'Guru', directed by Sudha Kongara, is a remake of the Tamil film 'Irudhi Suttru' ('Saala Khadoos' in Hindi). As it hits the screens on March 31, here we analyze the promising sports drama.
Aditya (Venkatesh) is a crest-fallen former boxing champion whose zeal for boxing hasn't died down. His wife deserted him after he failed to make the cut, his career has always been on the rocks because he just can't stand unpatriotic womanizers who select sportswomen during their 'bedroom performance'.
Such a self-styled coach is banished to Vizag, a city with no promising boxing talent, to spot and train a winner. Least does Adi expect to find a born champion in a coolie. It's Rameshwari aka Ramudu (Ritika Singh), the one with an instinct for self-defence, a gem of a talent who must be trained to become a world champion.
But Adi finds it tough to cope with the equally insane Ramudu, whose achievement motivation is abysmally low.
Adi takes it upon himself to subject a reluctant Ramudu to a rigorous training regimen, in which process the teacher-disciple duo have to face a range of problems, including sibling rivalry and professional machinations.
Recently, our review of 'Ghazi' raised a toast not only for having certain elements, but also for NOT having certain elements. 'Guru' has to be praised for NOT having certain elements first.
We have seen several rags-to-riches stories in Telugu, but what makes 'Guru' a new-age story is that it doesn't fall back on such elements as sentimental flashbacks, cinematic romantic tracks, run-of-the-mill humour or even done-to-death songs to entertain the audience. It's new-age, at least to a very good extent (except for a song over whose span a lot of progress takes place in Ramudu's career).
Director Sudha Kongara's biggest boon were the two main characters.
She has an eccentric coach in Aditya, whom people around him see as a bad-mouthing loser (perhaps). Nasser's character even says that his tongue is murky! But his bad manners hardly matter. How the director establishes Venky as a boxing-crazy champion-maker has to be seen to be enjoyed. It's not always that you get to watch such a characterization.
In Ramudu, the director has a potential match to Adi's maverick ways. She is her own girl, a coolie who can pull off a surprise by beating the referee and deliberately getting disqualified, is conscious of the scabrous ways of men (she doesn't let her coach take advantage of her, suspicious that he is a lecher), and a Pawan Kalyan die-hard to boot.
The two characterizations are complemented by two other not-so-incidental elements: the backdrop (slum) and the looks. Venky's trendy looks, the crowded market where Ramudu works, the beach effect, the slang, the realistic sports buildings all add authenticity.
Sports films always have an undercurrent of patriotism going for them. 'Guru' doesn't project it in a regular fashion. In fact, most of the time, it's about what Venky does to raise the morale of his favourite disciple rather subtly, the practical difficulties faced by the two (Venky even has monetary problems), the hindrances created by a selfish chief (played by Zakir Hussain), etc. But when it's Guru's turn, he says this much and to a stirring effect: 'Deshaniki okka Gold medal vastundi ante, nee kalenti, 120 kotla mandi kallu nakadanikaina ready' ('I am ready to lick the feet of 120 crore people for one Gold medal for this country'), Venky says. This one line puts effectively what a dozen scenes couldn't have said about the character.
The second half does take a few creative liberties here and there. The climax could have been done better; especially the short comic interlude involving Tanikella Bharani and Nasser could have been avoided. The way Adi comes to the stadium could have been done more creatively.
Santosh Narayan's music goes into lending the film an off-beat as well as stylish touch. The songs are interspersed with the narration. The cinematographer KA Sakthivel uses light to a brilliant effect.
Venky and Ritika Singh perform with perfection. Venky is one brilliant actor whose intensity hasn't been properly leveraged because of his family hero's image. For this reason, 'Drushyam' was very enjoyable. Once again, 'Guru' gives his fans a reason to smile by exploring his earnest side. A class act for sure.
Ritika is awesome. Whether she is disrespecting her guru by mocking at his grey hair or confessing her love to him, she is Brilliant with a capital B. Had a star heroine done this role, the media would have gone crazy praising her. Hope she gets her due.
All the others, mainly Nasser, fit the bill.
A sports drama whose sensibilities and unapologetic story-telling deserve kudos. The performances, narration and technical elements make it a pleasant watch. Go for it.