Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Movie Review – Guru – For the Blindness in Us

Name of the Movie – Guru 
Language – Malayalam 
Genre – Fantasy 
Year of Release – 1997 

The Malayalam movie industry is not a big one. It does not churn out blockbusters, and it certainly does not have many big-budget movies. Yet, this film industry is one known for a lot of low-budget experiments and innovative story-telling. Guru is one such movie that dared to tread the world of fantasy in 1997, when the rest of India was busy making commercial and art movies. Guru falls in neither and thereby in both categories.


Minimal Poster Design - Mayur Baiju

The Story: (spoiler-alert) 

The protagonist, Raghuraman, is the son of a Hindu priest in a peaceful village in India. He is portrayed as someone who does not care about his religion or the complications associated with it. But the situation changes rapidly when a local political leader, with vested interests, manages to start a religious riot. Raghuraman joins the Hindus and plans to massacre innocent Muslims who have taken refuge in an ashram. 

Raghuraman enters the ashram first as his fellow mates wait outside for his signal. This is where he meets Sithara (one of the guru’s disciples) who surprisingly knows everything about his evil plan. Sithara tells him that she has no intentions of stopping him, however manages to convince Raghuraman to bow down and touch the Guru’s slippers (as a symbol of respect) before he proceeds. This is when he has an out-of-the-world experience.

The Story Inside the Story: (spoiler-alert):
Raghuraman is shown as falling into a deep valley along the sides of a mountain. He soon learns that this valley is home to a village of blind people. Raghuraman soon finds out that the people of this village are adamant that there is no sense called sight and that eyes are merely round objects that roll inside their sockets. His claim of vision terrifies the villagers. The King hears of his claims and orders his soldiers to capture the rogue who spreads such lies and to bring him to justice.

Raghuraman befriends some children who introduce him to the sweet and addictive “Ilama” fruit (no relation to the original Ilama) that has divine powers to cure all congenital diseases. Raghuraman realizes too late that this fruit, given to every child at birth, causes blindness. He also loses his vision and is thereby easily captured by the King’s army.

The remainder of the story deals with the fate of Raghuraman in both this world and the real world. Where is the fun in my giving away the whole thing here? :P Watch the movie to find out.

The Cast and the Crew:
Although the Director, Rajiv Anchal, did mention that Guru was inspired by H. G. Wells’ – The Country of the Blind, the movie simply has much more to it. The story has been remodeled to suit Indian audiences and has an unfathomably deep message towards communal harmony. To think that the story holds good even today is both amazing and sad at the same time. To all those who are wondering what happened to this wonderful director – he has designed and is currently involved in the development of the upcoming tourist destination Jatayu Sculpture at Chadayamangalam in Kerala.

Mohanlal, as Raghuraman, is nothing short of perfect, but then so are all members of the cast. Music and background score by the maestro, Ilaiyaraaja, is impeccable. (The symphonic background score was conducted by Raaja using the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra, which marked the first time in Indian cinema, the background score was conducted outside the country - Source: Wikipedia).

A special mention to four particular sections of the production team – Make-up, Costumes, Art Direction, and Cinematography, all of which are above and beyond anything that 1997 Indian movies showcased. Well, they look really shabby now – but 1997 was 16 years ago, remember?

Conclusion:
In one line, “This movie is like no other movie you have ever seen!” Unfortunately, the movie bombed at the box office merely for being years ahead in its concept. Hell, it would be years ahead even if it is released in India today. The only consolation that the team got was that it was chosen as India's official entry to the Oscars to be considered for nomination in the Best Foreign Film category for 1997 (first such honor for Malayalam Cinema).

But before you sit down to watch this movie, keep the following things in mind – firstly, the communal and political system in India, secondly the hidden messages that each scene & each dialogue carries, and thirdly that you actually are lucky to get a good print of the movie today given that it is not a commercial success. :D 


I definitely can assure you this much – this movie will not disappoint you. Do watch and let me know if you enjoyed it. And thank you for reading this painfully long review :)

11 comments:

  1. The movie bombed at the box office, I think, because it failed to rise from being a mere parable to being art.

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    1. To each his own. To me it was much more than a parable. Thank you for stopping by :-)

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  2. its a wonderful movie ... Along with reghuraman the viewers will be in a trance ..

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  3. I am a Keralite but unfortunately have seen few movies churned out in my mother tongue. I 've always doubted Malayalam cinema's credentials but Guru is a class apart . It enters my list of favorite movies.
    A lot of inner meanings are imbibed in this concept .
    Hail such movies .

    Kudos for the review

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    1. You should definitely watch more malayalam movies - those from the golden era. There are many brilliant movies that were way ahead of their time and still did well with the Malayalam audience. Yes, Guru truly is a class apart. Thanks for lot for reading my review and taking the time to comment.

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  4. ഈ സിനിമ എല്ലാവര്‍ക്കും ഉള്‍ക്കൊള്ളാന്‍ കഴിയണേ എന്ന് പ്രാര്‍ത്ഥിക്കുന്നു ഞാന്‍..........

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    1. It is already a big cult hit. Athukondu kore aalkaarku enkilum ulkollaan kazhinju ennu vishwasikkunnu... :) Thanks a lot for stopping by.

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  5. Absolutely astonishing. How I missed such a meaningful Movie all this long??? I can definitely say, this film was way ahead of its times. Salute to Rajiv Anchal.

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    1. Yes, it most definitely was way ahead of its time. Will always remain a classic! Thank you for stopping by!

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  6. Watched this movie as a 10 year old around the time of its release, still captivates me every time its on TV, although the reasons for it may have changed from sheer fantasy to metaphorical heights it touches. Sadly it was poorly received in the theaters by the same generation that celebrated Deshadanam and Kaliyattom only to be appreciated later on through video cassettes, yeah those were still around :) Quite happy to see that the movie now has a cult status and appreciated even by the millennials. Really wish an uncut/extended version was made available by the team as i am sure a lot many scenes may have been chopped off which may have left some of the characters seem "not totally fleshed out" in the second half.

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