travolta-fueled dream of breaking into showbiz — and instead stumbles upon success as a Deepak Chopra-like purveyor of advice and wisdom about sex. His insights come courtesy of Sharonna (Heather Graham), the soulful porn star with (naturally) a heart of gold whom Ramu befriends after he unwittingly auditions for her next film. It's easy to understand why Ramu starts falling for the dewy-eyed, porcelain-skinned Sharonna (who's about as realistic a porn star as Julia Roberts was a prostitute in Pretty Woman): Both are optimists who dream of a better life. And she's certainly more appealing than Ramu's other option: spoiled, insecure socialite Lexi (Marisa Tomei), who helps him achieve guru-hood after he performs at her birthday party. That same party scene offers the first of the movie's three big song-and-dance numbers, and it's a hilarious, toe-tapping sequence. Melding the color and verve of Bollywood musicals with a Manhattan love story was an inspired idea — and proof that modern movie musicals (like Chicago) will succeed by taking fresh approaches to mixing storytelling and stagecraft. The Guru has its weaknesses — the characters aren't exactly multi-dimensional, and the plot, for the most part, is fairly easy to predict — but the combination of a strong supporting cast (particularly Michael McKean as Sharonna's porn-industry father figure and Emil Marwa as Ramu's hip-hop-crazy friend Vijay), an unexpected and energetic ending, and Mistry's ingratiatingly handsome smile makes for a delightful way to spend an evening. The lovely widescreen anamorphic (1.85:1) transfer on Universal's DVD helps the film's bright colors pop off the screen, and the English DTS 5.1 audio does full justice to the musical numbers (English, French, and Spanish DD 5.1 tracks also are offered, as are English captions and Spanish and French subtitles). The list of extras includes two trailers, a slide show photo gallery (accompanied by music from the soundtrack), seven deleted scenes, and a pair of commentary tracks — one by Von Scherler Mayer and writer Tracey Jackson, and one by Mistry (the former is assured and energetic, while the latter is a bit spotty, with several stretches of quiet.) Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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