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Some Ramblings - Guru
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla

Scenario 1: Hero comes barging into a confidential meeting reserved for intelligence top brass, who are trying to nab the very powerful and well connected villain. There would a map of India in the background and in front of each official, sitting around a round table, is a folder with a "TOP SECRET" stamped across (the information available through a jarring INSERT shot). The scene calls for the hero to go ballistic on the room for failing him every time he comes close to catching the villain (CLUE: there is a mole planted by the villain in the department)

Scenario 2: Through the doors of a busy city hospital, comes crashing a gurney, on which is laid the body of the seriously wounded hero, profusely bleeding through all the visible orifices. The commotion around the gurney successfully drowns down any intelligent conversation. As the heroine (conveniently) works in the same hospital, she immediately rushes him into the operation room (irrespective of the nature of the wounds). Now the scene calls for some dramatic tension in the operation theater, as the heroine tries her level best, to resuscitate the hero from a seemingly precarious situation

Scenario 3: A bunch of soldiers under the command of their captain set out to capture a strategic location in the enemy territory. Depleted in arms power and manpower, they have to fall back upon their military training, soldier's instincts and wits to defeat the opposition and accomplish the mission.

Now, all the above situations are something that do not happen in the every day life of the common man. The situations are specific, rare and almost, one of a kind. And with those situations comes the SPEAK. When the hero addresses the intelligence gathering, his speech (though exasperated, vexed and irritated) is expected to be mixed with the terms that pertain to the intelligence community like stake-out, hide-out, blow the cover etc. Similarly when the heroine is operating on the hero, fighting with everything she has got in a complex surgical procedure, the audience expects a little more than scalpel, scissors, and scrubs to pass between hands, in just the same way as it expects professional talk to permeate the room, than just anxious looks and the occasional cuts to the heart monitor. When the soldiers are all out of ammunition and numbers, the commander of the unit just cannot burst into a patriotic ditty to reinforce the sense of valor and courage in his comrades. He has to resort to the techniques that he had learnt during his training days and somehow rally his troops towards achieving the goal.

Take the same 3 scenarios and compare how they are handled in world cinema. Take Hollywood as a convenient example. The question is not about whether Hollywood movies have greater budgets or whether they are technically far superior. The question is about the basics. The question is about getting the language right, the question is about sounding professional, when the situation calls for such a moment. All that it takes is having the script read by a professional pertaining to the trade (or hiring a professional advisor) and see if the speak rings true to the field. It is about authenticity. When all that the army captain says is CHARGE and every soldier starts running, as though trying to make it to the finish line of some invisible race, as the enemy soldiers are wasting rounds by the hundreds firing at them, and the next immediate shot is of the captain planting the tri-colored flag in the enemy territory, the emotion of the audience could not be any more hollow. As someone rightly said, the devil is in the details.

Coming to the movie in question, for all intents and purposes, Guru could have been a mafia leader, a labor union leader, a drug trafficker, an arms dealer or even a politician, and the movie would still have remained the same, even without changing one line in the script or the dialogue, for the simple reason that, there is never a mention of the nature of his business or the way he conducts it, but for an occasional slip up about polyester and petro-chemicals. Before the 80 scene script is written, the norm is to come up with a treatment that usually does not exceed more than a few pages, that contains the entire story in broad strokes, like 1. Guru goes to Turkey and starts learning about the business 2. Guru comes back to India, sets up his own shop and starts rising to the top.... 10. Guru becomes a big business magnate, whose rise is constantly checked by a honest newspaper publisher (and his investigative journalist).... When the task comes to fleshing out the 10 page treatment into an 80 scene script, details start to pour into each scene, and when the scene calls for Guru, addressing his shareholders in an annual meeting, to win them over, there should be little more detail and lot more industry speak/jargon in his speech, than the trite "hamaaree munaafaa agle 5 saal mein 10 gunaa hOgee..." - HOW? Granted, movies are not documentaries to reveal the true nature of businesses, and the inner workings of board-room politics and back-hand machinations. But when the movie is about an ordinary guy who rises through the business circles to reach the upper echelons of the corporate world, it is not too much to ask the maker to show his hand, and just explain how his hero made it to the top that fast.

In 1987, Oliver Stone made a wonderful movie "Wall Street", about the high stakes involved in trading morality for money in the rapidly emerging individualistic culture in a capitalistic society. Herein, Stone demonstrates his research and understanding about the corporate mindset in what is now the famous "Greed is good" speech, through his character, Gordon Gekko, a billionaire Wall Street shark. As Gekko is about to forcibly takeover an under-perfoming company, during a shareholders meeting, observe the choice of his words - "Well, ladies and gentlemen, we're not here to indulge in fantasy, but in political and economic reality. America, America has become a second-rate power. Its trade deficit and its fiscal deficit are at nightmare proportions. Now, in the days of the free market, when our country was a top industrial power, there was accountability to the stockholder. The Carnegies, the Mellons, the men that built this great industrial empire, made sure of it because it was their money at stake. Today, management has no stake in the company! All together, these men sitting up here [management] own less than 3 percent of the company..... The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms -- greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed -- you mark my words -- will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA." [Courtesy:]

These words ring true, the words carry a great weight and have a lot of substance. The words, though dipped in corporate speak, is relatable from a normal viewer's perspective. They are not mired in technicalities. When Guru is painted (quite broadly) as an opportunist, who takes his chances when his finds one, or makes his chance when found none, the final climactic speech that he makes before the Judicial Commission probing into his alleged business malpractices (which happen, again, strictly off-screen) sounds childish, immature, unprofessional, and for all the wrong reasons, humorous. Instead, if the opportunity could have been used as a platform, to shed light on the grey areas ruling the corporate law, where what is ethical does not exactly walk in step with what is legal, exposing the innate beastly nature of the business, where survival of the fittest is the only commandment known to the business-mankind, explaining how the inherent nature of profit making is constantly at odds with the general welfare of the working class in a capitalistic society.....if only.... at least the final speech could have sounded true to what the original treatment aimed for.

Instead the speech becomes one, about how Guru struggled hard when nobody gave him a chance, how he emerged to the top when everybody tried to pull him down and how he is going to show the country (and then, the world) how empires are built - which is as irrelevant as an answer could get to a question about his business malpractices, as it is pointless, particularly in that context. For a movie that boasts about being a biopic about a business tycoon (as much as the disclaimer strongly discourages from making that comparison), "Guru" could have worked fabulously as a silent picture than as a talkie. And it would have greatly benefited, had it had a couple of advisors from the Dalal Street or the finance ministry, in addition to the credited roster containing Vijay Acharya, Anurag Kashyap, Sujatha, and Suhasini Mani Ratnam, talking shop constantly into the writers' ears. What a disappointment!

More Ramblings on films
Casino Royale
The Departed
Lage Raho Munnabhai
Superman Returns
The Da Vinci Code
Sri Ramadasu
Rang De Basanti (Hindi)
Jai Chiranjeeva!
Munich (English)
Sarkar (Hindi)
Mangal Padey (Hindi)
Kaadhal (Tamil)
Anukokunda Oka Roju
Batman Begins (English)
Radha Gopalam
Mughal E Azam
Virumandi (Tamil)
Lakshya (Hindi)
Yuva (Hindi)
Kakha Kakha (Tamil)
Mr & Mrs Iyer
Nuvve Nuvve

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This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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