Saturday, January 20, 2007

Mani Ratnam's guru -- lessons in wealth creation

After reading the rave reviews of Mani Ratnam’s latest opus, I was curious to see Guru. Like the reviewers, I came away moved by the movie on multiple levels: the acting, the refreshing and true-to-the-situation cinematography and the music.

But I was disappointed – by the reviews that is.

For all of them seem to have missed the main message of the movie: that for a nation like India, above everything else, wealth creation holds the key to poverty alleviation. A pertinent message, given that our so-called reformers are now back-pedalling quite a bit these days.

So, in my review about Guru , I will focus less on the fluff and more on the message. For starters, I will not refer to this movie as being “based upon the life of a leading Indian industrialist” -- for Mani Ratnam himself is clear that this movie is a tribute to the life of Dhirubhai Ambani.

And it is a very well made tribute -- with fantastic acting and cinematography.

Abhishek has finally come of age – from an awkward, wannabe Amitabh, who could do little more than scowl or leer at semi-naked ang-mo women (ang-mo is the Chinese equivalent of firangi and literally means person with red hair on his/her arms), he has matured and grown as an actor. He has detailed Guru richly and compellingly -- I particluarly like the peculiar style of laughing he deployed in the movie. Very impressive.

Aishwarya’s role is small, but she finally brings some intensity to her role and is extraordinarily comfortable with Abhishek; unsurprising, considering recent events. Madhavan too is good, but rather uni-dimensional. And of course, there is Mithun-da. The jholawala patrakaar, married to his ideology, unwilling to bend, no matter what the cost.

The cinematography and picturisation is also refreshing and remains true to Dhirubhai’s deeply traditional, Gujarati, Hindu roots. Where this is particularly evident is in the language – virtually all the dialogues are in Sanskritic Hindi, using rich, deeply Indic words. Guru bucks the trend in hindi movies to secularise and Arabise hindi with salaams, ishqs, mohabbats, subhanallahs, waqts, quams and what not.

What a relief.

But without doubt the most powerful message I got from the movie was this: A single Guru (or Dhirubhai) who creates wealth is a far greater nationalist than the entire army of brainwashed, self-loathing nehruvian stalinists could ever be.

By the end of the movie, I came away admiring Dhirubhai more and despising the socialist state even more.

Abhishek sums up the "Dhirubhai spirit" in the movie ... I am not interested in filling petrol cans all my life, I want to become rich. And yet, when I wanted to work hard and earn, I found all doors were closed to a poor man like me. And the doors had all been closed by people like you (pointing to the members of a government-headed commission). But I could not take no for an answer and was prepared to do whatever it took to open the door – if it needed to be kicked down, I did; if it needed a bribe I did that. Because i wanted to become rich.

And that was his crime. To the nehruvian socialist state, and its handmaiden – the socialist media – wanting to become rich was a crime.

You see, the socialist Indian state was never pro-poor, it was pro-poverty. It was never interested in alleviating poverty – it was only interested in perpetuating it. And that it did with impressive (and tragic) effectiveness.

In one scene in the movie, Madhavan (the reporter) attends the Shakti shareholders meeting to dig out news on how Guru’s company Shakti Corporation is breaking the law. The woman next to him – a middle-class gujarati housewife prods him to clap! She says with a gleam in her eyes that if India could produce 10 more gurus, poverty would be eliminated! Sheer music.

And that is why, to my mind, Guru is a nationalist, while the nehru-indira socialist state is not. Guru wants to lift himself and his community out of poverty – to grant it respect, to enable people to walk with their heads held high. The state, on the other hand is bent upon keeping people poor, reducing them to supplicants whom it condescends to save. All this while claiming to be concerned about them (Orwell would have been proud… remember war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength?).

A brief exchange in the movie drives this message home: en route to a judicial hearing, a shabby looking man confronts Guru on the court staircase. The man introduces himself as a taxi driver – who ferried passengers from Vadala to Churchgate. He informs Guru that he owns shares in Shakti – shares that allowed him to pay for his daughters' weddings.

For all its bluster and talks about social uplift from the 'commanding heights', the state’s elaborate machinery is outdone by one Guru’s wealth creation.

I could not hold back the tears.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Sale of Kashmir to continue

This is priceless -- under the able guidance of PM Dr. MMS, India's disinvestment plans are proceeding well. Kashmir is back on the sale block -- with Ghulam Nabi Azad exhorting the Pakistan Army to come and run his state for him.

The ISI and Pakistan Army must be salivating at this opportunity: despite staging war after war for over 50 years, they've been unsuccessful in wresting Kashmir from Indian hands.

Ghulam Nabi and Man-moron will now proceed to hand it over on a silver platter, surrounded with cress and seasoned with cash and God knows what else -- maybe even arms!

I suspect however, that the Pak Army will probably shoot Ghulam first for being treacherous and untrustworthy, not an altogether unwelcome event.
Bad apples can sometimes do good.

Azad for 'joint management' of J&K

Press Trust of India
Posted online: Thursday, January 04, 2007 at 1958 hours IST