'Guru' opens with a big bang in US

Jan 16, 2007 Arun Kumar

Washington, Jan 17 (IANS) Mani Ratnam's "Guru" has not only received great reviews from the mainstream American press but also made $843,200 over the four-day weekend, one of the biggest opening grosses ever for Indian cinema in this country.

Comparing the normal Friday-Sunday gross, the new Abhishek Bachchan-Aishwarya Rai starrer opened better than India's official entry to this year's Oscars, "Rang de Basanti", and "Krrish" with Hrithik Roshan in a superhero act, according to boxofficeguru.com.

The New York Times followed up its story Sunday hailing the film's glitzy red carpet premiere as heralding "not only the arrival of a movie, but also a growing cultural phenomenon" and followed it up with a review suggesting "'Guru' exalts India's rising influence".

The New York Post gave it three out of four stars, the highest grade it has ever bestowed on a Bollywood film, and Los Angeles Weekly called it the best Bollywood film since "Lagaan". Even Time magazine reviewed the film.

"You might think it would be difficult to fashion an entertaining account of the life of a polyester manufacturer, even a fictitious one. But the Tamil director Mani Ratnam, known for intelligent political dramas, has done so with 'Guru', an epic paean to can-do spirit and Mumbai capitalism," said Andy Webster in his review in the New York Times.

"Ratnam's experience shows in his gorgeous compositions and fluency with pacing and effects; the inevitable, though unobtrusive musical sequences display a similar command," he said in the review titled "Polyester and Power at Play for a Mogul and His India".

Richard Corliss of Time magazine said a ritzy premiere like the one in New York "would typically take place in Mumbai (Bombay) or in Ratnam's home town Chennai (Madras). But Bollywood films have eyes to be as popular in America as in India, Indonesia, the Middle East and North Africa, where they dominate cinematic culture".

"For movies to celebrate an entrepreneur is rare - usually you get exposés -but not wrong. Guru's nearest equivalent might be "It's a Wonderful Life", except that this small businessman has to cope with success, not failure.

"And there's no denying the dramatic oomph of the climactic courtroom scene, with Gurukant defending himself and the class he stands for. Still, it doesn't seem like a natural weave for Mani Ratnam. This "Guru" is more like a fine polyester," he said.

L.A. Weekly said: "Ratnam's enthralling and eventful new picture 'Guru' is one of his best yet; in fact it may be the best Indian commercial (Bollywood) movie since the Oscar-nominated 'Lagaan' (2000)."

It added: "The flamboyantly gifted Indian moviemaker Mani Ratnam has an epic romantic temperament, like a reform-minded 19th century novelist, with a great eye and a trunk full of Panavision lenses."

Lou Lumenick of The New York Post said: "Mani Ratnam's often absorbing 'Guru' is sort of a Bollywood 'Citizen Kane', a decades-spanning drama with a compelling Abhishek Bachchan as a ruthless Indian business tycoon who refuses to take no for an answer.

"Gorgeous superstar Rai's several lavish musical numbers, while entertaining, seem to belong in another movie," he said describing the film as "resembling a lavish Hollywood prestige film of the 1960s".

Murphy's Movie Reviews said what Mani Ratnam "has crafted in 'Guru' is a superb film that profiles a man driven to succeed".

While "Guru" is not quite on the same level as Orson Welles' masterpiece "Citizen Kane" (after all, what is?), said the reviewer, "it does rank pretty close in its depiction of the life of a man consumed by his business pursuits and his dreams".

"The film is anchored by Bachchan's terrific performance. As always, Rai is lovely to look at, but she doesn't make much of her character," it added.

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