One of my favorite lines from The Muppet Movie comes at the moment where Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear first meet Gonzo. The blue weirdo tells the others that his dream is to go to Bombay India and become a movie star. Fozzie says, “You don’t go to Bombay to become a movie star! You go where we’re going…Hollywood!” To which Gonzo replies, “Sure, if you want to do it the easy way!” In actuality, there is quite a big film industry in Bombay. That’s what we know as “Bollywood.” Bombay + Hollywood, you see. However, today’s film takes the more traditional route, focusing on a young man from India who heads to the US to become a star. It’s 2002’s The Guru.
The film focuses on a young dance instructor named Ramu Gupta, or “Rammy,” (Jimi Mistry) who, inspired by his love of movie musicals, leaves India to make it in the show business in the United States. He moves in with a cousin and gets work as a waiter while struggling to find acting gigs. When he does land a film role, he doesn’t realize it’s for a porno film. Despite the fact that his leading lady is the lovely Sharonna (Heather Graham), he…well…can’t perform.
Later that night, he joins his cousin and the other waiters at a catering job for a party where a Guru will dispense new-age wisdom. However, the guru is drunk out of his mind, so Rammy fills in. He becomes an instant hit with the rich society types by simply reciting the tips about sex that Sharonna had told him earlier in the day. He especially catches the attention of the party’s rich and bored hostess, Lexi (Marisa Tomei). The guru act becomes quite profitable for Rammy, but he quickly runs out of sexual wisdom. So, under the pretense that he is trying to succeed in the adult film industry, Rammy begins meeting regularly with Sharonna to get more of her wisdom. Of course, he starts to fall for her in the process, despite his relationship with Lexi as well as Sharonna’s engagement to a firefighter (who thinks she’s a teacher).
I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed The Guru. I couldn’t help but get a little bit of a Pretty Woman vibe from the whole thing. Instead of a prostitute with a heart of gold we get a pornstar with a heart of gold. I guess if you have such a role to fill, Heather Graham is an awful good choice. She’s got that mix of sweetness and sexiness that is hard not to fall in love with. It helps that the film doesn’t go overboard with the whole pornstar aspect of her character. Also very strong is the film’s leading man, Jimi Mistry. I’ve only seen him in a few smaller roles, but he is very good as a comedic lead. He’s likable and his comic timing is very good.
Though I liked both Heather Graham and Jimi Mistry, the standout performance is given by Marisa Tomei. She’s fantastically loopy as rich heiress so bored with her life that she’ll latch on to any and every new fad that comes her way. I’ve always felt that Tomei’s Oscar win for My Cousin Vinny was one of the great moments for the Academy. She was nominated with four other performances from Oscar-bait type films, and yet the Academy went with her purely comedic performance. And she deserved it! Her performance in this film is further proof of what a skilled comedic performer she is. Rounding out the cast we also get some funny moment from the likes of Michael McKean, Rob Morrow, and Christine Baranski.
A few of my favorite moments of the film are ones that bring a bit of the Bollywood flavor into this little romantic comedy. Even though I’ve spent a considerable amount of my 45 years on this planet watching movies, I can’t say I’ve ever really seen a Bollywood film. Still, there’s something irresistible about seeing a Bollywood style musical number done to “You’re the One that I Want” from Grease. There’s another musical number earlier in the film which is just plain goofy but nicely sets the tone for Rammy’s life as a fake guru.
There are a few things about The Guru that seemed a bit off. Strangely it takes place in New York City, but would’ve made much more sense in LA. There’s also a plot point that comes late in the film regarding Sharonna’s fiancé and where his love really lies that feels really shoehorned in. Overall, though, The Guru was surprisingly funny and, for a movie about pornstars and sex gurus, even a bit sweet.